SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Truckers continue to stay off roads
Turn down Chidambaram’s appeal
New Delhi, August 25
The deadlock between the government and truck operators continued for the fifth day today over the issue of service tax imposed on "goods transport agents" while the NDA announced its support to their demand for the abolition of the service tax.

SYL: Centre unlikely to react immediately
New Delhi, August 25
The Centre is unlikely to make any immediate move after the Supreme Court rejected Punjab’s review petition on its June 4 order asking the Union Government to undertake construction on the unfinished portion of the SYL canal.

Editorial: View and review

HVP vows to bring SYL waters to Haryana
New Delhi, August 25
Setting the tone of its campaign for the Assembly elections in the state, the Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) today promised to bring SYL waters to Haryana, fight corruption and accelerate development.

HVP President Bansi Lal addresses a rally on the SYL canal during heavy rain in New Delhi on Wednesday HVP President Bansi Lal addresses a rally on the SYL canal during heavy rain in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal



EARLIER STORIES

 
President APJ Abdul Kalam shakes hand with Foreign Minister of Kuwait Sheikh Mohammed Al-Sabbah Al-Salem Al-Sabbah at Rashtrapati Bhavan
President APJ Abdul Kalam shakes hand with Foreign Minister of Kuwait Sheikh Mohammed Al-Sabbah Al-Salem Al-Sabbah at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Children run through rainwater following a heavy shower in New Delhi on Wednesday
Children run through rainwater following a heavy shower in New Delhi on Wednesday. — PTI photos

Kuwait to do its best for securing hostages’ release
New Delhi, August 25
The visiting Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Sabbah Al-Salem Al Sabbah today signed three important bilateral agreements with India and made two critical assurances: on taking care of New Delhi’s interests in the Iraq hostage crisis and selling more crude oil.

Fernandes plans to visit Manipur
New Delhi, August 25
NDA convener and former Defence Minister George Fernandes, who attributes his sensitivity to the problems of the North-East to the late Socialist leader, Ram Manohar Lohia, plans to visit Manipur to take stock of the situation.

NDA leaders accuse Laloo of abusing powers, move SC
New Delhi, August 25
Three NDA leaders, led by BJP Vice-President Sushil Kumar Modi, have filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court against Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav alleging that he had been “misusing” his powers by interfering in the proceedings of “fodder scam” and Income Tax cases against him ,thereby, scuttling the judicial process.

Govt yields to pressure from Left
New Delhi, August 25
Succumbbing to pressure from Left parties, the UPA government tonight stated that it would consider the request for maintaining status quo on the Employees’ Provident Fund interest rate at 9.5 per cent and hike in FDI cap in the telecom sector.

Manmohan talks to Advani over phone
New Delhi, August 25
In a move to clear the air on the NDA memorandum controversy, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh tonight spoke to Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani over the telephone to clarify that he was not in a position to accept the NDA memorandum as Parliament was in session.

UP BJP expels 5 rebel MLAs
Lucknow, August 25
After dragging its feet over the issue for almost a month the state BJP finally expelled five rebel MLAs for anti-party activities. State BJP chief Keshari Nath Tripathi also warned of invoking the Anti-Defection Bill against the rebel MLAs if the need arose.

LS passes Appropriation Bill
New Delhi, August 25
The Lok Sabha today passed Appropriation Bill — 2004, authorising the Central Government to appropriate Rs 8,61,678.46 crore from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet its expenditure for the financial year 2004-05.

BJP seeks removal of ‘tainted ministers’
New Delhi, August 25
Accusing the Congress of pursuing politics of “vengence and confrontation” against its opponents, the BJP today announced launching of a week-long nationwide protest from tomorrow to demand the removal of tainted ministers from the Cabinet, dropping of the case against former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti and re-installation of Veer Savarkar’s plaque at the Cellular Jail.

Gurmat chetna march begins
Lucknow, August 25
The contribution of three saint-poets of Kashi — Sant Kabir, Sant Ravi Das and Sant Ramanand — is being recognised on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of prakash parv by taking out a Gurmat chetna march dedicated to the vani of these poets, which commenced at Kashi today. The Akal Takht chief, Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, is leading the march which is scheduled to arrive here tomorrow and reach Amritsar on September 1.

