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Kalam’s address ‘lifeless, directionless’: BJP
BJP national President Rajnath Singh, Congress leader K Natwar Singh and Farooq Abdullah have a chat at Parliament House on the opening day of the Budget session in New Delhi on Thursday.

New Delhi, February 16
The BJP today termed the President’s address to Parliament as “lifeless, dull and directionless” and said the NDA would raise the issue of Muslim headcount in the armed forces tomorrow and insist on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation over the Supreme Court verdict on Bihar Assembly dissolution.
BJP national President Rajnath Singh, Congress leader K Natwar Singh and Farooq Abdullah have a chat at Parliament House on the opening day of the Budget session in New Delhi on Thursday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal


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Yashwant Sinha in judicial custody
Ranchi, February 16
BJP’s Rajya Sabha member and former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, arrested yesterday for locking up central government offices during office hours, was today produced before a court in Hazaribag which remanded him to judicial custody for 12 days.

Police Commissioners for cities with 10 lakh population
Chandigarh, February 16
The states have agreed to have Commissioners of Police in cities having population of more than 10 lakh.

PM to make statement on Iran today
New Delhi, February 16
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will make a statement on the Iran nuclear issue in Parliament tomorrow.

India to open “pravasi” centres
New Delhi, February 16
India will soon open “pravasi” offices in five countries to tackle problems faced by its nationals working abroad and to coordinate their investment plans back home, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said today.

Govt seeks sex workers’ views
New Delhi, February 16
The Ministry of Women and Child Development will initiate a dialogue with representatives of sex workers to understand their problems before effecting changes in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986.

Jaitley made Punjab in charge
New Delhi, February 16
With an eye on the 2007 Punjab Assembly polls, BJP President Rajnath Singh today decided to make the party’s “spin doctor” and General Secretary Arun Jaitley in charge of the state, while BJP’s veteran leader from Himachal Pradesh Shanta Kumar was made in charge of Bihar, giving free hand to former state Chief Minister P K Dhumal.

Omar to visit Pakistan
New Delhi, February 16
National Conference President Omar Abdullah is expected to meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf next month during his maiden visit to Pakistan.

Govt may delay tabling of pension reforms Bill
New Delhi, February 16
With no mention of Pension Reforms Bill in the President’s speech today, the government has indicated that it has no intention of tabling the Bill in the current session.

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Kalam’s address ‘lifeless, directionless’: BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16
The BJP today termed the President’s address to Parliament as “lifeless, dull and directionless” and said the NDA would raise the issue of Muslim headcount in the armed forces tomorrow and insist on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation over the Supreme Court verdict on the Bihar Assembly dissolution.

The main opposition party, along with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), will also be raising the issue of alleged eviction of Sikh settlers in the Terai region of Uttaranchal.

“The President’s address was lifeless, dull and directionless. It contained only hollow promises, contrary to facts”, BJP Parliamentary Party spokesman V.K. Malhotra said.

Alleging that the address was an “exercise in repetition” whether it be on the Right to Information Act Employment Guarantee Scheme, Bharat Nirman or welfare of women and children, Mr Malhotra said, “There is not a single new thing or a direction”.

“That explains the muted response to the address. Even the occasional applause appeared to be forced”, he said.

He, however, said there was a “lot of minorityism” whether it be the Justice Rajender Sachar Committee, the Ministry of Minority Affairs or the 15-point programme for minority welfare.

“Not even during Nehru’s time had so much of minorityism been practised”, the senior BJP leader said.

Regretting that despite concerns from all quarters, the address did not mention a word about Iran. He demanded the Prime Minister should make a statement before a debate on the issue.

On the Muslim headcount issue, the BJP said it would raise it during Zero Hour tomorrow. Slamming the government’s stand on the issue as “preposterous and atrocious”, he demanded immediate withdrawal of the survey.

The NDA has also decided to raise a number of issues, including the Quattrocchi issue, in which UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is “directly involved”, indictment of the UPA government by the Supreme Court in the Bihar Assembly dissolution issue, inflation and the alleged manipulation of voter list in West Bengal.

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Yashwant Sinha in judicial custody

Ranchi, February 16
BJP’s Rajya Sabha member and former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, arrested yesterday for locking up central government offices during office hours, was today produced before a court in Hazaribag which remanded him to judicial custody for 12 days.

Mr Sinha was produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate after being booked under Section 151 of the CrPC (Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences). He has been remanded to judicial custody till February 28.

The former External Affairs Minister, along with over 150 BJP followers, was arrested in Hazaribagh yesterday for locking up central government offices during office hours during an agitation launched on February 13.

The BJP’s Hazaribag unit, led by Mr Sinha, is spearheading a “Save dignity of Hazaribag” agitation to protest the decision to close down two Regional Training Institutes (RTI) of Direct Taxes and Central Excise and Customs in the district and tardy progress of railway network.

Mr Sinha last night told PTI on the telephone that the agitationists had put locks on some central government offices in Hazaribag on Monday. Hazaribag police superintendent Praveen Kumar Singh today said the locks had been removed and the offices were functioning smoothly. — PTI

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Police Commissioners for cities with 10 lakh population
Yoginder Gupta
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 16
The states have agreed to have Commissioners of Police in cities having population of more than 10 lakh.

