SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Services chiefs get more financial teeth
New Delhi, July 28
In a major step that would facilitate the decision-making at the Services Headquarters-level and also provide greater flexibility, the Union Government has enhanced financial powers of the chiefs of the Armed Forces increasing their sanctioning powers under the ‘revenue’ head.

Left opposes PM’s statement on N-deal
New Delhi, July 28
Left parties today categorically stated that the suo motu statement by the Prime Minister on the Indo-US nuclear deal was not acceptable to them, but mellowed down on pressing for a resolution to set the parameters for the Manmohan Singh government to act with Washington to finalise the cooperation agreement.

Congress MPs pull up government on inflation
New Delhi, July 28
Congress members today joined the Opposition and allies of the United Progressive Alliance protests over the failure of the government to control an unprecedented hike in prices of essential commodities, indicating unrest among the party rank and file.

Andhra Cong backs quota for Muslims
Hyderabad, July 28
The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in Andhra Pradesh today reiterated that the Congress government was committed to providing reservation to the backward classes among the Muslim community with an ultimate goal of uplifting them in education and employment.








EARLIER STORIES




Actress Preity Zinta addresses a press conference after donating blood during the launch of Godfrey Phillips Bravery Blood Donation Drive in New Delhi on Friday
Actress Preity Zinta addresses a press conference after donating blood during the launch of Godfrey Phillips Bravery Blood Donation Drive in New Delhi on Friday. — A Tribune photograph

Congress to launch offensive on Kandahar issue
New Delhi, July 28
Realising that the BJP is on the backfoot following former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh’s revelations in his controversial book, the Congress is planning to further embarrass the Opposition by turning the spotlight on the Kandahar hijack episode and by deliberately prolonging the public discussion on the disclosures on the alleged “mole” in the Narasimha Rao government.

BJP flays Left’s stand
New Delhi, July 28
The Bharatiya Janata Party today sought to make a distinction between its stand on the Indo-US nuclear deal and that of the Left parties saying that while its opposition to the deal was based on “national interest”, the Left was opposing it because of their historical dislike of the USA.

BJP questions clean chit to security staff
New Delhi, July 28
The BJP today took exception to the clean chit given to the Prime Minister's security staff even after three persons were arrested from the Prime Minister's residence and stressed that the government was responsible for it.

Punjab reports do not have suicide figures: Pranab
New Delhi, July 28
The government today said that it would come out with a relief package to tackle farmer suicides in Punjab and other parts of the country on the basis of the experience gained from relief package offered in farmer distress areas in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Quality primary education a must, says Justice Pal
New Delhi, July 28
Justice Ruma Pal today shed light on the rather fluid relationship that exists between primary education and law under the Indian legal system. She delved into many loopholes that exist in this rather tenuous relationship.

India, Bhutan sign pact on hydel power
New Delhi, July 28
India and Bhutan today signed agreements on long term cooperation in hydel sector, and on purchase of power from the 1020 MW Tala Hydroelectric Project that has been constructed by India in Bhutan . The project is expected to be commissioned shortly and will bring power to the northern states, including Punjab and Delhi.

SC notice to Centre, states on ad expenses
New Delhi, July 28
The Supreme Court today took a serious view of the Centre and states indulging in “wasteful expenditure” on eulogising party leaders by flaunting huge advertisement in newspapers and magazines while admitting a petition alleging that Rs 10 crore were spent from the state exchequer on Rajiv Gandhi’s birth day in 2004 on this account.

Shahabuddin’s lawyer threatens judge
Patna, July 28
The already beleaguered RJD MP from Siwan, Md.Shahabuddin, was today put in further trouble with the reported threat to the Judge of the Special designated court,by a lawyer close to him, to deliver judgement in his favour.

Office of profit: Speaker defends W. Bengal action
New Delhi, July 28
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today defended West Bengal Government’s decision not to cooperate with the Election Commission in sharing information. “Why should they share the information? Doesn’t the complainant substantiate his allegations?” he asked, talking to a group of journalists.

SC notice to Centre, states on labour laws
New Delhi, July 28
The Centre and state governments were today directed to submit reports by the Supreme Court on implementation of twin legislation passed by Parliament for the welfare of 11 million construction workers a decade ago to provide security cover for them in the face of high accidental rate during the execution of projects, be it in the public or private sector.

