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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Left parties to intensify attack on UPA govt
New Delhi, July 4
The rift between the Left parties and the UPA government appears to be widening with each passing day, with the Communists today deciding to intensify its attack on the Manmohan Singh government for its failure to check price rise and called up coalition partners in government to intervene on the disinvestment issue.
CPI leader A.B. Vardhan addresses party workers during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh 
CPI leader A.B. Vardhan addresses party workers during a demonstration near the Israeli embassy in New Delhi on Tuesday

Congress Chief Ministers to meet today
To draw up action plan on price rise
New Delhi, July 4
An action plan to contain rising prices of essential commodities will be finalised at tomorrow’s meeting of Congress Chief Ministers, who have been especially called by party president Sonia Gandhi following alarming reports about unchecked inflation.

AICC disciplinary committee recast
New Delhi, July 4
A day after the Congress accepted Bhajan Lal’s resignation as Haryana PCC chief, party president Sonia Gandhi today reconstituted the AICC’s disciplinary committee sending out a strong message to the different warring leaders in the states.








EARLIER STORIES




BJP against curtailing power of media
Patna, July 4
The national spokesman of the BJP and former Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Mr Ravishankar Prasad, has accused the Congress of trying to gag the voice of the broadcast media in the wake of the series of exposures by the latter in recent times.

SC stays enhanced relief for Mohali industrial area
New Delhi, July 4
The Supreme Court today stayed the payment of 50 per cent of the enhanced compensation by the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) to farmers whose land had been acquired by it for extension of the Mohali Industrial Focal Point.

Staff, students express solidarity with Venugopal
New Delhi, July 4
A day before the Institute Body meeting of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), five democratic associations on the campus have expressed solidarity with its Director Prof P. Venugopal, who has been fighting for the autonomy of the institute.

India, Spain to improve ties
New Delhi, July 4
India and Spain today decided to take their bilateral relationship to a higher level and agreed to fight terrorism in “all its forms and manifestations” and favoured the adoption of a global strategy against the menace at an early date.

TDP resurfaces in local poll
Hyderabad, July 4
The Opposition Telugu Desam Party has unexpectedly put up a good show in the local body polls, results for which have started pouring in today. The ruling Congress Party has retained its lead in most of the districts, but its dominance has been curtailed by a resurgent TDP, which has made significant inroads in the Telangana region.

Apex court’s no to PIL on Patiala vendor’s immolation 
New Delhi, July 4
When the government is planning to tighten the legal flaws regarding regulating electronic media in the proposed broadcast Bill, the Supreme Court today declined to entertain a PIL highlighting the gory incident of self-immolation by a Patiala vendor captured on camera by various TV channel photographers instead of coming to his rescue.

DSGMC: Akal Takht chief has failed to perform duty
New Delhi, July 4
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee today accused Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti of failing to perform duty when a free-for-all erupted at a religious event in Amritsar on Sunday and demanded that he should step down from the post.

Maoists attack police station, 2 cops killed
Patna, July 4
Two policemen were killed and two others sustained serious injuries in a daring attack by Maoists on Tankuppa police station in Gaya district last midnight. The SP, Gaya, Mr Amit Jain, said nearly 200 armed cadres of the Maoists attacked the police station to loot arms.

 



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Left parties to intensify attack on UPA govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
The rift between the Left parties and the UPA government appears to be widening with each passing day, with the Communists today deciding to intensify its attack on the Manmohan Singh government for its failure to check price rise and called up coalition partners in government to intervene on the disinvestment issue.

“The Centre has messed up the whole issue. Whatever steps it (government) has taken so far is too little and too late,” said the CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan after the meeting of four Left parties, which met to discuss the price rise and disinvestment issue.

The Communists have chalked out week-long agitational programme beginning from July 13.

Demanding that the Centre must immediately end forward trading in these essential items, he said, “Both Central and state governments should take urgent measures to strengthen and expand the public distribution system (PDS) and firm steps must be taken to check hoarding and profiteering in foodgrains and other essential commodities.”

Accusing the UPA government of being responsible for “restricting and dismantling the PDS by its efforts to cut food subsidy and weakening the procurement system,” he said it was regrettable that it had so far not taken any effective step to check price rise.

