SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Mattoo family, friends overwhelmed
New Delhi, October 17

It is justice delayed but not denied. The campaign “Justice for Priyadarshini” that began earlier this year to garner public support for Priyadarshini Mattoo who was raped and murdered couldn’t have had a better outcome, say friends of her family.
Santosh Singh (second from left) is led away by police officials from the Delhi High Court in New Delhi. — AFP photo

Santosh Singh (second from left) is led away by police officials from the Delhi High Court

Trishul programme not shelved: Pranab
New Delhi, October 17
Even as Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today came out in defence of the country’s premier defence research institution Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) by saying that the Trishul missile programme had not been shelved, it still remains an organisation which is most overrated, over-invested and one full of over-confidence regarding its capabilities to provide the Indian armed forces with credible and dependable weapons for the defence of the country.


EARLIER STORIES




SC rejects Cong man plea on pardon
New Delhi, October 17
The Supreme Court today rejected the plea of Andhra Pradesh Congress leader Gowru Venkata Reddy for the suspension of its verdict and giving him more time to surrender after it, in an historic judgement in his case, had re-defined the guidelines on the grant of pardon to convicts by the President and the Governor.

SAD gives political hue to PAU incident, seeks CBI probe
New Delhi, October 17
The incident of police action against veterinary girl students is gaining political colour with the SAD taking up the issue and knocking the doors of the National Commission for Women (NCW) and National Human Right Commission (NHRC) today.

CITU criticises PSU wage board directive
New Delhi, October 17
The Manmohan Singh government’s directive on the wage negotiation for workers in the PSUs today came in for sharp criticism from the CPM- backed trade union, CITU, who said they would oppose the conditions.

BJP slams Kasuri on clemency issue
New Delhi, October 17
The BJP today asked the UPA government to warn Pakistan that it should either withdraw comments of its Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri reportedly favouring clemency for Parliament attack convict Mohd Afzal or else India would have a rethink over the diplomatic ties.

Law to protect interests of elderly
New Delhi, October 17
Concerned over the plight of elderly persons, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is bringing out a legislation to protect their interests.

BSP to go it alone in Assembly poll
New Delhi, October 17
BSP supremo Mayawati yesterday declared that her party would not enter into any alliance in the next year’s Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Punjab where her party would contest on every seat.

Paragliding championship from today
New Delhi, October 17
Paragliding tournament for the Himalayan Cup will begin tomorrow at Bir Billing in Dhauladhar ranges of Kangra Valley, said Mr Tarun Sridhar, Commissioner, Himachal Tourism and Civil Aviations, here today. The contest will culminate on October 25, he added.

Rahul Mahajan to lead BJYM in staging dharna
Execution for Afzal
Mumbai, October 17
In a clear sign that the Bharatiya Janata Party has forgiven Rahul Mahajan, son of the late Pramod Mahajan, the outfit has offered him a political platform.

Panel to discuss OBC quota Bill today
Issue may lead to row with judiciary
New Delhi, October 17
When the HRD Parliamentary Standing Committee meets here tomorrow to discuss the OBC quota Bill for the first time, the tenor of the deliberations will indicate whether this issue will snowball into a confrontation between the legislative and the judiciary.

4-laning to start by 2007-end
New Delhi, October 17
Officials of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) , dealing with the four-laning of the Parwanoo-Solan stretch of the National Highway-No 22, are meeting design consultants of the section tomorrow to discuss and finalise the detailed project report (DPR) of the project.

Airport regulator proposal with GoM
New Delhi, October 17
The Union Cabinet yesterday referred a proposal on creating an airport economic regulatory authority to a Group of Ministers (GoM).

Move to prevent online crime
New Delhi, October 17
In an effort to curb the growing menace of computer-facilitated crimes against children, Microsoft India, in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), had brought in its global experts to train Indian law enforcement agencies on technology to investigate online crimes committed against children.

Envoy to Nepal meets Manmohan
New Delhi, October 17
India’s Ambassador to Nepal Shiv Shanker Mukherjee today apprised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the latest developments in the Himalayan country in the context of failure of the government and the Maoists to reach an understanding on arms management.