Dawood malls to be razed
Mumbai, July 28
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation will finally begin the demolition of the Sara and Sahara shopping centres allegedly constructed by gangster Dawood Ibrahim. Mumbai's Municipal Commissioner Johny Joseph said here today that the Maharashtra Government had promised to provide police protection to the BMC's demolition crews.

Udit accepts Ranjana as wife
Patna, July 28
In a dramatic turn of events, Bollywood singer, Udit Narayan, today accepted Ranjana Jha as his “legally married wife” and promised to the Bihar Women’s Commission to protect her marital rights.

Banking services hit
New Delhi, July 28 Public sector banking services were hit across the country today, as their employees went on a token strike against the privatisation of state-run banks but the government said their fears were unfounded.

Committee on quotas submits interim report
New Delhi, July 28
The Oversight Committee headed by M. Veerappa Moily has submitted its interim report to the Prime Minister and the Union HRD Minister. The interim report is aimed at apprising the government about the finances and infrastructure that would be needed to facilitate the implementation of quotas by 2007, as proposed.

Kiran Bedi is research bureau DGP
New Delhi, July 28
Kiran Bedi, the first woman IPS officer and Magsaysay award winner, has been appointed Director-General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).

LS session curtailed

 



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Services chiefs get more financial teeth
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
In a major step that would facilitate the decision-making at the Services Headquarters-level and also provide greater flexibility, the Union Government has enhanced financial powers of the chiefs of the Armed Forces increasing their sanctioning powers under the ‘revenue’ head.

According to an internal order circulated by the Defence Ministry, Army, Air Force and Navy chiefs have been given full financial authority to clear all low-and-medium purchases.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials said here that under the new order, more financial powers to chiefs and principal staff officers at various Services Headquarters have been provided to ensure that overall utilisation of budgetary grants under ‘revenue’ head was utilised.

This has been done in accordance with the earlier Cabinet decision following which the government had increased the financial powers of the Union Finance Minister and the Defence Minister.

The officials said since the financial powers of the Defence Minister had been increased, he had now decided to delegate some of these powers to the Services Headquarters.

The move has come after a high-powered committee, constituted earlier this year, reviewed the financial powers of Services chiefs and the integrated defence staff and recommended that these might be increased.

The MoD officials said this decision would now help the chiefs and the integrated staff to make some low-and-medium-level purchases , all of which were earlier referred to the Defence Ministry.

The decision is being reviewed by the Services Headquarters as a major step as they will now have the authority to sanction 50 to 100 per cent of expenses for non-scaled items.

The powers of the Services Headquarters have also been enhanced for imports of critically-required items for the soldiers posted at Siachen and other high-altitude posts. A decision to this effect was taken at the ministry level earlier.

As per the new order, the Army chief and the Air Force chief can now also sanction import of weapon systems upto Rs 20 crore, while in case of the Naval chief, the authority would be for Rs 12 crore.

Even for scaled items, under the new order, sanctioning powers of Services Headquarters have been enhanced from 50 to 100 per cent under various category heads.

But the order makes it clear that all high-value procurements, which form about 15 per cent of the capital budget, would remain with the Ministry of Defence.

Officials said enhancement would result in almost 50 per cent of the Services’ budget getting utilised speedily as against the present ratio of just 30 per cent.

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Left opposes PM’s statement on N-deal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
Left parties today categorically stated that the suo motu statement by the Prime Minister on the Indo-US nuclear deal was not acceptable to them, but mellowed down on pressing for a resolution to set the parameters for the Manmohan Singh government to act with Washington to finalise the cooperation agreement.

“Left parties urge the government to realise that this is an issue of vital national importance and the opinion of Parliament needs to be clearly spelt out now which cannot be done simply through a suo motu statement,” a joint statement by the four Left parties, which prop up the Congress-led coalition from outside, said.

It said Parliament should discuss the matter so that the sense of the House was expressed whereby the parameters of the agreement could be defined to counter any pressures and changes sought to be brought about.

“This matter cannot wait till the legislation is finally adopted in the US Congress,” it said, suggesting the urgency in the matter.

CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury told reporters that “we are in discussion with the government and political parties. As to what form the sense of the House will be reflected, is being discussed.”

The CPI had yesterday ruled out a resolution on the issue, saying that it would be “politically imprudent” to join hands with the BJP on the issue.

