SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Education cess may go
New Delhi, November 29
Encouraged by the buoyancy in indirect and direct tax collections, the government is likely to abolish the education cess in the coming budget, at least for the individual taxpayers.

Manmohan for robust disaster management
New Delhi, November 29
Calling for a paradigm shift in disaster management from a “relief-centric” and “post-event” response, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today promised a robust disaster management.
Video (56k)

Bharti deposes in court
New Delhi, November 29
After remaining elusive for around two years, Bharti Yadav, a key prosecution witness and sister of the prime accused in the Nitish Katara murder case, today appeared in a Delhi court and made deposition in-camera.

Neelam Katara with her son coming out from Patiala House Court during the hearing of Nitesh Katara murder case in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Rajeev Tyagi
Neelam Katara with her son coming out from Patiala House Court during the hearing of Nitesh Katara murder case in New Delhi on Wednesday






EARLIER STORIES




VEILED PROTEST

Forests dwellers attend a protest in New Delhi
Forests dwellers attend a protest in New Delhi on Wednesday. Thousands of the poorest and most marginalised people living in forests gathered in the heart of New Delhi demanding rights over the land they have lived on for centuries. — Reuters

PM, Rajapakse hold talks
New Delhi, November 29
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today did some intricate negotiations with the visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse. Both sides maintained secrecy about the talks.

Dalit youth beaten to death
Nasik/Kanpur, November 29
A Dalit youth was beaten to death today as violence and arson marred the protests that erupted in parts of Maharashtra and Kanpur against alleged vandalisation of a statue of B.R. Ambedkar in the industrial town of Uttar Pradesh.

Unicef poster girl to get free education
Patna, November 29
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar finally came to the rescue of the eight-year-old Unicef poster girl Chunchun Kumari. She hit the headlines recently after the media had exposed her plight as a child labour at a dhaba in Patna near the JD(U) office even after being used as a mascot by the UNICEF.

Mullaperiyar dam remains a bone of contention
Dialogue process to continue
New Delhi, November 29
As expected, the Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu failed to arrive at a solution to the Mullaperiyar dam problem. But the intervention and advice of the Centre and the Supreme Court helped achieve some progress, with the two sides agreeing to continue the dialogue to find an amicable settlement to the vexed issue.
In video (56k)

Left, TMC workers clash as Singhur flares up
Kolkata, November 29
The Left parties and the oppositions, mainly, the Trinamool Congress and the Congress today came out in the open against each other over the issue of land transfer at Singhur to Tata Motors.

Baba Ramdev invites Gandhians’ wrath
Jabalpur/Indore, November 29
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has courted the wrath of followers of Mahatma Gandhi for his comment that Gandhi’s non-violence alone did not achieve freedom for the country.

Child sacrifice: Death for 4
Ghaziabad, November 29
A woman and her three sons have been sentenced to death by a court in Bulandshahr for sacrificing a child early this year.

Oppn wants tougher anti-terror laws
New Delhi, November 29
The Opposition yesterday reiterated in the Rajya Sabha its demand for the revival of tough anti-terror laws to check terrorism and accused the government of being soft on terrorists.

Child’s labour lost
New Delhi, November 29
When young Nishant Nihar sent an email to Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee with the plea that all political parties sink their differences to take up the cause of children, he had obviously not reckoned with the world of realpolitik.

No end to Sanjay’s worries yet
New Delhi, November 29
Even though actor Sanjay Dutt has got substantial relief after being cleared of conspiracy and TADA charges, it might not be smooth sailing for him when the special court would pronounce the sentence considering the seriousness of the Arms Act charges under which he was found guilty.

Royal scion to build temple to erase curse
Bangalore, November 29
A curse woven into popular history has come into focus again with the scion of the erstwhile Mysore royal house initiating steps to build a temple in honour of the woman who is said to have cursed his family.

21 top military officers facing graft charges
New Delhi, November 29
Instances of corruption are on the rise in the armed forces with statistics revealing that as many as 21 top-level officers, including two Lieutenant-Generals, have been chargesheeted over the past two years.

Maj-Gen Sujlana new Colonel of Sikh Regiment
New Delhi, November 29
Maj-Gen R.S. Sujlana took over as the Colonel of the Sikh Regiment from Lieut-Gen Devraj Singh, DG Infantry, who retires from service tomorrow.

