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N A T I O N

Koda takes over reins of Jharkhand

Ranchi, September 18
Madhu Koda (35), leader of the ruling UPA coalition, here was sworn in as the first Independent Chief Minister of Jharkhand today. Mr Koda was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Syed Sibte Razi at Morabadi Maidan in Ranchi amid tight security, four days after the Arjun Munda-led NDA had lost majority on the floors of the House.

Governor Syed Sibtey Razi (right) greets Madhu Koda after Koda took the oath of office as the new Chief Minister of Jharkhand in Ranchi on Monday.
Governor Syed Sibtey Razi (right) greets Madhu Koda after Koda took the oath of office as the new Chief Minister of Jharkhand in Ranchi on Monday. — PTI photo

SC allows Haj subsidy this year
But questions need for such “largesse”
New Delhi, September 18
The Supreme Court today conceded the request of the Centre to allow it to provide subsidy on Haj this year but questioned how a particular community was being given the “largesse” and would it not be contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.



EARLIER STORIES




‘Professor’ Lalu’s wagon rolls into IIM-A
Ahmedabad, September 18
It was Lalu’s day out at the IIM-A today. The Railway Minister arrived here today, donning the ‘Professor’s cap’ to lecture students of the country’s premier institute on the journey of the Indian Railways, from being written off two years ago to becoming the second largest profit-earning public sector enterprise. Wife Rabri Devi and his children also accompanied him.

Saran leaves for US to hold talks on N-deal
New Delhi, September 18
Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran left for the United States late tonight for talks with his American counterpart, Nicholas Burns, on the Indo-US nuclear deal which is expected to be voted upon by the Senate some days later.

IIT admits ST boy after Arjun’s intervention
New Delhi, September 18
The IIT, Kharagpur, has increased the number of seats to accommodate Balram Tudu, a Scheduled Tribe candidate who had failed to make it to the IIT counselling, owing to a lapse on the part of the Postal Department. This has been done following Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh’s intervention.

BSF, Rangers meeting put off
New Delhi, September 18
The four-day meeting between the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Pakistan Rangers, which was scheduled to be held in Jodhpur beginning tomorrow, was postponed indefinitely today following the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) refusal to give its clearance for issuing visa to Pakistani delegation.

Emergency landing by A-I plane
New Delhi, September 18
Within a week third aircraft of the national carrier Air-India today made an emergency landing at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport after one of its engine failed just after take off.

Gowda releases chargesheet against Cong
Bangalore, September 18
Former Deputy Prime  Minister H D Deve Gowda today jumped into the fray to defend his once “estranged” son and Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy who is facing bribery charges by releasing a 10-point charge sheet against the Congress opposition in the State.

Bhakra-Beas project: Centre told to produce original accord
New Delhi, September 18
The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to produce the original documents of an agreement of April 17, 1967, on the sharing of power project assets among Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh for its perusal.

Strike forces taxis off Mumbai roads
Mumbai, September 18
The indefinite strike by petrol station owners in Maharashtra has hit life with private taxis staying off the roads during non-peak hours.

Cop killed in bomb attack
Lucknow, September 18
A pair of motorcycle-borne criminals hurled a crude bomb at a police post, set up for checking vehicles in Allahabad’s posh Civil Lines area this afternoon, brutally killing a Head Constable on the spot and injuring two constables.

Telangana activists attack MP
Hyderabad, September 18
Telangana activists today attacked Congress MP from coastal Andhra L. Rajagopal for what they called his anti-Dalit, anti-Telangana statements.

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Koda takes over reins of Jharkhand
Tribune News Service

Ranchi, September 18
Madhu Koda (35), leader of the ruling UPA coalition, here was sworn in as the first Independent Chief Minister of Jharkhand today.

Mr Koda was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Syed Sibte Razi at Morabadi Maidan in Ranchi amid tight security, four days after the Arjun Munda-led NDA had lost majority on the floors of the House.

Three Independent MLAs — Enos Ekka, Harinarayan Rai and Kamlesh Singh — were also sworn in along with Mr Koda.

However, there was little clarity on the remaining Cabinet of Mr Koda as intense lobbying continued among the RJD, JMM and Independent legislators for ministerial berths, including deputy chief ministership.

