SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Empower poor via education: Rahul
Makes maiden speech on Budget
New Delhi, March 9

In his maiden speech on the Budget in the Lok Sabha, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi today made an impassioned plea for making education a tool for turning the aspirations of the students of the country into reality. Mr Gandhi's intervention focussed on the need for a thorough overhaul of the educational system to remove mismatch between the skills imparted in schools and colleges and the market demand.

Policemen patrol the streets of Varanasi on Thursday. Bomb
blast at Chitrakoot





Policemen patrol the streets of Varanasi on Thursday.
— Reuters


EARLIER STORIES

 

NIT Bill 2006 to be introduced
New Delhi, March 9
The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal to introduce the National Institutes of Technology Bill, 2006 in the Parliament and bring all the 19 National Institutes of Technology within the ambit of the Act.

Fisticuffs in MP Assembly
Bhopal, March 9
Fisticuffs were exchanged between the ruling party and Opposition members in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly today.

No proposal to end MPLAD scheme: govt
New Delhi, March 9
The Government today said there was no proposal to end the MPLAD scheme and efforts were being made to improve the guidelines and ensure greater transparency.

UP House passes Bill to save Jaya’s Chair
Lucknow, March 9
In an attempt seen as an exercise to prevent disqualification of Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan, the Uttar Pradesh Assembly today passed a Bill exempting 79 posts, including the chairmanship of the State Film Development Council held by her, from being regarded as offices of profit.

CWC meeting tomorrow
New Delhi, March 9
A meeting of the Congress Working Committee will be held on March 11 to discuss the recent political developments in the context of the coming Assembly elections to five states.

Parliament passes Railway Appropriation Bills
New Delhi, March 9
The Rajya Sabha today returned Appropriation Bills authorising appropriation of sums out of the Consolidated Fund to meet the amounts spent by the Railways during the 2005-2006 financial year after Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav replied to discussion on the Railway Budget 2006-2007.

DMK gives more seats to allies
Chennai, March 9
Following the exit of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Democratic Progressive Alliance, the latter today accommodated its allies comfortably by offering more than expected seats for the May 8 Assembly elections.

Ban Christian publication: BJP
New Delhi, March 9
Equating the derogatory remarks against Hindu deities in a domestic Christian publication with the controversial caricatures of Prophet Mohammad, the Opposition BJP today demanded a ban on the book and immediate arrest of its author and publisher.

Jessica case: Bill to amend CrPC
New Delhi, March 9
Witnesses in trials of criminal cases will be permitted to record their evidence in-camera under a series of amendments the government is bringing to the Criminal Procedure Code.

Muslims also donate blood for blast-hit
Varanasi, March 9
His heart-wrenching music moves one to tears. But this time, 90-year-old Bharat Ratna awardee Ustad Bismillah Khan has decided to wipe tears of his fellow citizens hurt in the serial blasts on Tuesday in the city. Contributing his bit to relief work, he is organising a blood donation camp at Dal Mandi on Friday.

Key CPM men denied renomination to RS
Kolkata, March 9
Two prominent CPM MPs, who virtually acted as party’s spokespersons at the national level, had been denied renomination to the forthcoming Rajya Sabha elections to be held on March 28.

Cong compromising on national unity, says Rajnath
Patna, March 9
BJP President Rajnath Singh today accused the Congress-led UPA at the Centre, backed by the communists, of compromising with national unity and integrity of the country by allegedly playing into the hands of communal forces, which in turn were colluding with various terrorist outfits.

Lobbying for RS seats gains momentum
New Delhi, March 9
With the notification for the election to Rajya Sabha seats scheduled for tomorrow, lobbying for Rajya Sabha seats has begun for filling 58 vacancies, including those of Union Ministers Arjun Singh, H.R Bhardwaj, Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan and senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, have to be filled through fresh elections scheduled for March 28.

BJP for raise in IT limit for elders, women
New Delhi, March 9
The Opposition BJP today moved several amendments to the Finance Bill in the Lok Sabha.“We have proposed that the exemption limit for senior citizens be raised from Rs 1.85 lakh to Rs 2 lakh as they face severe difficulties due to limited income and low interest rates,” BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra told newspersons here.

Conference on judicial reforms begins
New Delhi, March 9
A two-day conference of Chief Justices of High Courts to deliberate upon firming up the functioning of the judiciary, specially the lower courts and the progress on implementing the resolutions passed in this regard in the last meet of 2004 began here today.