Hawala probe was manipulated: CBI ex-official
New Delhi, November 29
In a book that is likely to create some political storm, a former CBI official B.R. Lall has claimed that the much-hyped Jain hawala case was manipulated to save several top Congress politicians and some persons who are still close to the ruling party’s senior-most tiers.

Non-BJP MPs visit Gujarat today
New Delhi, November 29
All secular parties have joined hands to launch a combined offensive against the Narendra Modi government in the run-up to next year’s Assembly elections in Gujarat.

Kumaraswamy pulled up for code breach
New Delhi, November 29
Observing that Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy had violated the code of conduct by making some poll-eve announcements in the Chamundeshwari Assembly constituency, the Election Commission reprimanded him and asked him to be “extra careful”.

ASI to preserve Dr Prasad’s house
Patna, November 29
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to preserve the ancestral house of the first President of independent India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, as a nationally protected monument (NPM).

Centre backs uniform stamp duty on real estate
New Delhi, November 29
Favouring rationalisation and uniform rates of stamp duty on real estate to check black money and undervaluation of property transactions, the Centre has decided to raise this issue at the next meeting of the standing committee of state secretaries of stamps and registration, likely to be held soon.

3-pronged initiative to save tiger
New Delhi, November 29
In its first-ever meeting held today, the recently constituted National Tiger Conservation Authority proposed three initiatives for tiger reserve states, including the formation of state-level steering committee, preparation of tiger conservation plan and establishment of tiger conservation foundation.

US N-vendors are here
Mumbai, November 29
More than 250 delegates from several prominent American defence technology companies are presently in Mumbai to sell nuclear power and defence-related technology in the country. In all there are representatives from 25 nuclear technology related companies alone.

Videos

Mythological films picking up in Bollywood.
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Artist Biswajit Dash at his creative best. 
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India says Pak-based terrorists behind Mumbai train blasts.
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Education cess may go
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
Encouraged by the buoyancy in indirect and direct tax collections, the government is likely to abolish the education cess in the coming budget, at least for the individual taxpayers.

“The Finance Ministry has got inputs from various tax experts to do away with the education cess in the coming budget and keep aside education funds from the budget itself,” sources in the ministry told The Tribune.

Tax experts have pointed out that apart from significant increase in indirect taxes, direct tax collections, including income tax, corporate tax, fringe benefit tax, bank cash transaction tax and securities transaction tax, have touched Rs 1 lakh crore, and is expected to cross Rs 2.3 lakh crore by March 31, 2007.

At present, the government has imposed 2 per cent education cess on all central taxes to partly finance the Sarv Siksha Abhiyan.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has indicted that he is ready to revise the tax rates provided improvement in tax compliance is visible.

HRD Minister Arjun Singh has, however, written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to increase the ambit of the education cess on central taxes to meet the national common minimum programme’s target of allocating 6 per cent of the GDP to the education sector.

Meanwhile, industrial chambers have submitted to the Finance Ministry that the government should do away with the education cess as part of its commitment to simplify the tax structure.

“We urge the government to abolish the education cess in the coming budget in view of the high growth in tax collections and to provide a marginal relief to the public and industry,” said Mr D.S. Rawat, Secretary-General, Assocham.

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Manmohan for robust disaster management
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
Calling for a paradigm shift in disaster management from a “relief-centric” and “post-event” response, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today promised a robust disaster management.

“I do believe that the time has come for a paradigm shift in disaster management from a relief-centric and post-event response to a regime that lays greater emphasis on preparedness, prevention and mitigation,” he said while inaugurating the first India Disaster Management Congress.

Asserting that the UPA government had the political will, he said: “I commit our government to developing a robust disaster management system, working in close collaboration with the corporate sector, community-based organisations and the scientific and academic community.”

The Prime Minister said emphasis should be on improving early warning systems, ensuring the reach and efficacy of dissemination, creating awareness and building capacities at all levels of administration.

Dr Singh also emphasised that disaster management administration should be humane, apart from being efficient.

“Accountability, people’s participation, predictability and transparency will, therefore, have to be key features of such a policy,” he added.

The Prime Minister also asserted that since disaster management administration was an integral part of overall administration, there could not be improvement in quality of disaster management in isolation.

“An improvement in disaster management has to be an integral part of the improvement in governance at all levels, especially in district administration. What we need are better support structures, which can make our responses to disasters more efficient, more rapid and more effective,” Dr Singh said.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi suggested more attention should be paid to environment and expressed concern over damage to coastlines and ignoring soil and seismic conditions before taking up construction.