Meanwhile, the CPM today came out with a nine-point note on the recent draft Bills prepared by the US Senate and Congress saying that these were “explicit departures” from the July, 2005, agreement between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush.

On the government’s assurance that strategic interests would not be compromised, the CPM note pointed out that the US resolution sited India “has foreign policy congruent to that of the US and is working with the US in key foreign policy initiatives.”

It said the proposal for the annual certification by the US President could stop nuclear cooperation and supplies and India would have to be totally dependent on Washington, even if it wished to avail supplies from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) of major nuclear states.

While in the original Indo-US agreement, New Delhi had agreed to work with US for a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. “This is now being used to restrict India’s fissile material stockpile” and also reiterated in the two Bills.

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Congress MPs pull up government on inflation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
Congress members today joined the Opposition and allies of the United Progressive Alliance protests over the failure of the government to control an unprecedented hike in prices of essential commodities, indicating unrest among the party rank and file.

Replying to the two-day debate on the price rise issue, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram seemed to be shocked, when he found his own party colleagues joining the vociferous opposition and allies, including the RJD, BSP and Left parties on the issue.

At one time, only 32 MPs, including nine ministers out of 545 Lok Sabha members, were present in the House, as one party after other left the House.

Minister of State for Commerce Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs B.K. Handique found it hard to control Congress members. Congress MP Rajesh Mishra, Hari Chawra and Manvindra Singh raised on their seats and were heard, saying that “We are finding it hard to face the voters.”

The Finance Minister looked at his ministerial colleague Mr Jaipal Reddy, Union Urban Development Minister, complaining that, “What is happening? Where are our party whips.”

Interestingly, during his hour-long reply to the six-hour debate on the issue, he tried to pass on the blame to the Agriculture Ministry and state governments saying that they were supposed to take action against hoarding of foodgrains and to strengthen the supply of wheat, pulses and sugar.

On impact of future trading of foodgrains through multi-commodity exchanges, he called upon the Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by RJD leader Devinder Prasad to submit its report at the earliest, so that the Bill on regulation of the future trade could be passed in the current session.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was not in the House, though Chidambaram tried to pass on the buck, saying that “The Agriculture Ministry is supposed to take care of supply shocks as regard to wheat, pulses and sugar as their production is stagnating over the years.”

However, he assured the MPs that the government would consider to further bring down duties on petrol and diesel, provided they recommended alternative tax collection or cut in expenditure.

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Andhra Cong backs quota for Muslims
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 28
The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in Andhra Pradesh today reiterated that the Congress government was committed to providing reservation to the backward classes among the Muslim community with an ultimate goal of uplifting them in education and employment.

It said one need not doubt the sincerity and commitment of Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy in implementing reservation to Muslims, and expressed confidence that the state government would convince the UPA government and even the Prime Minister in this regard and argue in the Supreme Court effectively.

The AP Congress assertion is in response to the Centre’s stand that it is against religion-based reservation as it would violate citizens’ fundamental right to equality.

Legislators G Muddukrishnama Naidu, B Vedavyas and Viswaroop, addressing mediapersons at the CLP office here, ridiculed the TDP leaders demanding the resignation of the Chief Minister on the plea that the Supreme Court had questioned the validity of providing reservation on religious grounds, and that the Union Government had not concurred with the opinion of the state government on the issue.

He reminded that reservation to the Muslim community was under implementation in several states, including Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and that the total percentage of reservation had crossed 70 per cent in these states.

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Centre had said that a policy allowing for reservation based on religion would violate the fundamental right to equality enshrined in the Constitution.

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Congress to launch offensive on Kandahar issue
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
Realising that the BJP is on the backfoot following former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh’s revelations in his controversial book, the Congress is planning to further embarrass the Opposition by turning the spotlight on the Kandahar hijack episode and by deliberately prolonging the public discussion on the disclosures on the alleged “mole” in the Narasimha Rao government.

Several Congress MPs have given notices in both Houses of Parliament for a discussion on the handling of the Kandahar episode, particularly in the light of Mr Jaswant Singh’s account of the NDA government’s decision to swap three dreaded terrorists for passengers of the hijacked plane.

Having come under attack for the spate of terrorist attacks, the Congress is hoping that the debate will be slated next week as this will give the ruling alliance an opportunity to shift the focus to the NDA government’s record in dealing with issues like national security and terrorism.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in no hurry to give an appointment to Jaswant Singh who says he is willing to disclose the mole’s identity to him. The former minister has been under attack for having suppressed such vital a and sensitive information for nearly a decade and the Congress and the UPA government is in no mood to bail him out.