Cops finally catch up with cheat
Dehra Dun, August 25
A cheat who reportedly masqueraded as an IB official and an NGO heavyweight to sexually harass women from voluntary organisations, apart from of duping them into giving huge money against the lure of getting them big projects, fell into a trap laid by the police along with his victims yesterday.

Withdraw service tax on booking agents: NDA
New Delhi, August 25
The NDA has demanded withdrawal of the proposed service tax on transport booking agents, pandal and shamiyana contractors and a host of financial services, besides restoration of the interest rate on Employees Provident Fund to 9.5 per cent.

Illegal postal stamps racket unearthed
New Delhi, August 25
After the Telgi scam worth thousands of crores, an inter-state racket involving illegal sale of used stamps has been unearthed. The racket may have caused loss worth crores of rupees to the state exchequer.

LS to take up Finance Bill today
New Delhi, August 25
The budgetary exercise is expected to be completed in the Lok Sabha tomorrow with the House taking up the Finance Bill. After the adoption of the Finance Bill, the House is likely to be adjourned sine die.

Two Secretaries appointed in MEA
New Delhi, August 25
Mr Rajiv Sikri and Mrs Shashi U. Tripathi were today appointed as Secretary (East) and Secretary (West) respectively in the Ministry of External Affairs, it was officially announced. Both the senior IFS officers belong to the 1970 batch. While Mr Sikri is currently a Special Secretary in the ministry. Mrs Tripathi is India’s High Commissioner in Canada at present.

No bypoll in Ajnala
New Delhi, August 25
In view of an election petition pending in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Election Commission today decided not to hold byelection in the Ajnala Assembly constituency in Punjab. The poll panel said: "In the event of the election petition pending before the High Court, the commission cannot hold byelection to fill the said vacancy." Now, byelections would be held in 40 Assembly segments, one less than what was announced on Tuesday, the Election Commission said. — TNS

7 farmers die in Marathwada
Aurangabad, August 25
Seven farmers allegedly committed suicide in the past one week in Jalna and Beed districts of this backward Marathwada region of Maharashtra despite a recent announcement by the government to waive interest on their loans. The district authorities have ordered an inquiry into the incidents and the details would be available in next few days, he said. — UNI


Video
Parties in Maharashtra all geared up for the forthcoming state elections.
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Truckers continue to stay off roads
Turn down Chidambaram’s appeal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
The deadlock between the government and truck operators continued for the fifth day today over the issue of service tax imposed on "goods transport agents" while the NDA announced its support to their demand for the abolition of the service tax.

The All-India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), an apex body of transporters spearheading the agitation, turned down the appeal of the Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to call off the strike in view of the fact that " truck operators with two-three trucks will not have to pay the service tax."

Mr B.N. Dhumal, President, AIMTC, said today that the Finance Minister was trying to resort to the "divide-and-rule policy" by making an artificial distinction between booking agents and truckers.

The traders claim that transporters' strike, along with heavy rains in the region, has adversely affected the supply of vegetables, apples from Himachal Pradesh besides other commodities leading to an increase in their prices.

Terming the imposition of 10 per cent service tax on the agents as "a backdoor entry of inspector raj," he said, goods transport companies, truck owners and operators were an "integral part of the transport industry and are finely inter-woven." He said such a tactic of the government would not succeed.

Supply of essential commodities was affected in several states as four million trucks continued to stay off roads on the fifth day of the strike, triggering escalation in prices of vegetables and fruits in wholesale markets.

Mr Dhumal said the Finance Minister, instead of confounding the issue, must confirm that truck owners and truck operators would not be required to collect service tax from customers every time they issued a goods receipt note (GRN).

"As far as we understand, the service tax is liable to be collected once the GRN is issued whether by goods agencies or truck owners and operators," he said.