She said to ensure a credible system of reaching out to the people, a good communication system was crucial.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil said eight battalions of the National Disaster Response Force had been set up with state-of-the-art equipment, training and mobility facilities. A tsunami early warning system would be commissioned in September next year, he said.

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Bharti deposes in court
Our Correspondent

New Delhi, November 29
After remaining elusive for around two years, Bharti Yadav, a key prosecution witness and sister of the prime accused in the Nitish Katara murder case, today appeared in a Delhi court and made deposition in-camera.

Clad in a blue jeans and grey pullover and wrapping most of her face with a shawl, Bharti, who is said to be studying in London, arrived in the court much before the scheduled time of the hearing to avoid the prying eyes of the media.

Besides lawyers from both sides, D.P. Yadav, father of Bharti and controversial politician, and Neelam Katara, mother of the victim, were present during her testimony, which would continue tomorrow.

As the proceedings were held in-camera in the court of Additional Sessions Judge Ravinder Kaur, the media was kept out.

Lawyers from both sides, including the Special Public Prosecutor, and Neelam Katara declined to talk to the media about the proceedings.

The recording of her testimony remained inconclusive even after more than three hours of deposition and would continue tomorrow, a court official said.

Coming out after the deposition, Bharti's counsel S.C. Bhuttan said he could not speak anything about the proceedings. He, however, confirmed that the hearing had been adjourned for tomorrow.

“I am totally deaf, dumb and silent in the court. I cannot speak because it is an in-camera trial,” he remarked.

Neelam also did not say anything.

Some drama was witnessed before Bharti started her deposition as the victim’s brother Nitin, who on Monday had recorded his statement as a witness, was ordered by the judge to leave the courtroom following an objection by Bhuttan.

Tight security was arranged around the courtroom with scores of policemen keeping an eye on every visitor. A number of metal detectors were also put in place at different entry points.

Neelam Katara was examined the day before yesterday against another accused Sukhdev as her testimony in relation to Vikas and his cousin Vishal Yadav was completed.

Statements of Nitin and Neelam Katara were recorded by the court the day before yesterday as per its November 23 order.

Earlier, the court had on November 20 directed in-camera recording of Bharti's testimony and prohibited the entry of the media while allowing Neelam Katara and some others to be present.

Nitish Katara, whose alleged intimacy with Bharti was not liked by Vikas and Vishal, was allegedly kidnapped and murdered on the intervening night of February 16 and 17 in 2002 after a marriage party in Ghaziabad.

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PM, Rajapakse hold talks
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today did some intricate negotiations with the visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse. Both sides maintained secrecy about the talks.

It is understood that during the hour-long restricted formal talks, which continued over lunch, the Prime Minister did some plain talk and is understood to have conveyed New Delhi’s position on several key issues.

Topping the agenda of the Prime Minister was the severe humanitarian crisis that was gripping northern Sri Lanka and was leading to an increasing exodus of Tamils to India.

Dr Manmohan Singh made a strong pitch for the need to re-open the strategic Alpha 9 highway between Colombo and Jaffna. The Sri Lankan Government closed it earlier this month as its assessment was that the Tamil Tigers were using it for fuelling their war machine. The highway closure has triggered off acute shortage of food and essential items for residents of LTTE-controlled areas.

On his part, Mr Rajapakse reiterated his country’s stand that India should play a more pro-active role and persuade the LTTE to return to the negotiating table.

The LTTE supremo, Velupillai Prabhakaran, had made a categoric statement yesterday that the Tigers saw no point in any further talks and they had no option but to resume their armed struggle.

Dr Manmohan Singh expectedly did not stray from the official line - that India would not let itself be sucked into the cesspool of Sri Lankan politics yet again. New Delhi says the 2002 ceasefire agreement is the foundation on which both Sri Lanka and the Tigers could find mutual understanding and build sustainable peace. India has been pressing both sides to honour the ceasefire agreement and return to negotiations.

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Dalit youth beaten to death

Nasik/Kanpur, November 29
A Dalit youth was beaten to death today as violence and arson marred the protests that erupted in parts of Maharashtra and Kanpur against alleged vandalisation of a statue of B.R. Ambedkar in the industrial town of Uttar Pradesh.

Rangnath Shankar Dhale, a 23-year-old resident of hutments at Muktidham in Nasik city, was beaten to death by a mob which found him allegedly pelting stones at vehicles passing by at Nasik Road during a protest against vandalisation of Ambedkar statue in Kanpur.

