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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

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N A T I O N

BJP demands apology on Savarkar issue
New Delhi, August 17
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally Shiv Sena today took strong exception to the alleged insult meted out to freedom fighter Veer Savarkar by Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer with the former demanding an apology from the government and reinstatement of the original plaque bearing the freedom fighter’s quotes at a memorial on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Chinese team still 500m from Tibet lake
New Delhi, August 17
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) today continued to bat for the Chinese against the backdrop of highly critical news reports which raised questions and doubts about Beijing’s conduct in the Tibet lake crisis and talked of the “latest weapon” in China’s hands: lake bomb.

An artisan works on the statue of Lord Ganesh at a workshop An artisan works on the statue of Lord Ganesh at a workshop in Mumbai on Tuesday. The idols are being prepared for Ganesh Chaturthi in September.
— Reuters

 

 

EARLIER STORIES

 
Thirty-two-year-old Kailashgiri Bramhagiri of Ujjain carries his 80-year-old blind mother
Thirty-two-year-old Kailashgiri Bramhagiri of Ujjain carries his 80-year-old blind mother at Hikaballapur, 40 km from Bangalore, on his way to Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. He left Ujjain eight years and seven months ago covering 5-10 km daily. Kailashgiri's motto is to convey the message of taking care of parents and to fulfil a vow to take his mother to all holy places in the country.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Leader of Opposition L. K. Advani greet party members
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (left) and Leader of Opposition L. K. Advani greet party members at BJP's parliamentary meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. — PTI photos

Housing boom in Gulf attracting Indians
New Delhi, August 17
The crisis which emerged due to three Indian workers held as hostages in Iraq for over a month now may have caught the fancy of the nation for all wrong reasons, but the construction boom in most of the Gulf countries is attracting thousands of Indian workers.

Govt raises limit for collateral-free student loans
New Delhi, August 17
The Union Government today stated that it had done away with the requirement of any collateral or security for the sanctioning of student loans up to Rs 7.5 lakh.

Cable strike on, rift among operators
New Delhi, August 17
An indefinite strike by cable operators began here today, causing viewers to miss their favourite broadcasts. Cable channels were blacked out as early as 7 am in certain areas, though in some localities viewers could watch programmes till late afternoon.

Cabinet nod to six Bills
New Delhi, August 19
Six legislations, including the Government Securities Bill and a new seeds Act, which would be introduced in Parliament, got the approval of the Cabinet tonight.

Railway seeks Rs 900 cr for J&K project
New Delhi, August 17
The Railway Ministry today demanded additional Rs 900 crore from the government for financing the Udhampur-Qazingund-Srinagar-Baramula new line to be completed by August 2007.

Govt nod to Urdu varsity in UP
Lucknow, August 17
The UP government virtually crossed swords with the Governor today with the Cabinet clearance for an ordinance to establish the Muhammad Ali Jauhar University with state Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Azam Khan as its Pro-Chancellor for life.

Mulayam denies move on dacoit’s surrender
Lucknow, August 17
Blaming the media for making dacoit Nirbhay Gujjar a celebrity, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav declared today that there was no official initiative under way for the surrender of the dacoit.

Don’t associate Sikdar with crime: CPM
New Delhi, August 17
The CPM today came in defence of party MP Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, whose husband Avtar Singh was arrested yesterday for running a sex racket in Kolkata, saying that it was wrong on the part of the media to bring her name into the picture when she was not learnt to have any association with the crime.

Reopen ’84 riot cases: VHP
New Delhi, August 17
The VHP today demanded the reopening of all 1984 anti-Sikh riot cases after the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat Government to examine the 2000 odd post-Godhra riot cases in which closure reports had been filed.

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BJP demands apology on Savarkar issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 17
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its ally Shiv Sena today took strong exception to the alleged insult meted out to freedom fighter Veer Savarkar by Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer with the former demanding an apology from the government and reinstatement of the original plaque bearing the freedom fighter’s quotes at a memorial on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Alleging that the plaque at the recently built Swatantrata Jot (flame of independence) at the Cellular Jail was removed on the instructions of Mr Aiyer, who inaugurated the memorial on August 9 at Port Blair, former Petroleum Minister and senior BJP leader Ram Naik has shot off letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil demanding that the government replace it.

“The government and Mr Aiyer must apologise for this insult and reinstate the original plaque of Savarkar’s quote,” Mr Naik said at a BJP media briefing here.