It was the fifth swearing-in ceremony in Jharkhand.

The Jharkhand UPA steering committee chairman and Union Coal Minister Sibu Soren said the JMM and the RJD would take part in the government. The Congress was unlikely to participate in the government.

The Forward Bloc national general secretary Debrata Biswas told The Tribune today that his party would not participate in the Koda government and would extend support from outside.

The Forward Bloc has one MLA in the 82-member House. The Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (D) president Babulal Marandi has already stated that his party too would support the Koda government from outside. The general secretary of the newly formed JVM(D) Stephen Marandi represents the party in the Assembly as an independent MLA.

In the House, the minimum number to form the government is 42. Of the 42 MLAs of the UPA supporting the government, besides the four Independents who were sworn in today, the JMM (17) RJD(7), UGDP (2) would also participate in the government after the floor test slated for September 20.

The NDA has 39 MLAs with it.

The lone CPI(ML) MLA, Mr Binod Singh, is neither with the UPA nor the NDA.

Meanwhile, steering and coordination committees have been formed headed by Mr Soren to monitor the performance of the new government.

The only one missing during the swearing-in ceremony was RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Union Minister and senior Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay, Sibu Soren, former Chief Minister Arjun Munda, former Speaker Inder Singh Namdhari, state Congress president P.K.Balmachu were among others who took part in the ceremony. The first Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Mr Babulal Marandi, was conspicuous by his absence.

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SC allows Haj subsidy this year
But questions need for such “largesse”
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 18
The Supreme Court today conceded the request of the Centre to allow it to provide subsidy on Haj this year but questioned how a particular community was being given the “largesse” and would it not be contrary to the provisions of the Constitution.

In view of the Centre’s request for lifting the interim stay granted by the Allahabad High Court on providing subsidy to one lakh Haj pilgrims this year on the ground that the country had made commitment to Saudi Arab Airlines for carrying 60,000 persons and also issued tender for hiring planes by Air India, the apex court stayed the orders of August 8 and September 7.

A Bench of Mr Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Mr Justice A.R. Lakshmanan and Mr Justice C.K. Thakker directed the Allahabad High Court to expedite hearing in the matter to give early decisions to make the legal position on the subsidy clear.

The court said today’s order for vacating the stay would not come in the way of the high court deciding the matter.

The high court’s interim orders had come on a public interest litigation, challenging the grant of subsidy for Haj pilgrimage.

Solicitor-General G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the Union Government, said if the stay continued it would cause embarrassment to the country at the international forum. The government might review its policy for future, he said.

When Vahanvati tried to draw a parallel between the subsidy to Haj pilgrimage and expenses on the pilgrimage by Sikhs to Nankana Sahib in Pakistan and Hindus to Kailash Mansarovar, the court said there was difference in making security and administrative arrangements and providing subsidy on travel.

The government was providing nearly Rs 18,000 subsidy on air ticket to each of the one lakh Muslim pilgrims to Mecca and Madina every year.

The court was informed that the government this year had confirmed sending 1.47 lakh pilgrims and the subsidy would be available to one lakh as per the policy, continuing since 1994.

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‘Professor’ Lalu’s wagon rolls into IIM-A

Ahmedabad, September 18
It was Lalu’s day out at the IIM-A today. The Railway Minister arrived here today, donning the ‘Professor’s cap’ to lecture students of the country’s premier institute on the journey of the Indian Railways, from being written off two years ago to becoming the second largest profit-earning public sector enterprise. Wife Rabri Devi and his children also accompanied him.

The students too had done their homework to receive their high-profile guru. Prof G. Raghuram, who has been coordinating the minister’s visit, said 97 of them participated in drawing up project studies on four themes, of which the best was presented before the Railway Minister.

The studies have dwelt on Indian Railway at the crossroads in May 2004, whether there has been a real turnaround, and what were the financial and non-financial determinants, how increasing axle load has contributed to the Railways profitability, and finally how sustainable are the initiatives taken.

Mr Prasad’s role has been one of giving the Railways a dynamic momentum, Professor Raghuram felt. He doesn’t interfere in contracts or transfers which has been a contributory factor, he noted.