Sino-India talks from today
New Delhi, March 9
The seventh meeting of the Special Representatives of India and China on the boundary question will take place in New Delhi and Kottayam from tomorrow till March 13, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a press note here today.

8 N-reactors under construction
New Delhi, March 9
The government today informed the Lok Sabha that construction work on eight nuclear reactors was in progress and plans were afoot to set up more atomic energy plants in the country with latest safeguards available in the international market.

Shahabuddin fails in LLB (II)
Patna, March 9
The controversial RJD MP from Siwan, Mohammad Shahabuddin, failed in the LLB (II) examination conducted by B.R. Ambedkar University last year.

Farmers from Punjab under the banner of the Bharti Kisan Union demonstrate against the Centre on the issue of low MSP of agriculture produce at Parliament Street in New Delhi on Thursday. Punjab farmers seek more MSP for wheat
New Delhi, March 9
A Large number of farmers from Punjab staged a protest march to Parliament today, seeking raising of the MSP of wheat from Rs 650 to Rs 800 per quintal for the coming harvest in order to reduce interest rates and farmers’ loans.

Farmers from Punjab under the banner of the Bharti Kisan Union demonstrate against the Centre on the issue of low MSP of agriculture produce at Parliament Street in New Delhi on Thursday. — Tribune photo by  Rajeev Tyagi


Videos
National Mime Festival ends in Jaipur. 
(28k, 56k)
Lathmaar holi celebrated in Barsana district of Uttar Pradesh. 
(28k, 56k)
Abida Parvin and Daler Mehndi mesmerise Delhi.
(28k, 56k)

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Empower poor via education: Rahul
Makes maiden speech on Budget
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
In his maiden speech on the Budget in the Lok Sabha, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi today made an impassioned plea for making education a tool for turning the aspirations of the students of the country into reality.

Mr Gandhi's intervention focussed on the need for a thorough overhaul of the educational system to remove mismatch between the skills imparted in schools and colleges and the market demand.

Driving home his contention that education was no guarantee for a job, he said a student in Manipur he had met during one of his trips to the North-East, was a university topper but without a job.

In his brief five-minute speech, which was received by Treasury Bench members with frequent thumping of desks, Mr Rahul Gandhi said the education system should not be judged by the number of graduates churned out but the percentage of those getting jobs.

He said the situation was changing fast, ever since the UPA government was formed, as it more than tripled the allocation for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and mid-day meal schemes.

Pointing out that student enrollment had gone up by over 3.9 million, he said, ''This is nothing short of a revolution.'' The significant aspect of this was that more than 50 per cent of these covered the most populous but poor states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, he said.

The very fact that several students were taking more than ten years to complete primary education showed there was a need for improving ''quality and accountability'', he said.

He said India was fast becoming a global power and taking advantage of this, the country should be turned into a hub for higher education.

The US and Britain alone earned Rs 50,000 crore from overseas students and India could have a major share of this by offering quality education, he said.

''Let us revive the Nalanda and Vikramshila traditions,'' he said, recalling the period when India was the torch-bearer of quality higher education centuries ago.

This was the second occasion the Amethi MP and the scion of the Gandhi family had spoken in the Lok Sabha. The first was during the last winter session, when he had demanded, in the form of a special mention, speedy clearance of the arrears of sugarcane farmers.

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Bomb blast at Chitrakoot

Chitrakoot, March 9
Close on the heels of twin blasts in Varanasi on Tuesday, a person was killed in a bomb explosion at the railway station here.

The explosive device was apparently attached to the belly of the deceased. According to the District Police Chief Shachi Ghildiyal, it was too early to suggest whether he was a suicide bomber or a ‘fidayeen’ as the bomb was not very powerful. — UNI

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NIT Bill 2006 to be introduced
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal to introduce the National Institutes of Technology Bill, 2006 in the Parliament and bring all the 19 National Institutes of Technology within the ambit of the Act.

This would enable the National Institutes of Technology (NIT) to become centres of excellence like the IITs and fulfill the need of the country for quality manpower in the fields of engineering, science and technology.

To provide impetus to growth of basic science research in the country, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its approval for incurring an expenditure of Rs 100 crore for upgrading overall infrastructure of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IISc) by 2006-07. This will include Rs 62 crore during 2005-06 and Rs 38 crore during 2006-07.