Insurance for NREGA workers on anvil
New Delhi, October 17
The government is working on a plan to bring under an insurance cover members of self-help groups (SHGs) and people who have taken employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

BJP dares govt on George case
New Delhi, October 17
The BJP today dared the UPA government to produce evidence against former Defence Minister George Fernandes, against whom the CBI had filed an FIR in the Barak missile deal.

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An eight-year-old simian "jailed" for public nuisance.
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Mattoo family, friends overwhelmed
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
It is justice delayed but not denied. The campaign “Justice for Priyadarshini” that began earlier this year to garner public support for Priyadarshini Mattoo who was raped and murdered couldn’t have had a better outcome, say friends of her family.

With Santosh Singh who was convicted of rape and murder being remanded to police custody till October 30, when the court would decide on the quantum of sentence, friends and family members of Priyadarshini say their faith in the judicial system has been strengthened.

Meanwhile, the CBI has asserted that it would seek death penalty for Santosh Singh. A senior official of the CBI said Santosh Singh had already been taken into custody and that the investigating agency would seek “maximum punishment” for him.

Aditya Raj Kaul, who was part of the “Justice for Priyadarshini” campaign, told The Tribune, “We never expected it to be such a fast and easy court procedure. We are overwhelmed and think that this case should set a precedent for other cases.”

He said, “We thank the CBI and the judiciary, but we are happy that the common man, all those who are unrelated to the Mattoos came out in support. The fact that even the court was upset by the trial court’s verdict is vindication for us.”

Priyadarshini Mattoo was found dead in her South Delhi residence 10 years ago. She was raped and killed by Santosh Kumar Singh, son of a former IPS officer.

Her childhood friend Indu Jalali, who was also in the forefront of the campaign, said, “Today is the victory of the Indian judicial system and victory of the entire media and the entire nation who stood behind us in this fight against injustice.”

The CBI, which played a crucial role in gathering evidence, said in a statement, “the judgement would go a long way in restoring the faith of the citizenry of the country in the efficacy of the criminal justice system”.

Welcoming the judgement, the investigating agency said, “the judgement would set a bench mark for the investigative agencies and trial courts in the country”.

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Trishul programme not shelved: Pranab
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
Even as Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee today came out in defence of the country’s premier defence research institution Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) by saying that the Trishul missile programme had not been shelved, it still remains an organisation which is most overrated, over-invested and one full of over-confidence regarding its capabilities to provide the Indian armed forces with credible and dependable weapons for the defence of the country.

Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the Naval Commanders conference, the Defence Minister said, “I would like to point out that (Trishul) project has not been shelved. He, however, admitted that there was a delay in the completion of the project. It was to have been completed by December-end but the DRDO has sought an extension and he had granted it on September 29.”

There were reports that the Trishul project, started 22 years ago and on which almost 300 Rs crore had been spent, had been scrapped and would be off the burner by December end. The missile has repeatedly failed in test flights conducted over the past few years.

The DRDO’s defence by the Defence Minister, however, does not take away the fact the country’s premier research organisation has been unable to deliver any credible weapons, and most importantly on time. Its failure to develop the Trishul missile system led the Navy to buy the Israeli-made Barak missile system, which is now embroiled in kickbacks controversy and the purchase of which was not appreciated by the DRDO.

While every year the research budget for the DRDO has only increased in the annual budget of the country, the defence research organisation has only further delayed the delivery of the finished products. Most of the missile systems or other defence products have remained only as technology demonstrators rather than emerging as avante garde finished products , which could also put India as among the major weapons producing nations.

Excepting the Agni series of missile, of which again the Agni-III failed miserably after its testing was kept on hold almost endlessly, none of the other weapons in development with the DRDO have actually emerged as something on which the Armed Forces could depend with confidence.

What, however, emerges as a shocker, is the confidence with which the DRDO officials try to dissuade the armed forces officials from recommending the purchase of weapons which are critical for the defence of the country and which it claims to be developing. With Akash, Trishul, Nag, Light Combat Aircraft and MBT Arjun not ready, the armed forces have no other choice but to look outside. However, armed forces officials point out that the claims and the resistance put up by the DRDO mainly results in the delay of weapons system which are important for the defence of the country and which if not purchased could lead to India losing its advantage over Pakistan.