Another major feature of Mr Prasad’s leadership was to cut time in loading and unloading of wagons. Earlier, the loading was done during the daytime upto 6 p.m. as there were no good lighting facilities at night in the sheds and other age-old problems. But today, thanks to the Railway Minister night loading has begun, the Professor said. “If trains could run round the clock, why not the loading work?” was Mr Prasad’s reasoning, he added. — UNI

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Saran leaves for US to hold talks on N-deal
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 18
Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran left for the United States late tonight for talks with his American counterpart, Nicholas Burns, on the Indo-US nuclear deal which is expected to be voted upon by the Senate some days later.

Mr Saran discussed the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan shortly before his departure for the USA.

The Prime Minister had returned home late this evening from his nine-day two nation-tour of Brazil and Cuba.

Dr S. Jaishanker, a pivotal figure in the Indo-US nuclear deal negotiations, who is heading the Americas Division of the Ministry of External Affairs here, has already reached Washington to do groundwork.

Mr Saran’s visit to the US assumes signficance in view of the fact that the Senate vote is the last hurdle in the implementation of the deal as the House of Representatives — the other part of the two-House US Congress — has already overwhelmingly voted in favour of the legislation.

It is understood that the draft resolution to be put up before the Senate has been prepared and Saran-Burns talks are expected to focus on this document.

India has serious reservations on several issues like predicating the Indo-US nuclear deal to India singing the US tune on Iran issue.

New Delhi hopes that the resolution which is put up before the Senate for voting does not contain any such references which are a big no-no from the Indian point of view.

However, the legislation, better known as the “123 agreement”, does not come into force merely after the Senate voting in its favour.

After the Senate votes in favour of the resolution, the Bush administration will prepare to “unify” the two separate legislations which were put before the House and the Senate for voting.

This reconciliation exercise will produce one uniform document which will be put up before the House as well as the Senate all over again for approval.

After the House and the Senate vote for the unified Bill, President George W. Bush will put his signatures on the act to make it a law.

It is only then that the implementation of the Indo-US nuclear deal can start. The entire exercise is expected to be completed by this year-end.

For purposes of continuity, Mr Saran, who is demitting office of Foreign Secretary on September 30, will take charge from October 1 as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy on Indo-US nuclear deal.

 

IIT admits ST boy after Arjun’s intervention
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 18
The IIT, Kharagpur, has increased the number of seats to accommodate Balram Tudu, a Scheduled Tribe candidate who had failed to make it to the IIT counselling, owing to a lapse on the part of the Postal Department. This has been done following Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh’s intervention.

In his capacity as the Chairman of the Council of IITs, Mr Arjun Singh had asked the Chairman, Joint Admission Board for IIT JEE-2006, who is also the Director, IIT-Kharagpur, to sympathetically consider the case for admission of Balram, who had secured preparatory course rank 83 in the IIT JEE-2006, but could not appear at the counselling on July 4.

Tudu, who joined the premier institute today, had qualified for the preparatory course, leading to admission in the first year of various programmes at seven IITs, IT-BHU and ISM, Dhanbad, on the successful completion of the course.

It was pointed out that though the JEE attempts to offer seats at the above mentioned institutions to SC /ST candidates at reduced cut-off percentage, some seats still remain vacant.

To fill the vacancies in the subsequent academic year, a preparatory course is offered to SC/ST candidates with further reduced cut-off.

These students undergo the course of one year and on successful completion they are admitted to the first year of various courses at the above mentioned institutions in the subsequent academic year. And it is this course that Tudu had qualified for.

Taking note of his case, the minister has also issued directions that the detailed procedure about the course along with deadlines for declaration of results, dates of counselling, etc. may also be incorporated in the information brochure on the same lines as is being done for all-India rank holders. He has also specified that intimation about the result and information about dates of counselling for all-India rank holders and preparatory course rank holders from SC/ST communities should also be sent to the District Magistrate or Collector or the Deputy Commissioner.

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Pranab leaves for UN session today
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 18
Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who leaves tomorrow to represent India at the 61st session of the UN General Assembly, is unlikely to get any respite on this trip given the packed schedule awaiting him during his 10-day stay in New York.

Besides addressing the session on September 27, he is expected to hold as many as 45 bilateral meetings with Foreign Ministers of the P-five countries and SAARC nations.

The Congress will project its “young face” at the UN General Assembly session with the inclusion of the party’s heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi and Milind Deora, MP from Mumbai, in the 18-member delegation slated to attend the session.