The AITMC president further pointed out that Mr Chidamabaram had stated that those who did not own more than three trucks would be exempted from registration by the excise authorities. "What about those who have more than three trucks? Will they not be charged the service tax?" he asked.

Mr Dhumal also rubbished the government's claim that transporters refused to sign the minutes of the meeting they had with the Revenue Secretary and the CBEC Chairman. "No minutes were drawn in any meeting because all the time the CBEC Chairman kept saying that it was an informal discussion and we were meeting like members of a family."

He lamented that some of the state governments were resorting to arrests of truck operators under the Essential Services Maintenanace Act (ESMA). "This is most unfortunate and uncalled for since we have already exempted essential services," he said.

Mr Dhumal said since mid-June, the AIMTC had been trying to hold a meeting with the Finance Minister but the latter could not spare time to meet a delegation of the transporters.

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SYL: Centre unlikely to react immediately
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
The Centre is unlikely to make any immediate move after the Supreme Court rejected Punjab’s review petition on its June 4 order asking the Union Government to undertake construction on the unfinished portion of the SYL canal.

Instead, it is likely to await the Supreme Court’s advise on the pending Presidential reference on the validity of the law passed by the Punjab Assembly abrogating inter- state water sharing accords. Embarassed over Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s unilateral move, the Centre was constrained to approach the apex court for further direction.

The Centre had first sought a fresh direction from the Supreme Court on its earlier order asking the Union Government to undertake construction of the unfinished portion in the light of the Punjab Government’s move to nullify the water-sharing pacts.

The Supreme Court has yet to list the Centre’s petition seeking a fresh directive while the hearing on the Presidential reference not commenced.

The Centre and the concerned state governments are required to submit their replies to the Supreme Court by September 17.

Even as these decisions are still awaited, the Supreme Court has dimsissed the Punjab Government’s review petition seeking reconsideration of its June 4 order.

Although the water resources and law minsitries are still confabulating on its resposne to the apex court’s verdict, it would prefer to wait till court gives its advise on the Presidential reference.

The Punjab Government’s unilateral move put the Centre in a spot. If it disagreed with it, it could create a voaltile sitaution in Punjab. On the other hand, it could not endorse it as it would mean an adverse response from the affected states. Since Haryana is headed for Assembly elections and the Congress finds itself on a strong wicket there, it would not like to inflame passions on this emotive isssue.

It is learnt that several Cabinet ministers, including Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee had favoured strong action against Capt Amarinder Singh after this Act was passed. Others, however, felt that instead of going in for any confrontation, the Centre cool tempers by buying time on this issue. This view prevalied. Consequently, the move to go in for a Presidential reference.Top

 

HVP vows to bring SYL waters to Haryana
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
Setting the tone of its campaign for the Assembly elections in the state, the Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) today promised to bring SYL waters to Haryana, fight corruption and accelerate development.

Addressing an SYL Sangarsh rally at Ramlila grounds here, HVP chief and former Chief Minister Bansi Lal accused the INLD and the Congress of doing little for construction of the SYL canal.

Though he was critical of the BJP over support of its Punjab MLAs to the controversial Bill abrogating water-sharing accords with neighbouring states, he said except the Congress and the INLD, his party was ready to take support from all others in its fight for the rights of Haryana.

Mr Bansi Lal accused Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala and his sons of indulging in loot. “They have looted the state. I will make them accountable. I will send them to jail,” he said at the end of his speech.

Mr Bansi Lal talked of development works done by him in his years as Chief Minister. “In the 38 years since the formation of Haryana, I have done more work in 12 years as Chief Minister than 26 years of other Chief Ministers,” he said.

The HVP chief said during his tenure, 60,000 men were working on the SYL canal. “I showed the work being done to every sarpanch of the state,” Mr Bansi Lal said.

Mr Bansi Lal said the HVP would also work towards getting 105 villages from Punjab in Abohar and Fazilka which had been promised to the state under an accord approved by Indira Gandhi.

The HVP chief said he told Haryana Congress chief Bhajan Lal to ask Congress President Sonia Gandhi to direct the Congress government in Punjab to release Haryana’s share of waters. “Congress leaders seek votes in the name of Indira Gandhi, but do not follow her words,” he said.