Most of the products named above were cleared for development more than two decades ago, but while some remain in the final stages of development with time delays and cost overruns, one or two products claimed to be ready are only proving to be a liability with the armed forces. Whether it is the INSAS rifle for the Arjun tank, with patriotism forcing the armed forces not to say no, the products have only been accepted with a lot of reluctance by the armed forces.

In other instances, the claims of the DRDO have led to major delays in the upgrading of the weapon systems, claim armed forces officials.

The claims of DRDO on Akash missile system has led both the IAF and the Indian Army to delaying the upgrade of their Pechora SA 3 missiles and SA-6 Kvadrat and SA-8 Missile systems, respectively. After waiting endlessly for the Akash to come into the production line, both the IAF and the Army have had to sought the upgrade help from Poland.

Importantly, the USA is looking at selling the Patriot missiles to India. Would another inquiry be inducted on the purchase, as the DRDO will again show its reluctance even though the Akash, sighted as the Indian Patriot, is not ready yet.

As for Barak, Naval officials say that the missile system is highly credible and was available to India at a time when no other system was available and it was critically needed for the defence of the country. However, the CBI has registered the FIR against former defence minister George Fernandes, his associate Jaya Jaitley, former Navy Chief Sushil Kumar and others for alleged irregularities and corruption in the Rs 1,150-crore deal to purchase the system and it sights objections from the DRDO against the purchase as one of the major reasons in the FIR. 

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SC rejects Cong man plea on pardon
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, October 17
The Supreme Court today rejected the plea of Andhra Pradesh Congress leader Gowru Venkata Reddy for the suspension of its verdict and giving him more time to surrender after it, in an historic judgement in his case, had re-defined the guidelines on the grant of pardon to convicts by the President and the Governor.

Reddy’s counsel Altaf Ahmed, in a three-fold plea sought suspension of the apex court order, give his client more time to surrender and direction to the Governor to dispose of his mercy petition as early as possible. A Bench, headed by Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat dismissed his plea, saying that it had clearly laid down in its judgement October 11 the directives how the Governor and the state government should pursue with the mercy petition.

The court in its judgement had set aside the decision of the then Governor Sushil Kumar Shinde granting pardon to Reddy, saying on the face of the material placed by the state government for pardon, it was “clearly unsustainable”.

However, the court had said that it was open to the government to treat Reddy’s mercy petition pending for the purpose of re-consideration and for the Governor to take note of the materials placed before him as per the guidelines laid down.

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SAD gives political hue to PAU incident, seeks CBI probe
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
The incident of police action against veterinary girl students is gaining political colour with the SAD taking up the issue and knocking the doors of the National Commission for Women (NCW) and National Human Right Commission (NHRC) today.

Party sources indicated that the issue would be highlighted during the party campaign for the Assembly elections scheduled early next year. The issue, the party hopes, would expose not only the Congress government in the state but also put on mat the Manmohan Singh government, if the NCW fails to act at the earliest.

The delegation was led by Ms Surinder Kaur Badal and former SGPC chief Bibi Jagir Kaur to the offices of both commissions in the Capital.

The delegation demanded CBI probe into the “brutal” police action against peacefully protesting veterinary girl students at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana.

Ms Badal demanded an independent CBI inquiry into the incident, registration of cases against the offending police personnel, transfer of the SSP, SP (City) and other officials named in various reports, immediate suspension of two SHOs, who led the lathicharge, and suitable compensation to the students for injuries and indignity suffered by them.

They said the Chief Minister had ordered an inquiry after a public outcry against, but it was “only meant to be an eyewash to take the sting out of the rising public criticism against the government”.

The members said Ms Vyas listened to their concern and assured all possible action and help to the students. NHRC chairperson Justice J S Anand, who had reportedly seen the incident on television, expressed anguish at the incident and assured prompt action in the case.