Expressing concern over the “harmful” price situation as it particularly affected food items like pulses, edible oil and foodgrains, Mr Bardhan said “The bungling in the food policy has led to the government having to import wheat on a large scale.”

On the proposed disinvestment of NALCO, Neyveli and NMDC, they reiterated their opposition to the move saying they had extended total support to the indefinite strike by NALCO employees and Neyveli Lignite.

“We appeal to the UPA partners to intervene and see that the government reconsiders its decision to disinvest in the profitable public sector units which goes against the CMP commitment,” Mr Bardhan said quoting a joint statement by the CPM, the CPI, the RSP and the Forward Bloc, which have accused the Congress of “shedding crocodile tears” on the prices front.

The meeting of the Left parties comes close on the heels of reports reflecting growing unease between the Left and the government and that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had reportedly dared the Left to withdraw support.

The Left parties have charged the government with not paying heed to the alternative measures they have suggested on several issues, saying the burden on the people could have been reduced had the ruling coalition considered the alternate suggestions of the Left on various counts.

The Left parties have submitted a total of 19 notes, apart from the latest critical review of the two-year performance of the UPA government.

The three-hour long meeting was attended by Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury (both CPM), Bardhan and D Raja (CPI), Abani Roy (RSP), Debabrata Biswas and G. Devarajan (Forward Bloc).

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Congress Chief Ministers to meet today
To draw up action plan on price rise
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
An action plan to contain rising prices of essential commodities will be finalised at tomorrow’s meeting of Congress Chief Ministers, who have been especially called by party president Sonia Gandhi following alarming reports about unchecked inflation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram will also be attending this meeting to give their inputs on the specific steps which the state governments can initiate to control prices. The Chief Ministers will give an account of the ground situation in their respective states, the steps already initiated by them to contain prices and what further needs to be done.

On the eve of this meeting, Ms Gandhi held consultations with AICC general secretaries and CWC members to get a feedback from them about the price situation in the states under their charge and to identify the issues which will come up for discussion in tomorrow’s meeting. More specifically, these deliberations will focus on the steps needed to crack down on hoarders, improving procurement and strengthening the public distribution scheme.

AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi said that Ms Gandhi had sought suggestions from the general secretaries on ways and means to bring down prices of essential commodities. She enquired about the procurement of foodgrains and cases of profiteering. These suggestions will be placed before the Chief Ministers who will give their views on them, which will then form the basis of an action plan.

After deciding on the principle of bringing down prices, tomorrow’s meeting will chalk out concrete measures to ensure that this resolve is translated into action, party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi explained. More specifically, the measures have to strike a balance between the interests of the farmer and consumer so that the former gets a remunerative price for his produce but without hurting the common man.

The entry of private players in the procurement of foodgrain, future trading in commodities and the NDA’s decision to change the laws on hoarding which have all contributed to the present crisis are expected to figure at tomorrow’s meeting.

The Chief Ministers’ meeting follows last week’s Congress Working Committee (CWC) which expressed concern at the rising prices of essential commodities and felt that the government had not taken timely action in dealing with this situation. All these deliberations have been prompted by the growing unease in the Congress over soaring prices of essential commodities which has seriously damaged the party’s image. Party managers are hoping that this flurry of activity will send out the message that the Congress is concerned about the aam admi and is taking all possible steps to deal with this crisis. 

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AICC disciplinary committee recast
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
A day after the Congress accepted Bhajan Lal’s resignation as Haryana PCC chief, party president Sonia Gandhi today reconstituted the AICC’s disciplinary committee sending out a strong message to the different warring leaders in the states.

The high-powered committee is headed by former Kerala Chief Minister A.K. Antony while AICC treasurer Motilal Vora is its member-secretary. Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee and Sushil Kumar Shinde and CWC member Urmila Singh have been named members.

The reconstitution of this committee had been long overdue but the timing of the announcement clearly suggests that the party leadership will not take kindly to any display of indiscipline or defiance. In fact, the alacrity with which the Congress president accepted Mr. Bhajan Lal’s resignation, even without speaking to him indicates Mrs. Gandhi’s firm resolve on this front.