He said governments at the Centre were not serious for SYL construction and the present government was no different. The HVP leader said the state had won the legal battle in the Supreme Court on the case filed at his initiative.

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Kuwait to do its best for securing hostages’ release
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
The visiting Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Sabbah Al-Salem Al Sabbah today signed three important bilateral agreements with India and made two critical assurances: on taking care of New Delhi’s interests in the Iraq hostage crisis and selling more crude oil.

Mr Al Sabbah and External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh signed three agreements: the Extradition Treaty, Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and a Memorandum of Understanding for setting up of Strategic Consultative Group.

As the current Chairperson of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister also signed the India-GCC Framework Agreement for Economic Cooperation. From the Indian side this was signed by Mr Kamal Nath, Minister of Commerce and Industry.

Mr Al Sabbah said his country would do its best for early and safe release of the seven hostages in Iraq, including three Indians. “We are working very closely with our friends in Kenya, India and Iraq and will not leave any stone unturned for safe return of Indians held captive in Iraq,” Mr Al Sabbah told reporters.

Mr Al Sabbah expressed hope that the hostages would be released since they were working in Iraq in connection with reaching humanitarian aid and not as part of any military operation.

The Kuwaiti Foreign Minister told reporters earlier in the day after signing an agreement on behalf of the GCC that Kuwait was keen on investing in Indian refineries and sell more crude to India. Currently, India buys some 12 million tonnes of crude oil from Kuwait annually.

GCC Secretary General Abdulrahm bin Haman Al Attiyah said the GCC was keen on setting up a Free Trade Area (FTA) regime with India. “India is of vital importance to us. Through the FTA, we want to get exemption from customs and tarrifs for our exports. The same benefits will also be made available to India by the GCC countries.”

The Kuwaiti foreign minister held delegation-level talks with his Indian counterpart Natwar Singh preceded by a restricted session. The delegation-level talks covered several aspects of bilateral relations and trade, investment, industrial cooperation, IT sector and the energy sector came in for particular reference.

The Kuwaiti Foreign Minister also called upon President APJ Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee.Top

 

Fernandes plans to visit Manipur
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
NDA convener and former Defence Minister George Fernandes, who attributes his sensitivity to the problems of the North-East to the late Socialist leader, Ram Manohar Lohia, plans to visit Manipur to take stock of the situation.

Mr Fernandes told The Tribune that he would like to visit Manipur but the date was yet to be finalised.

Introducing Opposition MLAs from Manipur to mediapersons at his 3, Krishna Menon residence here on Wednesday, Mr Fernandes said he was in favour of restoring peace in the North-East which had not got due attention from the Centre.

The Opposition leaders from Manipur are here to press for a discussion on the demand for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, from the North-East in the ongoing session of Parliament.

Mr Hemochandra Singh, spokesperson for the Federal Party and coordinator of the Opposition Forum told The Tribune that they would consider moving a petition before the National Human Rights Commission on the plight of women in Manipur due to the extraordinary powers conferred on the members of the armed forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Speaking about the alleged rape, torture and murder of 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama by security forces in Imphal last month, Mr Hemochandra Singh said elderly women had even staged a nude dharna outside the gate of the Assam Rifles base in mid-July to express their anguish over the incident. Top

 

NDA leaders accuse Laloo of abusing powers, move SC
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 25
Three NDA leaders, led by BJP Vice-President Sushil Kumar Modi, have filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav alleging that he had been “misusing” his powers by interfering in the proceedings of “fodder scam” and Income Tax cases against him ,thereby, scuttling the judicial process.

Mr Modi and JDU leader Rajiv Ranjan, both members of the Lok Sabha , and Mr Saryu Roy, a BJP leader from Jharkhand, alleged in the petition that Union Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav had been “exerting pressure” on the CBI and the Income Tax authorities, which led to the removal of the Public Prosecutor in the fodder scam cases against him.Top

 

Govt yields to pressure from Left
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
Succumbbing to pressure from Left parties, the UPA government tonight stated that it would consider the request for maintaining status quo on the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) interest rate at 9.5 per cent and hike in FDI cap in the telecom sector.