About 20 odd girls from Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, Ludhiana, were sitting on a dharna to register protest over their unemployment and the non-recognition of the degrees of the said university.

Bibi Jagir Kaur alleged that the police personnel, without any provocation by the students and without issuing prior warning, used force to evict them. The male dominated police force manhandled the girls and clothes of the students were also torn, which was visually recorded by the media, she said.

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CITU criticises PSU wage board directive
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
The Manmohan Singh government’s directive on the wage negotiation for workers in the PSUs today came in for sharp criticism from the CPM- backed trade union, CITU, who said they would oppose the conditions.

“While allowing the management to start negotiation with the unions on the wage revision for the employees, the guidelines issued by the Cabinet has a number of conditions which will seriously hinder free and fair negotiations,” said CITU general secretary Chittabrata Majumdar.

The Cabinet said permission had been granted for negotiations on the condition that no burden would be borne by the government and the companies would have to generate funds from their internal resources by improving productivity and profitability.

Further, the wage revision must not result in any increase in labour cost per physical unit of output. However, the PSUs running on full capacity could be exempted.

Public sector companies, which enjoy monopoly or operate under administered price structure, must ensure that the wage revision do not lead to rise in prices of their products.

Mr Majumdar said the dictate of the 10-year tenure of the wage agreement was one such adverse condition which was not acceptable to the trade unions.

“Such condition have no basis at all as the same Central Government has already allowed five- year wage agreement in the coal industry along with full neutralisation,” he said.

Similarly, the condition of “no rise” in labour cost consequent upon wage rise of the employees have been created to encourage further downsizing.

“The linkage of wage rise with productivity is another atrocious condition which will fetter the rights to collective bargaining of the workers in the background of ongoing spree of downsizing and outsourcing in various PSUs in the country,” he said.

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BJP slams Kasuri on clemency issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
The BJP today asked the UPA government to warn Pakistan that it should either withdraw comments of its Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri reportedly favouring clemency for Parliament attack convict Mohd Afzal or else India would have a rethink over the diplomatic ties.

BJP chief Rajnath Singh, who charged the Pakistan Foreign Minister of intervening in India’s internal affairs by reportedly favouring clemency for Afzal, said the government should immediately summon the Pakistani High Commissioner and issue him a warning about diplomatic ties.

“The High Commissioner should be told that Mr Kasuri should immediately withdraw his remarks on Afzal or else India will have a rethink over diplomatic ties with Pakistan,” the BJP chief said. He also asked the government to discuss with the Opposition on the issue.

“Pakistan should be given a week or ten days to respond and if the response is not satisfactory India should snap diplomatic ties with that country,” he told mediapersons.

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Law to protect interests of elderly
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
Concerned over the plight of elderly persons, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is bringing out a legislation to protect their interests.

Presenting ‘Vayoshreshtha Samman 2006,’ to India’s distinguished elderly persons here, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Meira Kumar said the ministry was bringing out a legislation to protect the interests of the senior citizens. “The proposed legislation contains provision of need based maintenance of the older persons from their children,” she said.

The ministry also proposes to register an autonomous National Association of Older Persons which will mobilise senior citizens, articulate their interests, promote and undertake programmes and activities for their well being.

Referring to the proposed legislation, Mrs Kumar said it would provide care and protection to elderly, tribunals would be set up in each subdivisions of the country and advocates be barred from participating in its proceedings.

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BSP to go it alone in Assembly poll
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
BSP supremo Mayawati yesterday declared that her party would not enter into any alliance in the next year’s Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal and Punjab where her party would contest on every seat.

Firmly ruling out any alliance with the Congress or any other party, Ms Mayawati claimed that her party was poised to get absolute majority in the coming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, with herself most possibly as the Chief Minister.

‘’I will have to accept the post of the Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh as people want that,’’ said Ms Mayawati talking to newspersons after performing the seventh day rituals of the party founder Kanshi Ram, who expired here on October 9.

She said that 70 per cent of the seats for the Assembly elections had been finalised and the upper castes and other sections had been given ‘’sufficient’’ representation.