While Mr Bhajan Lal paid the price for going to the press with his grievance, his son, Lok Sabha MP Kuldeep Bishnoi, was issued a show cause notice when he publicly attacked Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

In the neighbouring state of Punjab, dissident leader Jagmeet Brar was pulled up by the party leadership when he openly criticised the Amarinder Singh Government and then despatched a contingent of his supporters to demand the ouster of the Punjab Chief Minister. Like Bhajan Lal, Mr Brar paid the price for his orchestrated show of defiance when his supporters were subsequently denied a place in the revamped PCC.

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BJP against curtailing power of media
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, July 4
The national spokesman of the BJP and former Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Mr Ravishankar Prasad, has accused the Congress of trying to gag the voice of the broadcast media in the wake of the series of exposures by the latter in recent times.

In an exclusive interview to The Tribune, Mr Prasad chose to describe the new law as a “draconian” one, which sought to infringe on the freedom of the fourth estate.

Mr Prasad said he was worried as the new law reportedly intended to give sweeping powers to even the lower rung of the administration, besides DMs and SPs, to make sudden inspection of the newsroom of any channel based on a complaint by any individual, and accordingly seize the cassette, and even cancel the licence of the channel.

Mr Prasad was more disturbed over the reported fact that any action against the channels under the new law could not be challenged in court.

He alleged that with too many skeletons in the cupboard, the Congress was increasingly becoming intolerant to the freedom of the media and the proposed law only reflected its mindset.

Mr Prasad pointed out that while under the existing Cable Regulation Act, only cable operators could be taken to task, and that too by the senior rung of the administration, the proposed law sought to include the channels too.

The channels were excluded in the existing Cable Regulation Act.

In his capacity as the former Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mr Prasad, at best, agreed to a “contempt regulation” for the electronic media, like that of the “Press Council” applicable to the print media.

But at the same time, Mr Prasad strongly stated that any such “contempt regulation” for the broadcast media should and must not remain under the purview of the government.

Replying to question as to what could have been the guiding principle behind considering such a law, Mr Prasad was of the view that the series of revelations in the recent past — from Volcker to Quattrochi to Navy room leak to Submarine scam — might have made the Congress uncomfortable by prompting it to mull such a law to muzzle the voice of the media.

Referring to the past record of the Congress’s attitude to the media, Mr Prasad alleged that history suggested that it was always intolerant to the freedom of the media, which was evident from the promulgation of Emergency to the consideration of this new law for the broadcast media.

He further suspected that the proposed law might not have been the brainchild of the I&B minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi alone.“The I&B ministry may have been guided by some quarter to work out such a draconian law, ” he alleged.

Claiming that the BJP always believed in the freedom of the press, Mr Prasad described the India media as a vibrant one with 30 news channels, all 24 hours, including the regional ones, which came up in the past one decade.“The readership of the print also increased simultaneously in the same period,” he said.

Mr Prasad asserted that his party would oppose tooth and nail any such law that sought to curtail the freedom of the media, as a vibrant force only strengthened the democracy.

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SC stays enhanced relief for Mohali industrial area
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 4
The Supreme Court today stayed the payment of 50 per cent of the enhanced compensation by the Punjab Small Industries and Export Corporation (PSIEC) to farmers whose land had been acquired by it for extension of the Mohali Industrial Focal Point.

A stay on payment of the 50 per cent enhanced compensation, which was yet to be made by the PSIEC, was granted by a Bench of Mr Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Mr Justice D.K. Jain on the corporation's appeal against the Punjab and Haryana High Court order of March 7.

The apex court issued notices to the farmers who were parties to the case decided by the High Court in its March 7 order, asking them to submit a reply to the corporation's appeal.

PSIEC counsel Govind Goel said even when the corporation's appeal against the High Court's earlier order of May 13, 2005 enhancing the compensation in some cases to Rs 5.96 lakh per acre was pending before the apex court, it was enhanced further.

A single judge bench of the High Court in its March 7 order had granted a hike of 10 per cent per annum, while deciding various appeals of farmers against the lower court order of fixing the compensation as per earlier fixed standards.

The High Court had said that under the circumstances, when there was a rising trend in the land prices, it required to be enhanced further.

PSIEC in its special leave petition (SLP) challenged the March 7 order on the ground that it was passed in a "cryptic manner" by relying upon some earlier verdicts on the issue without going into the evidence about the increase in land cost.

While seeking stay on the High Court's latest order, the corporation claimed that the increase of compensation over and above the earlier determination was "wholly unjustified and unsustainable in law."