Emerging from a two-and-half-hour meeting of the coordination committee of the UPA, the government and Left parties here, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the issue of FDI in telecom, which was opposed by Left parties, was also been looked into.

The meeting discussed the price situation and concern was expressed over the impact of rising international crude oil prices on inflation.

The meeting saw the government explaining the steps taken to check inflation. “The meeting took note of fiscal measures taken by the government in reducing duty on petroleum and steel products,” Mr Chidamabaram and CPM leader Sitaram Yechury told mediapersons.

The government explained the steps being taken for the setting up of the Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises and the Left parties welcomed the steps, Mr Chidambaram said. Top

 

Manmohan talks to Advani over phone
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
In a move to clear the air on the NDA memorandum controversy, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh tonight spoke to Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani over the telephone to clarify that he was not in a position to accept the NDA memorandum as Parliament was in session.

PMO sources said Dr Manmohan Singh spoke to Mr Advani to explain the matter to make it clear that he did not “throw” the memorandum but only refused to accept it.Top

 

NDA accuses PM of ‘impolite’ behaviour
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
The Opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) today charged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with behaving in an “impolite and discourteous” manner when its delegation went to present him a note regarding suggestions for inclusion in the Finance Bill.

Taking strong exception to the “unprecedented and shocking” behaviour of the Prime Minister, NDA convener George Fernandes said, “This marked a new low in the government-Opposition relationship in the Indian democracy”.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani, former ministers Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Sushma Swaraj and BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu were among those who comprised the delegation which was given an appointment to meet the Prime Minister at 12.45 pm today.

Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Mr Fernandes claimed that the Prime Minister took the memorandum from his hands and threw it on the table stating that he would not accept the note and that he had nothing to do with that note. Top

 

Cong hits back at Opposition

New Delhi, August 25
The Congress today hit back at the Opposition in most trenchant terms for accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of misbehavious when NDA leaders went to submit a memorandum on the Finance Bill to him.

Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad said contrary to the Opposition charge that the PM had contemptuosly thrown away its memorandum, Dr Singh had only declined to accept it as he felt the budget proposals should rightly be debated in Parliament.

Mr Azad said there was no intention of showing disrespect to any leader but the Prime Minister only felt that no purpose would be served by suggesting changes in the budget through a memorandum and that the “Parliament is the right forum to discuss these.” — TNSTop

 

UP BJP expels 5 rebel MLAs
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, August 25
After dragging its feet over the issue for almost a month the state BJP finally expelled five rebel MLAs for anti-party activities. State BJP chief Keshari Nath Tripathi also warned of invoking the Anti-Defection Bill against the rebel MLAs if the need arose.

According to Mr Tripathi, the move will strengthen the BJP and check anti-party activities. Mr Tripathi admitted that he had been directed not to tolerate any indiscipline. The MLAs had been suspended earlier this month. These 'rebel' MLAs are Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh, Mr Narendra Verma, Mr Anil Verma, Mr Daya Shankar, Mr Kovid Kumar Singh.

The party had not taken any decision against these MLAs even after the show-cause notice expired on July 28. It was only after Venkaiah Naidu's intervention that the state unit gathered enough courage to take a decision. These MLAs had been issued show-cause notices for sitting on the Treasury Benches during the current monsoon session of the Vidhan Sabha.

Challenging their expulsion, the MLAs have demanded action against the top leadership which had been responsible for the downfall of the party in the state by entering into a disastrous alliance with the BSP. According to one of the MLAs, Mr Anil Verma, the decision will prove costly to the BJP on the eve of the byelections scheduled for mid-October.

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LS passes Appropriation Bill

New Delhi, August 25
The Lok Sabha today passed Appropriation Bill — 2004, authorising the Central Government to appropriate Rs 8,61,678.46 crore from the Consolidated Fund of India to meet its expenditure for the financial year 2004-05.