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Paragliding championship from today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
Paragliding tournament for the Himalayan Cup will begin tomorrow at Bir Billing in Dhauladhar ranges of Kangra Valley, said Mr Tarun Sridhar, Commissioner, Himachal Tourism and Civil Aviations, here today. The contest will culminate on October 25, he added.

Mr Sridhar said about 52 Indian and foreign pilots have registered with the department for participation and all necessary arrangements had been made.

A technical committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of the Director, Western Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Manali, comprising paragliders and engineers to oversee the technical aspects of the tournament.

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Rahul Mahajan to lead BJYM in staging dharna
Execution for Afzal
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, October 17
In a clear sign that the Bharatiya Janata Party has forgiven Rahul Mahajan, son of the late Pramod Mahajan, the outfit has offered him a political platform.

The younger Mahajan will sit on a dharna on Wednesday to demand that Mohammad Afzal, sentenced to be hanged for his involvement in the Parliament attack case, be executed.

Rahul Mahajan will lead members of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the party’s youth wing, in staging the dharna at Grant Road railway station.

It will be followed by a rally to the historic August Kranti Maidan. “We will ask the terrorists to leave India in the same manner Mahatma Gandhi asked the British to leave India,” Rahul Mahajan told reporters here today.

“The dharna is to register our protest against those demanding a pardon for Afzal. I feel he should be hanged for attacking Parliament,” he said. Party sources said Mahajan would be the party’s face in future agitations to be undertaken by the BJYM.

The Sangh Parivar had shelved its original plans to induct Mahajan as BJYM’s vice-president after he was found high on drugs along with his father’s personal secretary Vivek Maitra. While Mahajan survived, Maitra died in hospital.

Though conservatives in the BJP and the RSS are opposed to Rahul Mahajan, senior leader and uncle Gopinath Munde along with several party leaders who were groomed by Pramod Mahajan are pushing for a major political role for Rahul.

Incidentally the Grant Road/Azad Maidan area, where Rahul is to hold his dharna, is a BJP stronghold.

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Panel to discuss OBC quota Bill today
Issue may lead to row with judiciary
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
When the HRD Parliamentary Standing Committee meets here tomorrow to discuss the OBC quota Bill for the first time, the tenor of the deliberations will indicate whether this issue will snowball into a confrontation between the legislative and the judiciary.

Although nobody in the government has said so publicly, the Supreme Court’s initial directive yesterday asking for the parliamentary standing committee’s report on the quota Bill has resulted in considerable disquiet among parliamentarians who described the judiciary’s move as unprecedented.

A standing committee, they all aver, is a creature of the legislature and is duty-bound to submit its report to Parliament first.

The standing committee’s meeting tomorrow, it is learnt, is unlikely to have any substantive deliberations on the Bill but will first discuss the modalities for proceeding further on this issue.

The next hearing in the Supreme Court for this case has been fixed for December 4.

If the standing committee is unable to complete its work by then and instead seeks more time for the submission of its report, it could be taken as a snub to the judiciary.

The panel, headed by Congress Rajya Sabha MP Janardan Dwivedi, is of the view that it is no way involved with the proceedings of the Supreme Court and that the pending petition, challenging the quota Bill, was a matter between the government and the apex court.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, however, has already indicated the government’s intention when he categorically stated yesterday that the standing committee report would be first submitted to Parliament.

UPA sources said the parliamentary panel was in touch with the Law Ministry to understand how it should proceed on this highly sensitive issue. The UPA government, however, is in a dilemma on how it should deal with a highly pro-active judiciary.

The apex court’s directive on the sealing of unauthorised shops and encroachments has put the Congress-led Delhi Government in a quandary.

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4-laning to start by 2007-end
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
Officials of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) , dealing with the four-laning of the Parwanoo-Solan stretch of the National Highway-No 22, are meeting design consultants of the section tomorrow to discuss and finalise the detailed project report (DPR) of the project.

The Parwanoo-Solan section, to be constructed on the built-operate-transfer (BOT) basis, is likely to cost around Rs 500 crore, though the sanction package for this stretch has not yet been worked out. The DPR of the project, however, has now reached the final stages of discussion and once details for this section of the NH-22, linking some of the most congested areas in the hill state, are finalised, bids for the project will be floated.