The consensus emerged at a meeting of Home Secretaries and DGPs held under the chairmanship of the Union Home Secretary, Mr V.K. Duggal, in Delhi on February 14. The meeting was held to take stock of the status of implementation of the recommendations of the Review Committee on Police Reforms.

However, there was no consensus on having a minimum tenure of two years for the DGP of a state. Since certain states had expressed reservations in this regard, it was decided to leave the issue for the Union Government to decide. The PM, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the UPA chairperson, Ms Sonia Gandhi, have advocated the need for having a minimum tenure of two years for the Chief Secretaries and the DGPs.

The meeting discussed 49 points, including the need to raise the educational qualifications of candidates for the posts of constable and sub-inspectors as well as lowering their maximum age; establishment of State Police Recruitment Boards; giving higher pay scales to constables; introduction of shift system for the constables so that they do not have to work for more than eight hours at a stretch; and linking of promotion with training. Other recommendations of the committee included separation of investigation wing from the law and order wings of the police, modernisation of the police, improvement of forensic science infrastructure, computerisation of police stations and outsourcing of some police duties.

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PM to make statement on Iran today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will make a statement on the Iran nuclear issue in Parliament tomorrow.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi told reporters that the statement would be made in the Lok Sabha around 3 p.m. and in Rajya Sabha around 5 p.m.

The Prime Minister’s statement would form the basis for the two Houses to discuss the Iran nuclear issue and the Indian vote in the IAEA meeting over which the Left parties have attacked the government.

The Left combine and the Samajwadi Party, supporting the UPA government from outside, and the Opposition BJP have demanded a thorough discussion in Parliament on the issue.

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India to open “pravasi” centres
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16
India will soon open “pravasi” offices in five countries to tackle problems faced by its nationals working abroad and to coordinate their investment plans back home, Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said today.

The offices, likely to be named as “Pravasi Welfare Centres”, to be set up in the Middle-East, Europe, USA and South-East Asia would be under the direct control of Ministry for Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), the minister told reporters. Two centres would be opened in the Middle-East, where a large number of Indian reside.

Mr Ravi also said the amendment to the Representation of People Act to enable non-resident Indians to exercise their voting rights in the country would be introduced in the current session of Parliament. As most of the political parties are in favour, the amendment is likely to be passed during the current session.

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Govt seeks sex workers’ views
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16
The Ministry of Women and Child Development will initiate a dialogue with representatives of sex workers to understand their problems before effecting changes in the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1986.

Inaugurating one-day National Consultation for Implementation of SAARC Convention on Trafficking, Ms Renuka Choudhary, who took charge of the ministry recently, said a meeting of sex workers had been convened next week to get a first-hand knowledge of their grievances.

Ms Chaudhary said the ministry proposed to amend the Act to make the law stringent for traffickers, brothel keepers, pimps and customers and supportive to victims. Under the proposed amendment, a child will be defined as a person below the age of 18.

It envisages deletion of the Section 8, which declares soliciting as punishable, and the Section 20, which empowers a magistrate to remove the commercial sex worker from boundaries of an area.

There is a proposal to constitute a Central nodal authority on the lines of the Narcotics Control Bureau that will be responsible for coordination of all activities on prevention and combating trafficking of women and children at the national level, the minister said.

She said the ratification of the SAARC convention on human trafficking by all member countries had given the countries a power to institutionalise a campaign against the crime.

Expressing concern over the diminishing sex ratio, she said the imbalance in the population of men and women could become a major contributor to the menace of trafficking and called upon stakeholders to come together to address the issue.

Participants at the day-long consultation titled “Road towards the implementation of SAARC convention on trafficking” demanded setting up a SAARC task force to monitor trafficking and oversee implementation of the convention in member countries.

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Jaitley made Punjab in charge
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16
With an eye on the 2007 Punjab Assembly polls, BJP President Rajnath Singh today decided to make the party’s “spin doctor” and General Secretary Arun Jaitley in charge of the state, while BJP’s veteran leader from Himachal Pradesh Shanta Kumar was made in charge of Bihar, giving free hand to former state Chief Minister P K Dhumal.

Mr Rajnath Singh, who reconstituted “pradesh prabharis” (state in charges), “morcha prabharis” (in charges of various fronts) and conveners of various cells, appointed former Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma as in charge of Himachal Pradesh.

Mr Jaitley will also be in charge of Chandigarh and Jammu and Kashmir. While Mr R P Singh will be co-in charge of Punjab, Ms Kiran Maheswari will be co-in charge of Chandigarh. 

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Omar to visit Pakistan

New Delhi, February 16
National Conference President Omar Abdullah is expected to meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf next month during his maiden visit to Pakistan.

The meeting will take place in the second week of March when Omar would be in Islamabad to attend a conference on Kashmir being organised by Pugwash.

He said his meeting General Musharraf would be part of the “natural process” under the present policies being followed by the governments of India and Pakistan. — TNS

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Govt may delay tabling of pension reforms Bill
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 16
With no mention of Pension Reforms Bill in the President’s speech today, the government has indicated that it has no intention of tabling the Bill in the current session.

The Government, which has pushed forward various reforms despite strong resistance from the Left parties, is still hesitating to come up with Bill fearing backlash from the trade unions as well.

Official sources said the modified Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill (PFRDA) is not in the list of legislations slated to be taken up in the Budget session.

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