The government had issued notification for acquisition of land of Turf Kumbra village in Kharar tehsil of Ropar district for public purpose in April 1989 to expand the industrial focal point, the apex court was informed.

The High Court in 1997 had granted compensation at the rate of Rs 5.58 lakh per acre for 145 acres land acquired for the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research.

In another case decided on May 13, the High Court had fixed it at Rs 5.96 lakh per acre, giving a marginal increase further, which was challenged by the PSIEC in the apex court on the ground that enhancement was based on "totally erroneous principles".

However, the High Court in its latest order of March 7 had said there was "no evidence of comparable sale instance which could guide the determination of the market value of the acquired land" and they had to rely upon earlier judgements to determine the increase.

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Staff, students express solidarity with Venugopal
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
A day before the Institute Body meeting of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), five democratic associations on the campus have expressed solidarity with its Director Prof P. Venugopal, who has been fighting for the autonomy of the institute.

The associations’ criticism of the Health minister is a clear warning that any attempt to replace Dr Venugopal would not be tolerated.

Dr Venugopal’s supporters are not taking any chances as they fear that the Health Minister is hell bent on destroying the institute. A petition was filed in the Delhi High Court on Tuesday seeking a stay on removal of any employee and a direction to the Centre to protect the institution’s autonomy.

Dr Venugopal’s loyalists in the campus are keeping their fingers crossed about the possible outcome of the meeting which would be chaired by the Health Minister and President of the Institute Anbhumani Ramadoss.

BJP leader V.K. Malhotra, who is a member of the Institute Body, said today that they would oppose “tooth and nail” any move to remove Dr Venugopal.

The AIIMS Director who has minced no words in pointing out the interference of the Health Ministry in day-to-day affairs of the institute, will face Mr Ramadoss during the meeting at Nirman Bhawan tomorrow.

The campus is abuzz with rumours that the emergency meeting of the apex decision-making body of the AIIMS has been convened to initiate a debate on Dr Venugopal’s continuance as Director.

In a statement issued here, the Faculty Association of AIIMS (FAIMS) has expressed concern over ongoing attempts to interfere with the autonomy of AIIMS.

The Resident Doctors Association has declared its support to the Director in his endeavour to put the institute on the global healthcare and medical education map. 

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India, Spain to improve ties
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
India and Spain today decided to take their bilateral relationship to a higher level and agreed to fight terrorism in “all its forms and manifestations” and favoured the adoption of a global strategy against the menace at an early date.

This was decided between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Spanish President Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who visited India. Mr Zapatero had arrived here on July 2 on a four-day official visit but had to cut short his stay here and returned home last night after an underground train accident in his country that left over 40 people dead.

The two countries also today decided to have direct air links between them to strengthen tourism, economic, political and people-to-people relations.

To work out the nitty-gritty, the Civil Aviation Authorities of the two countries will renegotiate the existing bilateral Air Services Agreement within three months. The two countries feel that a direct air link between them has acquired urgency in view of Spain opening up its Consulate-General in Mumbai next year which will include a Trade Office as well as a Tourism Office.

India and Spain today decided to institutionalise the process of political dialogue between them at various levels and intensify their consultations and cooperation in international organisations and other multilateral fora, a joint statement released at the end of Mr Zapatero's visit said.

The two leaders called upon the member states of the UN to make further concerted efforts to conclude the comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, the statement said.

They agreed to make all efforts to expand bilateral trade and the volume of two-way investments and joint ventures in each other's countries, particularly in priority sectors as defence, energy, tourism, food processing, automobiles, environment, information technology and infrastructure. In defence sector, they agreed to explore the possibility of joint research and development.

The two sides will also work towards facilitating the movement of businesspersons, professionals and tourists, as well as students and academics between the two countries.

They expressed their firm support for the work of the United Nations as a fundamental framework for multilateralism and agreed on the urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the United Nations.

A number of agreements and MoUs were signed during the visit. These include:MoU on Institutionalisation of Political Dialogue , Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Criminal Matters, MoU between Technology Development Board (TDB) and Centre for Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI).

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TDP resurfaces in local poll
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 4
The Opposition Telugu Desam Party has unexpectedly put up a good show in the local body polls, results for which have started pouring in today.
The ruling Congress Party has retained its lead in most of the districts, but its dominance has been curtailed by a resurgent TDP, which has made significant inroads in the Telangana region.