The Cabinet approved a proposal to undertake the design and development of Resourcesat-2 Mission at a total estimated cost of Rs 138.79 crore with a foreign exchange component of Rs 88.50 crore.

Resourcesat-2 Mission, an Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS) project, is the in-orbit replacement for the IRS-P6 (Resourcesat-1) Mission. It will provide continuity of remote sensing data services to the user community on an operational basis for integrated land and water resources management at micro level.

The CCEA also gave its approval for continuation of the Centrally sponsored scheme of assistance to State Scheduled Castes Development Corporations during the 10th Five Year Plan 2002-07 with an allocation of Rs 188.26 crore. The scheme will benefit about 28.62 lakh persons belonging to the scheduled castes and safai karamcharis during the 10th Five Year Plan.

The CCEA approved additional inputs to the Catalytic Development Programme of Sericulture Sector and corresponding enhancement of Tenth Plan for the scheme by Rs 76.99 crore, thus raising the cost of the scheme from the present Rs 180.98 crore to Rs.257.97 crore.

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Fisticuffs in MP Assembly
Tribune News Service

Bhopal, March 9
Fisticuffs were exchanged between the ruling party and Opposition members in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly today. Three members — Mr Satyadev Katare and Mr Ramniwas Rawat of the Congress, and Dr Sunilam of the Socialist Party were suspended from the House by Speaker Ishwardas Rohani for the rest of the Budget session.

The tempers, however, cooled down as the parties concerned were called by the Speaker to his chamber for sorting out the matter during the prolonged adjournment.

As the House reassembled, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Leader of the Opposition Jamuna Devi expressed regrets on behalf of their members and the suspension was revoked.

The trouble started as Mr Katare brought to the House bundles of damaged wheat crops to stress that the government was not showing concern for the damage suffered by farmers because of the recent rains and hailstorms. The Opposition had been demanding a discussion on the plight of the farmers for the past few days.

Mr Katare refused to take the bundles out in spite of repeated directions by the Speaker. Instead, Dr Sunilam, Mr Katare, Mr Ramniwas Rawat and a few other Congress members moved with the bundles towards the Chief Minister’s desk, when ruling party members led by Urban Development Minister Jayant Malaiya and Forest and Transport Minister Himmat Kothari pounced on them, leading to jostling and exchange of fisticuffs between them.

As the House stood adjourned, Ms Jamuna Devi told reporters this was the blackest day in the history of the Madhya Pradesh Assembly as Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan prompted his party men to attack the Opposition members and himself used fisticuffs against them.

Mr Chauhan also described it as the blackest day for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly and blamed the Opposition for what had happened.

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No proposal to end MPLAD scheme: govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
The Government today said there was no proposal to end the MPLAD scheme and efforts were being made to improve the guidelines and ensure greater transparency.

Minister for Statistics and Programme Implementation G K Vasan said in the Rajya Sabha that there was no proposal to close down the MPLAD scheme and the government was trying to improve the standard of the scheme.

Answering supplemantaries, he said the government had not taken any ‘‘negative decision’’ against involving the NGOs in works under the MPLAD scheme. He said percentage utilisation under the scheme had improved to 89 per cent while 88 per cent works were completed on sanction.

Mr Vasan said funds under the scheme could not be used for religious institutions such as temple, mosque or church.

Mr M S Gill (Congress) said that the scheme should not be abolished as MPs from even the ruling parties in the states found it difficult to get development works done.

‘‘When we go to our state, people do not ask about major government policies but want their development needs met,’’ he said.

Mr Gill found support from some other members from the House. However, CPM member Brinda Karat created a flutter when she said that the scheme was a source of corruption. 

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UP House passes Bill to save Jaya’s Chair

Lucknow, March 9
In an attempt seen as an exercise to prevent disqualification of Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan, the Uttar Pradesh Assembly today passed a Bill exempting 79 posts, including the chairmanship of the State Film Development Council held by her, from being regarded as offices of profit.

The State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification Amendment) Bill, 2006, which seeks to give retrospective effect to its provisions from January 2003, was passed by voice vote amidst resistance from the Opposition. An Opposition amendment was also rejected.