Alleging that the Congress had been “insulting” this “great son of India”, he said, “It had demonstrated the same attitude when Savarkar’s portrait was installed in the Central Hall of Parliament...it appears that the Congress government takes pride in insulting Veer Savarkar. Mr Aiyar went to the extent of saying that it was wrong to name Port Blair airport after Savarkar.”

“We expect Leader of Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee, who had promised to look into it, to come out with a response in three or four days. There is already a people’s agitation on in Maharashtra on the issue,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the issue had rocked Parliament with agitated Opposition members forcing an adjournment and staging a walkout, seeking an immediate apology from Mr Aiyer.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena is set to make Mr Aiyar’s reported remarks against the freedom fighter into a major issue in the forthcoming Assembly elections in Maharashtra.

An indication to this effect was given by Sena’s Parliamentary Party leader Anant Geete, who told mediapersons that the people of the state would never tolerate the “insult” to Savarkar, who was regarded as a “national leader”.

The Shiv Sena raised the issue in both the Houses earlier in the day. Mr Geete made a scathing attack on the Congress, alleging that Mr Aiyer’s remarks were reflective of the ruling party’s attitude towards Savarkar.

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Chinese team still 500m from Tibet lake
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 17
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) today continued to bat for the Chinese against the backdrop of highly critical news reports which raised questions and doubts about Beijing’s conduct in the Tibet lake crisis and talked of the “latest weapon” in China’s hands: lake bomb.

The MEA has also been silent about reports of formation of another artificial lake near China’s border with Arunachal Pradesh which can inundate large parts of north-eastern states like Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The MEA rubbished reports that the impending disaster in Himachal Pradesh because of an artificial lake and dam in Tibet was the latest Chinese experiment to expose India’s vulnerability to environmental warfare and an attempt to embarrass the Indian satellite surveillance system.

The MEA’s stand has consistently been that India is getting “useful data” and fullest cooperation from the Chinese even though Beijing has been sitting on Indian request for on-the-spot inspection by an Indian expert team for a fortnight.

The Chinese have not yet given permission to the Indian expert team to visit the site and have not even allowed India to conduct an aerial recce of the area. The MEA has also consistently been downplaying reports of the Chinese feeding wrong data to India about the Tibet lake parameters and changing information from time to time.

Sample today’s response from MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna to a question whether the Chinese government had been providing information regarding the status of the artificial dam and lake on the Parechu river in Tibet.

The spokesman said: “The Chinese authorities have stationed a technical team in the close vicinity of the area where landslides have occurred leading to the formation of the artificial dam and the lake. We have been given to understand by the Chinese side that while their personnel have not been able to reach the exact location of the dam/lake due to continuing landslides and unstable conditions, they are keeping the situation under observation from a distance of about 500 metres and sharing information with us on that basis.”

Significantly, even last week the spokesman had said the Chinese were about 500 metres away from the lake/dam site.

The spokesman said “The Chinese authorities have been providing data and information which have been found to be most useful by our experts in assessing the situation and in making contingency plans accordingly.”

According to Mr Sarna, the Indian Embassy in Beijing is receiving inputs from the Chinese side on a regular basis. “In addition we are also receiving information through the designated contact point at Spanggur, where there is a ‘hotline’ connecting the border personnel.” 

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Housing boom in Gulf attracting Indians
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 17
The crisis which emerged due to three Indian workers held as hostages in Iraq for over a month now may have caught the fancy of the nation for all wrong reasons, but the construction boom in most of the Gulf countries is attracting thousands of Indian workers.

Experts in the travel business say that rising international crude oil prices and liberalisation of the industry and trade has boosted the economies of oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Kuwait and Iraq. These countries are now witnessing a boom in the housing sector as well. According to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, except for the war-ravaged Iraq, the government is encouraging the migration of Indian workers on a large scale to find jobs in the housing and other construction activities.

Mr Harbhajan Singh, Secretary-General, NRI Welfare Society of India, said the construction activity was at its peak in countries like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These countries were attracting cheap labour from India and other South Asian countries.

“Some of the governments have already deregularised the housing sector and allowed the foreigners to buy property there. A new city is coming up near Dubai that is attracting thousands of labourers from the country especially from Punjab, Haryana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra,” he added.