Elections to 1,096 mandal parishad presidents and an equal number of zila parishad territorial constituency (ZPTC) members, 14,617 mandal parishad territorial constituency (MPTC) members and 22 zila parishads were held in two phases, which ended on Sunday.

TDP along with its new ally CPM is likely to capture three zila parishads out of eight in the region. In three other districts, the party has almost equaled the Congress in the zila parishad territorial constituencies.

The result is surprising since TDP is opposed to the formation of a separate Telangana, while Congress and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) which are pro-separate state, have witnessed an erosion in their votebank.

The TRS especially appears to have fallen from grace as it drew blank in most of the places. The TRS leaders blamed the Congress with which the party had seat adjustments for the drubbing.

Congress enjoyed its edge in the coastal and Rayalaseema districts, but even here the TDP gave a good fight. Out of the nine coastal Andhra districts, the Congress suffered major losses in three districts. In the four districts of Rayalaseema, TDP came out with flying colours in at least two districts.

The BJP, which had recently declared its renewed commitment to a separate Telangana, was a complete washout in the local polls.

Even though the Congress was likely to capture most of the zila parishads, the TDP gains came at a time when the regional party was passing through a crisis.

The party's morale has got a new lease of life with the results for the local bodies.

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Apex court’s no to PIL on Patiala vendor’s immolation 
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 4
When the government is planning to tighten the legal flaws regarding regulating electronic media in the proposed broadcast Bill, the Supreme Court today declined to entertain a PIL highlighting the gory incident of self-immolation by a Patiala vendor captured on camera by various TV channel photographers instead of coming to his rescue.

A Bench of Mr Justice K G Balakrishnan and Mr Justice D K Jain while expressing inability to entertain the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Ashok Mehta in the absence of a law regulating electronic TV news channels, told the petitioner that he could move the Press Council of India (PCI), a body essentially dealing with the print media.

While highlighting the bizarre incident of self-immolation by vendor Gopal Krishan Kashyap on the issue of non-allotment of an iron-shed to him by the Patiala Municipal Corporation, Mr Mehta said “there should be some regulation for the media.”

He said Kashyap, who sustained serious burn injuries, later succumbed died in hospital.

“It was unfortunate that a man in full glare of TV cameras of various channel was allowed to committ suicide on January 24 last, but none of them had even thought for a moment that it was their foremost duty to rescue a precious life than focussing attention on recording his attempt to die”, he argued.

Freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution was not unlimited as various conditions were attached to it as enumerated in Article 19(2), which included “public morality” which was given a go-by the people, specially those from media present there, Mr Mehta said.

The petitioner pointed out that Kashyap had made public announcement about his intention to commit the act of self-immolation a week in advance on January 18 and had even sent a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard, which was also reported widely by the media.

Still neither anyone from the government nor from among the media -persons who had knowledge of his intention, took any action to save his life, the petitioner said , adding the persons who continued to film the gory incident were liable to be prosecuted under criminal law for abetting the suicide. 

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DSGMC: Akal Takht chief has failed to perform duty

New Delhi, July 4
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee today accused Akal Takht Jathedar Joginder Singh Vedanti of failing to perform duty when a free-for-all erupted at a religious event in Amritsar on Sunday and demanded that he should step down from the post.

The DSGMC chief Harvinder Singh Sarna and his brother and predecessor Paramjit Singh Sarna, president of the Shiromani Akali Dal Delhi demanded that SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar should own responsibility for the unsavoury happenings and step down from the post.

“The Jathedars of the Takhts who were present there failed to perform their religious responsibilities.Had they realised their religious obligations, they would have taken control of the stage and saved the Sikh community from this embarrassment,” the Sarnas said in a statement.— TNS

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Maoists attack police station, 2 cops killed
Tribune News Service

Patna, July 4
Two policemen were killed and two others sustained serious injuries in a daring attack by Maoists on Tankuppa police station in Gaya district last midnight.
The SP, Gaya, Mr Amit Jain, said nearly 200 armed cadres of the Maoists attacked the police station to loot arms.

The 11 police personnel on duty ,instead of surrendering before the Maoists who were more in strength, repulsed their attack bravely . Jawans of the SAF, who were stationed in a nearby school, also joined the police later to retaliate the attack.

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