Once the Governor approves the Bill, 79 posts of chairmen, deputy chairmen and directors of various corporations and PSUs will no longer be regarded as offices of profit and the word “allowances” payable to incumbents will be replaced by “honorarium”.

Opposition members alleged that the Bill had been brought by the state government to save some individuals, apparently referring to Samajwadi Party member Jaya Bachchan, whose disqualification has been recommended by the Election Commission.

The commission’s recommendation to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam came on a petition from a Congressman Madan Mohan who had contended that she had acquired the disqualification as she is holding an office of profit as Chairperson of the UP Film Development Council. — PTI

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CWC meeting tomorrow
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
A meeting of the Congress Working Committee will be held on March 11 to discuss the recent political developments in the context of the coming Assembly elections to five states.

Sources said that the nuclear deal with the USA would be among the issues to be discussed at the meeting which will look at ways to counter the impact of Left’s criticism of the deal and its frequent references to India’s vote against Iran at the IAEA.

The party hopes to build on the generally positive response in the media about the nuclear deal to counter any adverse impact of strident Left criticism, specially on voters from the main minority community which has a sizeable presence in a number of constituencies in Assam and West Bengal. The Left is the main adversary of the Congress in West Bengal and Kerala.

The protests during the President George Bush’s visit to the country, which saw sizeable participation from the minority community, has caused some concern in the Congress with the party leadership keen on removing apprehensions about a “pro-US” shift in the government’s policy.

The CWC is also likely to look at the strategy for Assembly elections in the five states. The blasts in Varanasi are expected to come up for discussion at the meeting which will be presided over by party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Sources said the Congress leaders would deliberate on effective ways to counter the attempts by the BJP to reap electoral dividends by harping on “minorityism” of the Congress-led coalition at the Centre.

AICC sources said a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary party would be held on March 14 which will be addressed by both Mrs Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. During the meeting, Dr Singh would respond to any queries from party MPs on the nuclear deal with the US.

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Parliament passes Railway Appropriation Bills
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
The Rajya Sabha today returned Appropriation Bills authorising appropriation of sums out of the Consolidated Fund to meet the amounts spent by the Railways during the 2005-2006 financial year after Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav replied to discussion on the Railway Budget 2006-2007.

The Appropriation Bills were passed by a voice vote. The Bills had earlier been passed by the Lok Sabha.

He said one main reason of good performance of the Railways was increase in freight capacity. He said the proposed ‘Garib Raths’ will eventually link state capitals and provide air conditioned comfort at low cost to passengers.

He said the government had given approval for the survey of rail link between Jejo and Anandpur Sahib via Garhshankar.

The minister said it will provide better connectivity between Amritsar and other Sikh religious places.

Mr Yadav said he had assured Left MPs from West Bengal that necessary steps would be taken to link Kolkata with the East freight corridor announced in the Rail Budget.

The minister said no region would be neglected and he would personally look into demands made by various members for additional trains, gauge conversion and new lines.

On tabling the U.C Banerjee Committee report, Mr Yadav said the Gujarat High Court had directed not to give any publicity to the report and not to further act on it till the final hearing on an application filed by Mr Nilkanth Tulsidas Bhatia. He said an appeal had been filed against the order which is under consideration of Division Bench of the High Court.

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DMK gives more seats to allies
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 9
Following the exit of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)-led Democratic Progressive Alliance, the latter today accommodated its allies comfortably by offering more than expected seats for the May 8 Assembly elections.

DMK President M. Karunanidhi today announced the allotment of seats for the Congress, CPM and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and even cut down his own party’s share.

Under the seat-sharing agreement the Congress has been allotted 48 seats, while 13 seats were given to the CPM and three to the state unit of the IUML. The CPI has already been allotted 10 seats.

Another key ally, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), has been allotted 31 seats though it was yet to be formally announced.

Out of 234 constituencies in the Tamil Nadu Assembly the DMK has given 105 seats to its allies and will contest 129 seats.

Talking to reporters today he said, “Yes, we have made a big sacrifice in the seat-sharing arrangements with our allies. We approached the seat-sharing talks in a spirit of sacrifice, and we hope we will be amply rewarded for our attitude.”

Instead of haggling over a few seats which would have annoyed its alliance partners, the DMK decided to be liberal in seat sharing in order to make the DPA strong.