In a written reply, Mr Sis Ram Ola, Minister for Labour and Employment, also told the Lok Sabha today that in view of the growing construction activities in the Gulf, the government had taken steps to send skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labourers through simplified emigration clearance procedures.

He said number of labourers engaged in the construction work had gone up from 2.78 lakh in 2001 to 4.66 lakh in 2003. This year, the number was likely to increase further.

The insiders in the travel business claim that by spending Rs 1 to Rs 2 lakh, even a matriculate mason, semi-skilled worker could get a work visa for up to five years in the Gulf countries. There is no dearth of job opportunities for plumbers, carpenters, and electricians besides other menial jobs.

“As against a monthly salary of Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 in India, an average labourer would earn Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 per month in Dubai or Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The placement agencies are even offering the service of providing visa, work permit and settlement in these countries to the customers,” Mr Harbhajan Singh said.

According to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, among other states, labourers from Punjab (24,963), Kerala (92,044), Uttar Pradesh (24,854), Tamil Nadu (89,464) and Andhra Pradesh (65,971) migrated last year to work in the construction sector.

Officials in the Ministry of Labour and Employment admitted that some of the placement agencies were also cheating the workers by promising higher wages or even by offering appointment letters of non-existent companies. They said people should be aware of the genuineness of the companies and could approach the ministry to check their records. The ministry could even suspend or cancel the registration of these companies if they were found guilty of cheating the workers, they added.

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Govt raises limit for collateral-free student loans
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 17
The Union Government today stated that it had done away with the requirement of any collateral or security for the sanctioning of student loans up to Rs 7.5 lakh.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, while responding to supplementaries during Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha, said only signatures of the student and his or her father would suffice.

He said the UPA government was interested in giving more education loans and necessary instructions had been given to banks in this regard.

“We are closely monitoring the system and will see that more and more education loans are given this year. The message had gone to the banks at higher levels and all branch managers are being informed,” he said.

He added that credit under self-employment schemes was being provided by the banks in various states and the step had proved to be quite successful.

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Cable strike on, rift among operators
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 17
An indefinite strike by cable operators began here today, causing viewers to miss their favourite broadcasts. Cable channels were blacked out as early as 7 am in certain areas, though in some localities viewers could watch programmes till late afternoon.

“Almost 90 per cent of the operators joined the strike,” claimed the All-India Cable TV Forum convener, Mr Jawahar Goel. While in some areas operators continued beaming all channels, as many as 1,650 operators joined the strike.

Much to the chagrin of the sports diehards, the protesting cable operators are airing only four news channels, including DD News, and have blacked out Doordarshan Sports, which is showing Olympics live.

The choice of the four news channels being aired varies from place to place. The cable TV operators are demanding the withdrawal of the 10.2 per cent service tax on them, which they claim is unjustified, as there is no service tax on DTH operators or cinema owners.

Referring to the operators who did not join the strike, Mr Goel said they were charging more than Rs 400 per connection and thus could pay the increased service tax.

Meanwhile, independent cable operators today claimed the nationwide strike evoked no response from any part of the country.

“The strike has been called by multi-system operators (MSOs) who are not willing to pay the service tax levied by the government,” Cable Network Federation convener Roop Sharma said.

She claimed that more than 40 per cent of the cable business in the country was owned by independent operators and since they had not joined the strike it had turned out to be a failure.

The independent operators are also in favour of immediate implementation of the CAS. Ms Sharma said to avert such situations in the future, the government should implement the CAS, because operators were not against paying tax, but they faced numerous difficulties in collection of tax and maintaining records of it, which could be reduced by the CAS.

More than 50 independent operators in the Capital under the banner of the Cable Network Federation have not joined the strike. 

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Cabinet nod to six Bills
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 19
Six legislations, including the Government Securities Bill and a new seeds Act, which would be introduced in Parliament, got the approval of the Cabinet tonight.

The Cabinet, which was chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also approved the Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Bill and an amendment to the Central Road Fund Act for the apportioning of the additional cess between rural roads and the National Highway Development Projects, Phase-II.

Another legislation would be enacted on the use of the state emblem of India.

The Cabinet also decided to repeal the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act of 1954 and the other related Acts.

The Government Securities Act would be enacted in place of the Public Debt Act of 1944 and the Indian Securities Act of 1920 would be repealed. The new seeds Act would replace the existing Seeds Act of 1966 and the Seeds Control Order.