“Let Jaswant Singh stew in his own juices.... just because he finds himself cornered, he wants to absolve himself and shift the onus on to us ,” remarked a senior Congress leader, stating that the government is not going to fall into this trap.

Going on the offensive on this issue, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi maintained that the Prime Minister had better things to do than to respond to such “quirky requests” and wondered what stopped Jaswant Singh from taking 20 steps from his house to the nearest police station and file an FIR.

Turning the tables on Jaswant Singh, Singhvi accused the former minister of “collaborating and colluding” with the person who allegedly leaked the country’s nuclear secrets to the US and said he was liable to be prosecuted for concealing facts.

“You have not seen the last act of this play. The government will decide what it has to do in due course of time,” he added enigmatically.

While Jaswant Singh is already in its firing line, the Congress expanded the scope of its attack to include BJP leader L.K.Advani. Referring to another “tell-all” book by former SSP of Faizabad D.P.Rai on Ayodhya, the Congress accused Advani of lying before the Liberhans Commission.

Singhvi said while Rai’s book gives a graphic account of how Advani had addressed meetings on that fateful day when the Babri Masjid was demolished, the former Home Minister had told the commission that he made no such speech. “This amounts to a criminal offence of perjury and Advani should be tried for it,” Singhvi added.

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BJP flays Left’s stand
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
The Bharatiya Janata Party today sought to make a distinction between its stand on the Indo-US nuclear deal and that of the Left parties saying that while its opposition to the deal was based on “national interest”, the Left was opposing it because of their historical dislike of the USA.

Accusing the Left of “double standards”, the BJP Parliamentary Party spokesman, Mr Vijay Kumar Malhotra, said his party’s opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal stemmed from the fact that it went against the “national interest” to cap the military potential in return for fuel or its power plants from the USA.

But the Left was always opposed to India going nuclear while they unhesitatingly applauded Russia and China becoming nuclear weapon states, Prof Malhotra claimed.

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BJP questions clean chit to security staff
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
The BJP today took exception to the clean chit given to the Prime Minister's security staff even after three persons were arrested from the Prime Minister's residence and stressed that the government was responsible for it.

BJP spokesman Vijay Kumar Malhotra said if the PMO had given a clean chit to the security staff, what was the logic behind the arrest of these intruders. “It was a matter of concern that the intruders had reached the reception gate when they should have been stopped at the first stage itself,” he added.

The country had seen the assassinations of two Prime Ministers and repetition of such instances should be a matter of concern, he remarked.

Meanwhile, Prof Malhotra charged the Prime Minister with being “disinterested and hesitant” in knowing the identity of the mole in the PMO during the Narasimha regime.

The BJP spokesman said former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh was ready to disclose the name of the person who leaked India's intention to conduct nuclear tests to the US but the PM was not giving him time.

“We want to know why is the PM not interested,” he said.

Ridiculing the Congress' demand to hold an inquiry into the alleged ransom to terrorists in the IC-814 hijacking, Mr Malhotra said the former External Affairs Minister had made it clear in his book that no payment was made to them for securing the release of 166 passengers onboard the hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft at Kandahar. 

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Punjab reports do not have suicide figures: Pranab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
The government today said that it would come out with a relief package to tackle farmer suicides in Punjab and other parts of the country on the basis of the experience gained from relief package offered in farmer distress areas in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Answering a query by Mr Varinder Singh Bajwa (SAD) in the Rajya Sabha during question hour on the need to provide relief to farmers committing suicides in Punjab, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said reports received from Punjab Government in the past two-three years and not mention the number of suicides.

Mr Bajwa said farmers in Punjab were reeling under debt and more than 200 farmers had committed suicide in Sangrur district alone in the past three years. He said Punjab farmers should be given relief on the pattern of those in Maharashtra.

Mr Pawar said the Centre was providing relief to those districts in the four states where the problem of farmer distress was “very serious.” He said the state governments had also made policies to help farmers.

Chairman Bharion Singh Shekhawat intervened to ask if government was taking steps to reduce the dependence of the farmers on loans. Mr Pawar said farmers should get proper value for their produce to reduce their dependence on loans. He hoped that liberalisation would eventually benefit farmers.

Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Akhilesh Prasad said the farmer was free to sell his produce to the government agencies at the MSP or to private traders, as was advantageous to him.

He said the government had taken steps to arrest the increase in prices by taking measures such as augmenting domestic supplies through imports at reduced duty rates, ban on exports of pulses and sugar and regular monitoring of prices of essential commodities. 

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Quality primary education a must, says Justice Pal
Charu Singh
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
Justice Ruma Pal today shed light on the rather fluid relationship that exists between primary education and law under the Indian legal system. She delved into many loopholes that exist in this rather tenuous relationship.

Justice Pal was speaking at length at the Rosalind Wilson Memorial Lecture on education and law that was held at the India International Centre at New Delhi.

Justice Pal spoke nostalgically of her interaction with eminent educationist Rosalind Wilson.

“I knew Rosalind for many years and not just during her Sunderbans visit. Our interaction goes back to Shantiniketan and her occasional trips there,” Justice Pal said.

“She was extremely matter-of-fact about her illness (cancer) as about anything else and when she came to Calcutta I saw a side of her that I had never seen earlier.

“She then informed me that she would never go back to England as a large part of her was Indian. Rosalind loved small children and enjoyed teaching them. She did a lot for primary education in India, ” Justice Pal said.

Justice Pal further mentioned that Swami Vivekananda while touring England way back in 1896 felt that the big qualitative difference between India and UK existed due to education. Even in rural areas of Britain, people were educated even in the rural areas but this was sadly lacking in India.

Justice Pal stressed, “This state of affairs that Swami Vivekananda saw back in 1896 sadly festers till today and the state of education in rural areas and small towns continues to be pathetic.”

“To make matters worse, the Constitution of India which came into force on January 26, 1950, did not treat education as a fundamental right but only as a directive principal.

“Article 45 which dealt with primary education was merely a directive,” she said.

“The entire process of spreading effective primary education across the nation should have been over by 1960 but this did not happen.

“India just remained a signatory to many conventions and instruments emphasising the right of the child and primary education but in reality this remained a very elusive goal,” said Justice Pal.

It was only after 45 years that in 1993, the Supreme Court stepped into reverse this situation in the Unni Krishnan vs the state of Andhra Pradesh case, this case favoured the right to education as a fundamental right.

This was affirmed by the judges and primary education was installed in Part-III of the Constitution. So for the first time primary education became a fundamental right in India.

Further, after nine years in 2002, the Constitution was amended and education was made free and compulsory for all children till the age of 14.

However, this has remained a mirage and although 15 states and 4 UT’s have followed this but implementation has remained weak, attendance in schools set up is low and the condition of primary schools in rural areas is sub-standard.

Justice Pal stressed that except for one or two states all others had failed to achieve the needed 100 per cent literacy.

Justice Pal said, “Unfortunately none of the laws provide for penal action against states or schools or teachers who have failed to act.

“Instead of setting up more schools, the government should concentrate on providing higher quality education in primary schools and with special care for the child's socio-economic environment.”

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India, Bhutan sign pact on hydel power
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
India and Bhutan today signed agreements on long term cooperation in hydel sector, and on purchase of power from the 1020 MW Tala Hydroelectric Project that has been constructed by India in Bhutan . The project is expected to be commissioned shortly and will bring power to the northern states, including Punjab and Delhi.

Another agreement has been signed between the two countries on trade, commerce and transit, replacing the current agreement signed in 1995.

The agreement on power was signed by the Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and the Minister for Trade and Industry of Bhutan Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba.

Both the countries have agreed to facilitate, encourage and promote the development and construction of hydro power projects and associated transmission systems as well as trade in electricity between the two countries, both through public and private sector participation.

"India has proposed to construct three hydel power projects in Bhutan, two of 1000 MW capacity each and a 500 MW capacity project. I will visit Bhutan in a month to sign the final agreement," Mr Shinde told reporters after signing the agreement.

He said Bhutan had a 30,000 MW hydel power potential and both the countries would make joint efforts to tap this potential that offered a win-win situation to both the countries.

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SC notice to Centre, states on ad expenses
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 28
The Supreme Court today took a serious view of the Centre and states indulging in “wasteful expenditure” on eulogising party leaders by flaunting huge advertisement in newspapers and magazines while admitting a petition alleging that Rs 10 crore were spent from the state exchequer on Rajiv Gandhi’s birth day in 2004 on this account.