The AIADMK, with a similar composition of parties in 2001, had contested 140 seats and won in 132 constituencies. The DMK had earlier used this as a reference point for the seat-sharing talks, but later decided to cut down its share.

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Ban Christian publication: BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
Equating the derogatory remarks against Hindu deities in a domestic Christian publication with the controversial caricatures of Prophet Mohammad, the Opposition BJP today demanded a ban on the book and immediate arrest of its author and publisher.

Charging Communists with trying to defend the publication and the Congress with a “remaining silent spectator ”, party spokesman V K Malhotra termed as “vulgar and highly objectionable ” the contents of the book ‘Haqeeqat’ (Truth) written by one M G Mathew.

“The entire nation had condemned in one voice the caricatures of Prophet Mohammad and even a journalist AlokTomar, who criticised it was arrested for reproducing the cartoon and denied bail. But in this case, neither the book has been banned or any arrest made”, he said.

The book’s author and its publisher should be arrested and the Padmashree given to Thomas be withdrawn immediately, he demanded.

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Jessica case: Bill to amend CrPC

New Delhi, March 9
Witnesses in trials of criminal cases will be permitted to record their evidence in-camera under a series of amendments the government is bringing to the Criminal Procedure Code.

This is among the far-reaching changes being proposed in the CrPC in the wake of public uproar over the acquittal of all the accused in sensational murder of Delhi model Jessica Lall.

Acting fast on suggestions of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the Union Home Ministry is almost ready with the Bill to amend CrPC in the monsoon session of Parliament in July, highly placed sources said today — PTI

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Muslims also donate blood for blast-hit
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Varanasi, March 9
His heart-wrenching music moves one to tears. But this time, 90-year-old Bharat Ratna awardee Ustad Bismillah Khan has decided to wipe tears of his fellow citizens hurt in the serial blasts on Tuesday in the city. Contributing his bit to relief work, he is organising a blood donation camp at Dal Mandi on Friday.

Today, his secretary Javed Ahmad met Dr Sanjay Rai, Secretary, Indian Medical Association’s Blood Bank to submit a list of names of people who will donate blood at the camp.

Ustad Bismillah Khan may be a respected and well-sought after musician. But for the people of the city, he remains a respected elder with no airs about himself — a person who comes to their aid in times of need. Despite his celebrity status, his chief mode of transport is still the cycle-rickshaw!

Dr Rai is amazed at the tremendous response by celebrities and commoners alike to donate blood following the blast on Tuesday evening. He has already received 150 units of blood in the last two days and many organisations and individuals, including the shehnai maestro have sent lists of people who could be contacted to donate blood.

A large number of Muslim men and women have come forward to donate blood in the last two days. Yesterday, some 30 young women representing 14 Muslim organisations had come to donate blood on their own, informs Dr Rai.

The blood bank has a capacity to store 450 units and has an average daily requirement of 50 units. But the overwhelming responses of donors in the last two days have put them in a comfortable position. 

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Key CPM men denied renomination to RS
Subhrangshu Gupta

Kolkata, March 9
Two prominent CPM MPs, who virtually acted as party’s spokespersons at the national level, had been denied renomination to the forthcoming Rajya Sabha elections to be held on March 28.

Instead, Mr Tapan Seth, a CITU leader, and Mr Suraj Pathak, son of a former CPM MP, Darjeeling, Mr Ananda Pathak, will be the candidates. The CPM state secretariat decided this at its meeting today. The party’s third candidate will be Mr Mainul Hasan.

Of the five Rajya Sabha seats that would fall vacant on the expiry of the terms of Mr Basu, Mr Mukherjee, Mr Monoj Bhattacharyya of the CPM and Mr Birbhadra Singh of the Forward Bloc.

The Forward Bloc today nominated Prof Barun Mukherjee as its candidate. The fifth seat, now being held by Mr Jayanta Bhattacharyya of the Congress, will go to Trinamool Congress.

The CPM also decided to allot two Assembly seats at Burrabazar in Kolkata and Kharagpur in Midnapore, now being held by the Congress, to Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD, which is a partner of the UPA government. The party also changed its candidate at Kurseong in Darjeeling.

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Cong compromising on national unity, says Rajnath
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 9
BJP President Rajnath Singh today accused the Congress-led UPA at the Centre, backed by the communists, of compromising with national unity and integrity of the country by allegedly playing into the hands of communal forces, which in turn were colluding with various terrorist outfits.