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Railway seeks Rs 900 cr for J&K project
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 17
The Railway Ministry today demanded additional Rs 900 crore from the government for financing the Udhampur-Qazingund-Srinagar-Baramula new line to be completed by August 2007.

The ministry has also sought from the Planning Commission additional assistance of Rs 2,027 crore as budgetary support to accelerate the completion of various projects, besides increasing the outlay under the Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF).

This was over and above the annual plan outlay of Rs 14,498 crore estimated for the current financial year 2004-2005, a Railway Ministry spokesperson said.

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Govt nod to Urdu varsity in UP
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, August 17
The UP government virtually crossed swords with the Governor today with the Cabinet clearance for an ordinance to establish the Muhammad Ali Jauhar University with state Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Azam Khan as its Pro-Chancellor for life.

Chief Secretary V.N. Mittal announced the Cabinet decision of clearing the ordinance for the establishment of the university in a press briefing. Confirming that the ordinance retains the contentious clause of having Mr Khan as the Pro- Chancellor for life, the Chief Secretary refused to comment on the likelihood of its approval by the Governor. It remains to be seen if the ordinance gets the official seal of Raj Bhavan.

Protesting against the clause, UP Congress Committee Legislative Party Chief Pramod Tiwari said while his party was for the promotion of Urdu and Arabic it could not support a precedent for nominating a person for life in a university. “Such a university is not likely to have a conducive academic atmosphere”, commented Mr Tiwari.

According to Mr Tiwari, the comparison of the proposed Urdu university with the Sampoornanand university at Kashi was irrelevant as there the Maharaja of Kashi was the life-long Pro-Chancellor in lieu of his contribution for establishing it.

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Mulayam denies move on dacoit’s surrender
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, August 17
Blaming the media for making dacoit Nirbhay Gujjar a celebrity, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav declared today that there was no official initiative under way for the surrender of the dacoit.

The possibility of the dacoit’s surrender became the central issue at the CM’s ‘informal press meet’ soon after the Cabinet meeting. Mediapersons cornered the CM on his government’s inability to apprehend the bandit while he was freely available to the media, appearing on the electronic channels and approaching them over the phone.

Defending his government, he said, the media had contributed to a ‘sympathy wave’ by focusing on Nirbhay Gujjar that may prove counter-productive in the long run.

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Don’t associate Sikdar with crime: CPM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 17
The CPM today came in defence of party MP Jyotirmoyee Sikdar, whose husband Avtar Singh was arrested yesterday for running a sex racket in Kolkata, saying that it was wrong on the part of the media to bring her name into the picture when she was not learnt to have any association with the crime.

Avtar was not a member of the party and there was no indication so far that Ms Sikdar was involved in the case, CPM leaders told mediapersons here. Avtar, a reputed 800-metre runner of yesteryear, was arrested on August 15 on charges of running a prostitution ring from his Salt Lake bar in Kolkata.

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Reopen ’84 riot cases: VHP

New Delhi, August 17
The VHP today demanded the reopening of all 1984 anti-Sikh riot cases after the Supreme Court directed the Gujarat Government to examine the 2000 odd post-Godhra riot cases in which closure reports had been filed.

VHP Senior Vice-President Acharya Giriraj Kishore said the Supreme Court should suo motu direct the Centre to review all anti-Sikh riot cases to determine whether or not further investigations were required.

There should not be any discrimination in riot-related cases, he said. — UNI

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BRIEFLY

Former Gujarat CM cremated
SURAT: The last rites of Congress leader and former Gujarat Chief Minister Amarsinh Chaudhary who died on Sunday at Ahmedabad were performed on Tuesday morning in the tribal town of Vyara in this district in the presence of a number of well-wishers and political dignitaries. Among those present were state Chief Minister Narendra Modi, union ministers Shankersinh Vaghela and Naranbhai Rathwa and senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and Mukul Vasnik. — UNI

Peace function on border
JAIPUR: Nearly 100 farmers, artistes and activists lit candles, read poetry and sang folk songs at the Munabao border post in Barmer district of Rajasthan on Monday night to spread the message of peace and harmony between India and Pakistan. The ‘candlelight vigil’ for peace on the International Border was organised by the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, the Thar Jagrookta Nagrik Manch, Nehru Yuva Kendra and the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament for Peace. — UNI

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