Officials say that the project will be open for bidding by March next year, and the construction work on the four-laning of this section of the busy NH-22, which will connect Shimla, is likely to begin by December 2007.

Considering that this particular section of the highway is highly populated and heavily industrialised, there have been problems while designing the project. Moreover, innumerable restaurants and dhabas dotting the way also make the task of working out a suitable alignment difficult.

The NHAI has already requested the Himachal Pradesh Government to chip in so that land acquisition processes can be expedited.

The NHAI asked the state government to expedite the land acquisition process from Tipra to Parwanoo and Parwanoo and Shimla, besides quick forest clearances in reserved and protected areas, NOC from the state Pollution Control Board and shifting of utilities by departments concerned.

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Airport regulator proposal with GoM
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
The Union Cabinet yesterday referred a proposal on creating an airport economic regulatory authority to a Group of Ministers (GoM).

The Cabinet at its meeting took the decision to refer the matter to the Group of Ministers.

“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted the matter to be referred to the GoM comprising Finance, Defence and Civil Aviation Ministries, which will evolve a clear policy to remove overlapping of jurisdiction,” Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told reporters here after the Cabinet meeting.

Among other issues, the Group of Ministers will look into aeronautical charges, ways and demarcation of defence field and civilian enclave, he said.

The grouping, however, will not be a group of ministers (GoM) in a classic sense, Mr Patel said.

Recently, Civil Aviation Secretary Ajay Prasad had said that a bill to set up the airport economic regulatory authority (AERA) would be introduced during the winter session of Parliament. 

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Move to prevent online crime
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
In an effort to curb the growing menace of computer-facilitated crimes against children, Microsoft India, in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), had brought in its global experts to train Indian law enforcement agencies on technology to investigate online crimes committed against children.

An advanced workshop on cyber crimes and computer-facilitated crimes against children was conducted for four days at the CBI Training Academy in Ghaziabad, near here.

With the increasing usage of Internet, the potential for its abuse had also increased.

It was increasingly important for computer users, policy makers and others to understand the risks that children could encounter online and the challenges law enforcement authorities faced in countries worldwide on the issue.

About 350 crimes had been reported under the Information Technology Act, 2002, and the Indian Penal Code in India in 2004.

However, it was just the tip of the iceberg as most victims, including corporates, mostly shied away from reporting such crimes or taking the help of private investigators, especially where the crimes were directed against children.

During the course of their training, Microsoft experts showcased the use of investigative techniques and tools to counter online crimes against children.

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Envoy to Nepal meets Manmohan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
India’s Ambassador to Nepal Shiv Shanker Mukherjee today apprised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the latest developments in the Himalayan country in the context of failure of the government and the Maoists to reach an understanding on arms management.

Mr Mukherjee also briefed Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan about the developments there, official sources said.

The envoy had briefed Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon on the situation yesterday.

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Insurance for NREGA workers on anvil
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
The government is working on a plan to bring under an insurance cover members of self-help groups (SHGs) and people who have taken employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh today indicated that the proposed insurance cover would provide security to nearly, four crore people, including 2.5 crore members of the SHGs. He said while the exact modalities were being worked out, the proposed insurance could cover risks of death, accident and medical treatment. The insurance is likely to have contribution from the government and the beneficiary.

Breifing about the delibrations of the two-day national conference of project directors of District Rural Development Agencies, Mr Singh said his ministry had sought nearly 2.25 lakh crore for rural development under the 11th plan.

He said the ministry had identified 4200 bank branches in the country whose rural credit lending was less than the stipulated minimum target. Debunking claims that loans given in rural areas were difficult to recover, he said the recovery rate from SHGs was over 95 per cent. “It is a big industry which has an outstanding dues of Rs 1.5 lakh crore to the banks,” he said.

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BJP dares govt on George case
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 17
The BJP today dared the UPA government to produce evidence against former Defence Minister George Fernandes, against whom the CBI had filed an FIR in the Barak missile deal.

“We dare the government to produce a shred of evidence against them,” BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said.

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