Mr Gandhi has maintained a low profile, confining himself to his constituency Amethi.

He has, however, made occasional trips abroad. He accompanied the Prime Minister to Afghanistan last year, was a member of a parliamentary delegation to Germany and travelled to South Africa to receive an award given posthumously to Rajiv Gandhi.

India was scheduled to speak on September 21, but after the Prime Minister decided not to attend the session, the date for the address was moved to the next available for senior ministers.

Mr Mukherjee’s address is expected to focus on terrorism and seek the early establishment of a UN convention on combating it.

During his meeting with US Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice, the two leaders will review aspects of Indo-US relations.

The minister will use the opportunity to seek the approval of the members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group for the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

His long absence from the country also means that he will not be attending the annual conclave of the Congress Chief Ministers to be held in Nainital on September 23 and 24. His presence at these meetings is considered critical given his experience and seniority, which explains why the Prime Minister took permission from Congress President Sonia Gandhi before deputing him for the UN session.

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BSF, Rangers meeting put off
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 18
The four-day meeting between the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Pakistan Rangers, which was scheduled to be held in Jodhpur beginning tomorrow, was postponed indefinitely today following the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) refusal to give its clearance for issuing visa to Pakistani delegation.

According to informed sources, the MHA's last minute refusal came after the Intelligence Bureau (IB) raised concern over certain “security issues” linked to the meet. Sources, however, refused to elaborate on it.

The 16-member Pakistani Rangers' delegation was to be led by Major General Zia, while Additional Director-General (West) .P.A. Aulakh was to lead the BSF team.

The MHA has now asked the BSF to reschedule the meeting at a later date this year and also choose another venue for the meeting, preferably in Punjab range.

“It will take some time now for us to fix new dates and decide on the new venue,” a BSF official, who was involved in the preparation for the meeting, told The Tribune.

In the Rangers' meeting, India was expected to ask for firm steps to check cross-border drug trafficking and raise the issue of construction of permanent defence structures near the international border.

In the bi-annual meeting, the BSF was also expected to raise several contentious issues, including repatriation of Indians jailed in Pakistan, handing over of illegally encroached land, border-related crime, adjustment of lights, repairing of pillars along the border, joint patrolling and firing practice near the border.

The meeting had assumed great significance as there was a chill in relations between the two countries following the July 11 serial bomb blasts in Mumbai.

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Emergency landing by A-I plane
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 18
Within a week third aircraft of the national carrier Air-India today made an emergency landing at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport after one of its engine failed just after take off.

The Air India aircraft from Delhi airport for Los Angeles via Frankfurt.with 88 passengers on board suffered a bird-hit as it took off from the airport. The aircraft returned and landed safely with a damaged engine as full emergency procedures were put in place at the IGI Airport, reports here said.

The engine would have to be replaced, the sources said. They said the passengers of the AI-137 were sent to different hotels by the Air India staff and efforts were on to accommodate them in the flights of other carriers.

Last week, an Air India plane took off and landed under emergency conditions as it was on its way to the USA to re-fit one of its engines. It was not carrying any passengers.

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Gowda releases chargesheet against Cong
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, September 18
Former Deputy Prime  Minister H D Deve Gowda today jumped into the fray to defend his once “estranged” son and Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy who is facing bribery charges by releasing a 10-point charge sheet against the Congress opposition in the State.

The former Prime Minister, who had accused his son of defying him to form an alliance with the BJP, today accused the party of unleashing a proxy war to destabilise the Janata Dal (Secular) - BJP government in the state. He said he was forced to come out with the facts to counter the “campaign of calumny” against his family.

This is the first time Gowda has aggressively come forward to defend the JD(S) - BJP government whose Chief Minister and two other ministers are accused of having collected Rs 150 crore as bribe from mine owners of Bellary. Suspended BJP MLC K Janardhan Reddy, who made the accusation, has released “evidence” in the form of bank accounts of the Chief Minister’s sister-in-law while CDs showing someone like Forest Minister C Chennigappa with wads of currency notes have surfaced “mysteriously”.