The court said it was not a case of a particular party in power that was indulging in such expenditure from exchequer when various government projects could not take off due to lack of revenues.

A Bench of Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, Mr Justice S H Kapadia and Mr Justice C K Thakker issued notices to the Centre and all states, asking them to submit replies why such “wasteful” expenditures should not be stopped while reminding them why the example of austerity set by leader like late Prime Minsiter Lal Bahadur Shastri not be followed.

The court gave six weeks’ time to them to submit their affidavits with complete information as what was the total amount spent by each state and the Centre on such ads. It further asked the Union Government if the Finance Ministry had issued any guidelines to other ministries and departments to check such expenses.

The Bench, while stating that a "prima facie" case was made to examine the matter, took a serious note of the ads issued by the Congress governments in Punjab, Delhi and Maharashtra on the 60th birth anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi with his and Sonia Gandhi's full page portraits and similar ads by the BJP government in Rajasthan in favour of its top leaders, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, saying “it is nothing but self-glorification.”

A PIL raising the issue was though filed by Mnzoor Ali Khan and Rohit Pandey last year, cognizance of it was taken by the court today after they had placed on record nearly 24 such ads issued by various Central ministries, departments and Congress-ruled states on the Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary and some by BJP government in Rajasthan as evidence.

The court said if the parties wanted to eulogise their leaders there was nothing wrong in it but it should not be at the cost of state exchequer which was strictly meant for spending on development projects.

“Let us learn some lessons from developed countries. Are these types of amount spent by them on political parties from public funds?” the Chief Justice asked Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam.

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Shahabuddin’s lawyer threatens judge
Tribune News Service

Patna, July 28
The already beleaguered RJD MP from Siwan, Md.Shahabuddin, was today put in further trouble with the reported threat to the Judge of the Special designated court,by a lawyer close to him, to deliver judgement in his favour.

The police said Mahtab Alam, an Aurangabad-based lawyer, allegedly threatened to eliminate V B Gupta, a Judicial Magistrate , if he did not deliver judgements in Shahabuddin’s favour.

According to sources,Mahtab Alam called up the Judge urging him to “favourably treat” the cases against Shahabuddin against allurements.

When Mr Gupta refused to oblige, Mr Alam reportedly threatened to kill him.

The Judge informed his superior, Additional District and Sessions Judge Gyaneshwar Prasad Srivastava, of the incident.

The sources said subsequently, SP Sunil Kumar was apprised of the call and additional security was also sought for the Judge.

Even though Mr Gupta has so far not registered any FIR in connection with the threat, it was learnt that the Judge had approached the Patna High Court through Advocate General P K Sahi informing him about the incident.

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Office of profit: Speaker defends W. Bengal action
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today defended West Bengal Government’s decision not to cooperate with the Election Commission in sharing information.
“Why should they share the information? Doesn’t the complainant substantiate his allegations?” he asked, talking to a group of journalists.

The Lok Sabha Speaker said: “They (Election Commission) claim themselves to be quasi-judicial body, but this is the first time I am seeing such a body acting as an investigative authority.”

EC sources said the commission had again sent a request to the West Bengal Government to furnish information by July 31. They added that if the government failed or refused to comply with the request, the poll panel could summon officials and seek an explanation.

In a complaint to the EC, the complainant had alleged that Mr Chatterjee was holding two posts, which were offices of profit.

However, the Speaker, admitting that he was holding the post in one of the institution mentioned, defended that “I have been holding this post for the past 17 years. I have not drawn salary from it.”

Incidentally, the Office of Profit Bill finds mention of the office, which Mr Chatterjee holds.

Meanwhile, the President has forwarded a complaint against Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, for allegedly holding the office of profit as the President of AIIMS.

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SC notice to Centre, states on labour laws
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 28
The Centre and state governments were today directed to submit reports by the Supreme Court on implementation of twin legislation passed by Parliament for the welfare of 11 million construction workers a decade ago to provide security cover for them in the face of high accidental rate during the execution of projects, be it in the public or private sector.

While issuing notices to the Central and state governments on a petition by an NGO, National Campaign Committee, a Bench headed by Mr Justice K G Balakrishnan said the state governments should clearly state whether they had taken steps to implement the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment Service) Act and the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act passed in 1996.