This sum includes the amount appropriated from the fund at the time of Vote-on-Account in February this year.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram moved the Bill to authorise the payment and appropriation of "certain sums" from the Consolidated Fund of India for the financial year 2004-05.

The Bill was passed without discussion by voice vote.

In all, the House passed 105 demands relating to ministries, departments and other establishments.

Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad moved two motions for taking up the Appropriation Bill today and the Finance Bill tomorrow.

The Finance Bill is also likely to be passed without debate in the backdrop of the stand-off between the Treasury 
and Opposition benches over the Veer Savarkar and tainted ministers' issues.

The House is likely to be adjourned sine die after the passage of the Finance Bill, 2004. — UNI

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BJP seeks removal of ‘tainted ministers’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
Accusing the Congress of pursuing politics of “vengence and confrontation” against its opponents, the BJP today announced launching of a week-long nationwide protest from tomorrow to demand the removal of tainted ministers from the Cabinet, dropping of the case against former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Uma Bharti and re-installation of Veer Savarkar’s plaque at the Cellular Jail.

Addressing a press conference here, BJP President M. Venkaiah Naidu accused the Congress of spreading ‘lies’ about Ms Bharti’s case and said his party would like to bring the issue to its logical conclusion.

He said, the Congress should answer why the report of the Judicial Commission, which probed the case, in which Ms Bharti is one of the accused persons, why the then Congress Goverment headed by Mr S M Krishna, in which the present Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh was probably one of the ministers, decided to withdraw the case against her.

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Gurmat chetna march begins
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, August 25
The contribution of three saint-poets of Kashi — Sant Kabir, Sant Ravi Das and Sant Ramanand — is being recognised on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of prakash parv by taking out a Gurmat chetna march dedicated to the vani of these poets, which commenced at Kashi today. The Akal Takht chief, Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti, is leading the march which is scheduled to arrive here tomorrow and reach Amritsar on September 1.

Talking to the press about this special march, Lucknow Gurdwara Prabandhank Committee President Rajendra Singh Bagga said in view of the significance of the contribution of these saints, the Jathedar would lead the march from Darbar Sahib accompanied by the Panj Pyaras and MPs Balbir Singh Maini, Virendra Singh Bajwa and former Punjab industry minister Tota Singh.

According to Mr Bagga, Guru Granth Sahib contains the vani of 15 saints, besides the Sikh Gurus. Three of them belonged to the city of Kashi. While one shabad of Sant Ramanand finds place in Guru Granth Sahib, 554 shabads of Sant Kabir and 40 of Sant Ravi Das find place in the holy scripture. The Jathedar would inaugurate tomorrow a museum on Sikh history at Gurdwara Hindola.

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Cops finally catch up with cheat
Swati Vashishtha
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, August 25
A cheat who reportedly masqueraded as an IB official and an NGO heavyweight to sexually harass women from voluntary organisations, apart from of duping them into giving huge money against the lure of getting them big projects, fell into a trap laid by the police along with his victims yesterday.

The accused, Anil Singh Karnwal, took turns to impersonate as an Intelligence Bureau official, a World Bank representative, a scribe from a national newspaper and the CEO of an international women’s organisation and promised jobs to over 12 women in lieu of money and sex, the police said.

Nearly two years into the crime, the accused had cheated a number of women with deals running into lakhs of rupees, apart from sexual harassment, the police said. Karnwal, who introduced himself to his victims with different names like Praveen Kandwal, Piyush Upadhyaya and Rajiv Seth, was operating in Chamoli, Vikasnagar, Gopeshwar, Nainital and Chakrata, apart from Dehradun, the police said. 

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Withdraw service tax on booking agents: NDA
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
The NDA has demanded withdrawal of the proposed service tax on transport booking agents, pandal and shamiyana contractors and a host of financial services, besides restoration of the interest rate on Employees Provident Fund to 9.5 per cent.

In a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the NDA accused Finance Minister P. Chidambaram of being “casual” in preparing the Budget and demanded that the government should carry out amendments to the Finance Bill withdrawing the proposed 10 per cent service tax on transport booking agents, pandal and shamiana contractors and a host of financial services.