Surprisingly Deve Gowda’s charge sheet against the Congress is thin on facts but indicates the knives are out and embarrassing disclosures against Congress men could also be out in public. The former PM at a press conference today said he had declared a war against the Congress and that he would wait for a response to his charge sheet before releasing evidence in his possession before the people’s court.

Speaking on the issue of mining in Bellary , he asked why the Congress was silent on the question of illegal mining for so many years. “Who opened the floodgates for illegal mining by dereserving vast tracts and distributing mine leases in bulk ahead of the 2004 Assembly elections”.

Talking about the “evidence” in the hand of the opposition, he said it was incredible that the main opposition party had relied on media reports and forged CDs to make a case for the dismissal of the JD (S) - BJP government before the Governor recently. He also asked whether the Congress had any credible evidence against the Kumaraswamy government except doctored CDs and said no one had stopped the Congress from filing charges against his family before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry instituted by the government on illegal mining.

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Bhakra-Beas project: Centre told to produce original accord
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 18
The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to produce the original documents of an agreement of April 17, 1967, on the sharing of power project assets among Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh for its perusal.

A Bench of Chief Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Mr Justices A.R. Lakshmanan and C.K. Thakker sought the original agreement for perusal in connection with a suit filed by Himachal Pradesh for recovery of Rs 2,200 crore arrears jointly from the Union Government, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan for using its share of electricity and denying it full share from the Bhakra and Beas projects as per the Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966.

The court sought to examine the original agreement of April 17, 1967, between the successor states, signed in a meeting with the then Irrigation and Power Secretary after Punjab Government counsel Rupinder Singh Suri pressed for it.

The court, however, directed listing of suit for further hearing after three months. The suit filed in 1996 by Himachal Pradesh came up for hearing today after recording of the evidence of several high ranking present and former officers from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh by apex court’s registrar (judicial) as witnesses. The Union Government had decided not to produce any witness.

The Punjab Government in its application said the production of the original agreement became necessary in view of the Centre not preferring to produce any witness.

Himachal Pradesh claimed that it was only allowed to draw 2.5 per cent power from the Bhakra and Beas projects against its due partnership share of 7.19 per cent, fixed on the basis of transfer of the population of five districts Kangra, Hamirpur, Una, Kulu and Lahaul-Spiti from Punjab to the hill state as per the Punjab Reorganisation Act.

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Strike forces taxis off Mumbai roads
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, September 18
The indefinite strike by petrol station owners in Maharashtra has hit life with private taxis staying off the roads during non-peak hours.

The indefinite strike saw more than 2,200 petrol stations close operations across the state. The association said the strike would continue despite efforts by Union Petroleum Minister Murli Deora to get it withdrawn.

The association is demanding that the state government reduce sales tax on petrol.

Petrol stations owned by petroleum companies were open. However, long queues of vehicle could be seen. Across Maharashtra about 700 state-owned outlets are open for business.

“The strike is total,” Mr Ravi Shinde, president, Federation of All-Maharashtra Petrol Dealers Association, said. According to the association, sales tax on petrol is the highest in Maharashtra. The state charges 34 per cent sales tax while in states like Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat it is 28 per cent.

Meanwhile, in an appeal Mr Deora said talks were on with the state government to reduce sales tax on petroleum products.

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Cop killed in bomb attack
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, September 18
A pair of motorcycle-borne criminals hurled a crude bomb at a police post, set up for checking vehicles in Allahabad’s posh Civil Lines area this afternoon, brutally killing a Head Constable on the spot and injuring two constables.

The police nabbed Jiten Mishra, one of the culprits who had suffered shrapnel injuries in the blast.

The other culprit was chased for two km by the police and finally pinned down at the Nawab Yusuf Road near the DRM office. He was killed in the ensuing encounter.

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Telangana activists attack MP
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, September 18
Telangana activists today attacked Congress MP from coastal Andhra L. Rajagopal for what they called his anti-Dalit, anti-Telangana statements.

The MP from Vijayawada was mobbed as soon as he got down from his car to enter the Press Club here to clarify his stand on the ongoing war of words between him and his own party MP Siddipet in the neighbouring Medak S. Satyanarayana.

Rajagopal stood his ground even as the protestors pushed him around raising slogans against him. He entered the club where he had a heated exchange with protestors, who said his remarks made against Satyanarayana amounted to insulting Dalits and Telangana. 

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