The former provided for launching of various welfare schemes for workers, including health care facilities at construction sites and schooling for their children, the latter makes it mandatory for imposition of 1 per cent cess on construction cost of a project whether in the government or private sector for creating a fund with the state government to pay for emergency relief to workers in case of any mishaps during the construction.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the NGO, said none of the state government had created the “cess fund” while very few state has notified the first Act.

Since the construction activities, both in the government and private sector, were growing by leaps and bound, the state governments were legally bound to implement the twin legislation otherwise their passage by Parliament had no meaning.

He said the death rate due to mishaps in the construction industry was the highest in the country estimated between 160-250 casualties out of 1,000 per annum but in absence of any security cover, their children were the worst sufferers. On the other hand, the construction industry had emerged as the biggest employment provider in the country today.

Gonsalves said only MP, AP, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Union Territories of Andaman Nicobar and Daman, Div, Dadar and Nagar Haveli had so far notified the first Act, but the second legislation was not even notified by any of the state.

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Dawood malls to be razed
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 28
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation will finally begin the demolition of the Sara and Sahara shopping centres allegedly constructed by gangster Dawood Ibrahim.
Mumbai's Municipal Commissioner Johny Joseph said here today that the Maharashtra Government had promised to provide police protection to the BMC's demolition crews.

The demolition of the structures had been postponed twice so far after the civic body did not get adequate the police protection.

The shopping malls had been constructed on a plot of land owned by the Maharashtra Public Works Department opposite the Mumbai police headquarters.

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Udit accepts Ranjana as wife
Tribune News Service

Patna, July 28
In a dramatic turn of events, Bollywood singer, Udit Narayan, today accepted Ranjana Jha as his “legally married wife” and promised to the Bihar Women’s Commission to protect her marital rights.

However, both Udit Narayan and the commission Chairperson, Manju Prakash were silent on Deepa Narayan, the other wife of the Bihar born singer.

After evading six summons from the commission, Udit Narayan today flew down from Mumbai to appear before the commission to settle the dispute.

After the meeting, Manju Prakash told the media that Udit Narayan accepted Ranjana Jha as his legally married wife and subsequently Ranjana withdrew all cases against the singer.

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Banking services hit

New Delhi, July 28
Public sector banking services were hit across the country today, as their employees went on a token strike against the privatisation of state-run banks but the government said their fears were unfounded.

Employees of the State Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Indian Overseas Bank and Bank of Saurashtra did not join the strike, called by the three bank unions, including AIBEA, in protest against Reserve Bank’s proposal to outsource some services and demanded recruitment of more staff and a pension option.

Staffers of 24 of the 28 public sector banks boycotted work and their unions threatened to intensify the stir if their demands were not met.

“We have been assured of a meeting with the government on Monday for a discussion on our demands,” the All-India Bank Employees Association joint secretary said.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram, however, informed Parliament that the outsourcing proposals were only draft guidelines of the RBI and fears of privatisation were misplaced. — PTI

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Committee on quotas submits interim report
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
The Oversight Committee headed by M. Veerappa Moily has submitted its interim report to the Prime Minister and the Union HRD Minister.
The interim report is aimed at apprising the government about the finances and infrastructure that would be needed to facilitate the implementation of quotas by 2007, as proposed.

Speaking to the Tribune, Mr Moily said, "I submitted the report to the PM and Mr Arjun Singh late last evening. This morning I sent the report to several other ministers including, Mr Sharad Pawar, Mr R. Chidambaram and Dr Anbumani Ramadoss".

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Kiran Bedi is research bureau DGP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
Kiran Bedi, the first woman IPS officer and Magsaysay award winner, has been appointed Director-General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).

Talking to the TNS late today, the IPS officer known for her revolutionary reforms as Inspector-General, Prisons, Tihar, said, “I came back from Pune today. “I haven’t yet received the order in hand. I haven’t yet handed over my current charge of Director-General, Home Guards and Civil Defence.”

Ms Bedi further said, “I think the BPR&D is a premier organisation for reasearch, training and development in police service. I’m looking forward to giving it my best. Whatever you do in this agency is for the future of the service.”

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LS session curtailed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 28
The monsoon session of the Lok Sabha, which was scheduled to end on August 30, has been curtailed by three days.
“There will be no sittings on August 28, 29, 30 as decided at a meeting with the leaders of various political parties this morning,” Speaker Somnath Chatterjee announced in the House.

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