NDA leaders, however, said Mr Manmohan Singh “refused” to receive the memorandum presented by a delegation led by L.K. Advani and George Fernandes, and asked Opposition leaders to take part in the discussions on the budgetary process.

NDA memorandum contained several demands including restoring interest rate on Employees Provident Fund at 9.5 per cent instead of the interim 8.5 per cent.

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Illegal postal stamps racket unearthed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
After the Telgi scam worth thousands of crores, an inter-state racket involving illegal sale of used stamps has been unearthed. The racket may have caused loss worth crores of rupees to the state exchequer.

In a written reply, Dr Shakeel Ahmad, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, today informed the Lok Sabha that an inter-state racket involving illegal circulation of used stamps was unearthed at Allahabad, Ghaziabad and Ahmedabad.

Consequently, he said, the police conducted raids at these places and recovered used postage stamps worth Rs 1.36 crore. Some postal officials have also been arrested and placed under suspension. Further investgations are on.

Postal Department officials claimed that it was the tip of an iceberg. The actual circulation of illegal stamps may be in the range of Rs 50 crore to Rs 100 crore annually, as there was no mechanism to identify the genuine or illegal stamps at the post office level.

Sources said, “The connivance of some higher postal officials could not be ruled out. In fact, organised gangs collect used stamps from postal offices, and from bulk users like the telecom sector and insurance companies and through rag pickers as well. After that they erase the marks of postal department and sell them as genuine ones in the open market.”

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LS to take up Finance Bill today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
The budgetary exercise is expected to be completed in the Lok Sabha tomorrow with the House taking up the Finance Bill. After the adoption of the Finance Bill, the House is likely to be adjourned sine die.

The government and 
the Opposition had yesterday agreed to prematurely end the Budget session after securing parliamentary approval for the General and Railway Budgets as the stalemate over the issues of Uma Bharti, "tainted" ministers and Veer Savarkar continues unabated.

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Two Secretaries appointed in MEA
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 25
Mr Rajiv Sikri and Mrs Shashi U. Tripathi were today appointed as Secretary (East) and Secretary (West) respectively in the Ministry of External Affairs, it was officially announced. Both the senior IFS officers belong to the 1970 batch. While Mr Sikri is currently a Special Secretary in the ministry. Mrs Tripathi is India’s High Commissioner in Canada at present.

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BRIEFLY

Bandh hits life in Assam
Morigaon (Assam):
Normal life was paralysed on Wednesday in three Central Assam districts of Nagaon, Morigaon and Karbi Anglong following a 12-hour bandh called by the Tiwa Autonomous Demand Committee. All shops, business establishments and educational institutions were closed, while attendance in government offices was thin. — PTI

Editor stabbed, condition stable
Mumbai:
Editor of a local Hindi eveninger Mahanagar Sajid Rashid was stabbed on Tuesday by some unidentified persons outside his office at sub-urban Matunga, police sources said. The condition of Rashid, who was admitted to a hospital in Parel, was stable. — PTI

Cong leader shot dead
Varanasi:
A senior Congress leader, Prashidha Narain Singh was shot dead and his son was seriously injured by armed assailants at their residence in the Kabir Chaura locality here on Wednesday morning, the police said. The assailants barged into the sitting room of Singh, secretary of DAV College here, and fired indiscriminately killing him on the spot. They later fled on their motorcycle. — PTI

Farmer ends life due to debts
Tirupati:
A 50-year-old farmer has allegedly committed suicide due to huge debts incurred by him at Balireddygari Palle village in Chittoor district of Andhra Praesh. The police said E Nagulaiah, who had incurred debts to the tune of Rs 2 lakh, committed suicide by consuming poison on Tuesday. — UNI

Freedom fighter dead
Jaunpur (UP):
Veteran freedom fighter Ram Dular Tewari died at his native Darunpur Itha village in the district after a prolonged illness on Tuesday, family sources said. He was 82. Tewari had been active during the Quit India Movement and was jailed several times. — PTI
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