Addressing the media here today, Mr Singh said that “from Varanasi to Bangalore to Parliament”, no part of the country was now out of the ambit of terrorists.

Mr Singh alleged that the decision by the UPA to abolish stringent laws like POTA to deal with the terrorist and fundamentalist forces and its related softening of stance towards communal forces were aiding and abetting the anti-national forces.

Describing the Congress as the main communal force of the country for allegedly using religion in politics in the name of “minority appeasement”, Mr Singh branded the communists as close collaborators of the Congress on this issue.

Mr Singh wondered the way the UPA was trying to retain the ”minority status ”of Aligarh University even after the Supreme Court`s verdict rejecting the same.

Mr Singh quoted reports prepared by the Governor of Assam, claiming that over 6,000 Bangladeshis were entering India everyday through Assam and the North East.

The BJP President said that he, along with the Leader of the Opposition, Mr L.K.Advani, would begin a nationwide “yatra” from two different places on April 6 in protest against the minority appeasement policy of the UPA, that was pushing the country towards another Partition.

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Lobbying for RS seats gains momentum
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
With the notification for the election to Rajya Sabha seats scheduled for tomorrow, lobbying for Rajya Sabha seats has begun for filling 58 vacancies, including those of Union Ministers Arjun Singh, H.R Bhardwaj, Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan and senior BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, have to be filled through fresh elections scheduled for March 28.

A maximum of 10 seats in Uttar Pradesh, six each in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra, five each in Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, four each in Gujarat and Karnataka, three each in Orissa and Rajasthan, two in Jharkhand and one each in Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal would fall vacant next month.

Mr Arjun Singh is expected to be renominated from BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh where opposition Congress could bring only one member to the Upper House. Mr Bhardwaj, for the first time, is making attempts to shift to Congress-governed Haryana where there are already some contenders.

Union Minister Praful Patel is expected to be renominated by ruling NCP in Maharashtra while former Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde would be one of the two Congress nominees from the state.

Noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani, whose term is also ending, is keen on a re-entry through the nomination category amid reports that RJD supremo and Railway Minister Lalu Prasad is backing his case.

Sources said Mr Jethmalani’s chance of coming back through the nomination category is bleak and that is why the RJD supremo is under tremendous pressure to bring him into the Upper House from Bihar on the RJD strength.

A noted journalist, who was close to the BJP at one time, is believed to be trying to gain entry into the Rajya Sabha with the help of the Samajwadi Party. Uttar Pradesh Advocate General Virendra Bhatia is also lobbying for Rajya Sabha on a SP ticket, sources said adding that party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is going to renominate Mr Janeshwar Mishra.

The BJP is also toying with the idea of bringing an influential media baron from Uttar Pradesh while a renomination for its senior leader from the state Kalraj Mishra appears to be on the cards. BJP General Secretary Vinay Katiyar is also in contention. A section of the party is saying that a Dalit should be brought to the Rajya Sabha in the light of the coming Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh.

Former Union Minister C.K Jaffer Sharief is also trying to get nomination from Karnataka.

Former Union Minister Makkhan Lal Fotedar is expected to come to Rajya Sabha from Jammu and Kashmir on a seat which fell vacant after Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad became the state Chief Minister.

These elections are subject to ruling of the Supreme Court which has reserved its order on a PIL filed by noted journalist Kuldip Nayar challenging the constitutional validity of doing away with domicile clause and secret ballot for the elections.

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BJP for raise in IT limit for elders, women
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
The Opposition BJP today moved several amendments to the Finance Bill in the Lok Sabha.“We have proposed that the exemption limit for senior citizens be raised from Rs 1.85 lakh to Rs 2 lakh as they face severe difficulties due to limited income and low interest rates,” BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra told newspersons here.

He said the party has also moved amendments for raising the exemption limit for women from Rs 1.35 lakh to Rs 2 lakh to enable them to gain up to Rs 5,000.

Restoration of standard deduction of Rs 50,000 for government employees, hike in interest rates of EPF and Public Provident Fund to 9.5 per cent, withdrawal of Fringe Benefit Tax and rollback in service tax hike are among the other proposals for which the BJP has moved amendments, he said.

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Conference on judicial reforms begins
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 9
A two-day conference of Chief Justices of High Courts to deliberate upon firming up the functioning of the judiciary, specially the lower courts and the progress on implementing the resolutions passed in this regard in the last meet of 2004 began here today.

This will be followed by a joint conference of Chief Justices and Chief Ministers on Saturday to be addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Justice of India (CJI) Y. K. Sahharwal.

The Chief Justices’ meeting, a close-door exercise generally undertaken by the judiciary after every alternate year, also discussed steps to be taken by the 21 High Courts in pursuant to the letter of CJI, written to their Chief Justices in December last for taking decisive steps to speed up the disposal of cases and bring down the burden of pending matters.

Among the important matters in the agenda for discussion, was to take up with the government grant of financial autonomy to Chief Justices of High Courts so that they could take effective measures regarding improving the infrastructure for subordinate judiciary, including appointment of more judges to High Courts and judicial officers in subordinate judiciary.

The other important issue for deliberation was exhaustive reforms in criminal justice system in the wake of dropping conviction rates and general apprehension in the mind of public that they could not get justice even after a slow pace of disposal.

Other agenda items are; establishment of e-courts and video conferencing facilities, fast track courts for civil cases also on the lines of those set up for disposing criminal cases, training of staff, strengthen the Lok Adalats, promotion of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, review of the performance of fast track courts, special training to judicial officers at National Judicial Academy at Bhopal and other state academies.

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Sino-India talks from today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
The seventh meeting of the Special Representatives of India and China on the boundary question will take place in New Delhi and Kottayam from tomorrow till March 13, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a press note here today.

The Indian delegation for the talks will be headed by National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, while the Chinese delegation will be led by Mr Dai Bingguo, Executive Vice- Foreign Minister.

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8 N-reactors under construction
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
The government today informed the Lok Sabha that construction work on eight nuclear reactors was in progress and plans were afoot to set up more atomic energy plants in the country with latest safeguards available in the international market.

The country’s atomic energy programme has been formulated to achieve long-term energy security through the use of abundantly available Indian thorium resources, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan said in a written reply.

Imported nuclear fuels are expected to serve as an additional resource to help in achieving a faster growth in the share of nuclear energy to meet the national energy needs in the near term, he said

The eight nuclear reactors, when completed, will lead to enhancement of power capacity from the current 3360 MWe to 7280 MWe in the next five years, Mr Chavan said.

He said the completion of the reactors would add 760 MWe this financial year, 1660 MWe in the next financial year, 1000 Mwe in 2008-09 and 500 MWe in 2010-11.

In addition to the capacity of 7280 MWe in operation or under construction, more nuclear power projects are also planned to progressively increase the nuclear capacity base in the country, he added.

Replying to another question, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma said India was engaged in a dialogue with a number of countries, including Russia and France, and they have agreed on the need to have full international civilian nuclear cooperation with India.

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Shahabuddin fails in LLB (II)
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 9
The controversial RJD MP from Siwan, Mohammad Shahabuddin, failed in the LLB (II) examination conducted by B.R. Ambedkar University last year.

The decision was taken on the basis of the findings by an inquiry committee that found that the handwriting of Shahabuddin’s LLB (I) did not tally with that of the part II examination.

The probe concluded that either both the examinations or one of these was written by someone else and that Shahabuddin did not appear in the practical examination.

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Punjab farmers seek more MSP for wheat
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 9
A Large number of farmers from Punjab staged a protest march to Parliament today, seeking raising of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of wheat from Rs 650 to Rs 800 per quintal for the coming harvest in order to reduce interest rates and farmers’ loans.

Sloganeering protesters carrying placards alleged that for decades, particularly since economic liberalisationbegan in 1992,the government had been favouring industry and trade, thereby neglecting the agriculture sector and pushing farmers into a debt trap. The farmers were stopped by the police near Jantar Mantar where they staged a rally.

‘’The farmers will not remain engaged in the ‘unviable’ profession of farming, that sustained 60 per cent population directly, if the government failed to extricate the farmers from the debt morass by reducing the interest rates to four per cent as promised earlier,’’ said Mr Balbir Singh Rajewal, general secretary of the Bharati Kisan Union and sponsor of the protest.

Later, the protesters led by their leader Baldev Singh Mianpur, handed over a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding that the MSP of crops be determined after taking into account the price index of 1967. As per that price index, the MSP of wheat should be fixed at Rs 960 a quintal.

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