Activists of Dalit groups and various factions of the Republican Party of India took to the streets in Pune, Nasik and Mumbai resenting the statue desecration during which one bus was set on fire and over 25 vehicles, including five Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation buses, were damaged in stone-pelting, the police said.

The protesters burnt tyres at several places, obstructing vehicular traffic. In the textile town of Malegaon, unidentified persons pelted stones at three temples, the police said.

Additional police forces were deployed in Nasik where the situation was described by the police as tense.

Due to stone pelting shopkeepers downed their shutters on the busy Subhash Road, Jail Road, Dutta Mandir Road of Nasik and around the railway station. — PTI

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Unicef poster girl to get free education
Tribune News Service

Patna, November 29
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar finally came to the rescue of the eight-year-old Unicef poster girl Chunchun Kumari.
She hit the headlines recently after the media had exposed her plight as a child labour at a dhaba in Patna near the JD(U) office even after being used as a mascot by the UNICEF.

The Tribune reported the lapse on part of the Unicef for not addressing the plight of its mascot, who herself was a child labourer.

Following the controversy a week back, Mr Nitish Kumar had directed the state Welfare Department to rehabilitate Chunchun and also ordered an inquiry into the entire episode. Now the department has decided to enrol her free of cost at Balika Vidayalaya in the city. This is one of the few residential schools in the state run by the welfare department for SCs, STs and OBCs students.

The state welfare department secretary Vijay Prakash said Chunchun would be given free education,clothes,besides food and lodging as part of the rehabilitation package.

An estimated over 2 lakh children below 14 years of age from Bihar alone were reportedly working either as domestic servants or at dhabas before the law banning employing child labour by the centre came into force on October 10.

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Mullaperiyar dam remains a bone of contention
Dialogue process to continue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
As expected, the Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tamil Nadu failed to arrive at a solution to the Mullaperiyar dam problem. But the intervention and advice of the Centre and the Supreme Court helped achieve some progress, with the two sides agreeing to continue the dialogue to find an amicable settlement to the vexed issue.

Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and his Tamil Nadu counterpart M. Karunanidhi, met in the Capital today. The meeting was arranged by Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz.

Closeted with Mr Soz for about 90 minutes, they agreed that Irrigation Ministers and Chief Engineers of the two states would meet once again in the presence of Mr Soz later this week or early next week.

What made the differnce perhaps this time was the Supreme Court’s advise to the two governments not to play with hopes and emotions of people on the contentious issue.

Today’s talks, held for the first time after the crisis reappeared, were held in a “very dignified and cordial atmosphere”, Mr Soz said, adding that “Irrigation Ministers of the states will meet to continue the dialogue and submit a report to their Chief Ministers”.

Kerala and Tamil Nadu expressed satisfaction over the progress. Mr Achutha-nandan told mediapersons that the meeting was “friendly”, hoping that the two sides would be able to carry forward the discussion on a positive note.

Tamil Nadu PWD Minister Durai Muragan confirmed that the talks were cordial and the ministers of both states would meet to narrow down differences.

Kerala’s contention is that raising the storage level above 136 ft will endanger the safety of 3.5 million people living downstream in five districts of the state. Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, wants the water level to be increased to 142 ft as per the Supreme Court’s order.

In today’s meeting the major point of difference also remained the question related to the safety of the dam. The Kerala Chief Minister suggested the construction of new, technically sound dam near the existing one, keeping in mind safety concerns and availability of water for Tamil Nadu, as an alternative solution.

But Tamil Nadu shot down the proposal of the new dam, saying that the existing dam was quite safe and that there was no doubt about its safety. Mr Karunanidhi said Tamil Nadu had completed all major strengthening works. He stressed that raising the height of the dam was necessary to irrigate 2 lakh acres of drought-prone districts.

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Left, TMC workers clash as Singhur flares up
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, November 29
The Left parties and the oppositions, mainly, the Trinamool Congress and the Congress today came out in the open against each other over the issue of land transfer at Singhur to Tata Motors.

The Left Front today organised a massive counter rally at Singhur where CPM secretary Biman Bose claimed that the decision of allowing Tata Motors to set up a factory at Singhur was unanimous, since it would be in the larger interests of the people, particularly poor farmers.

Two groups of supporters of the CPM and the TMC were involved in a clash near the venue of the meeting where Mr Bose was addressing. The TMC-sponsored “Krishi Bacchao Committee” was holding a demonstration which was allegedly attacked by the CPM supporters.

The reporters and photographers present there were also made the target. The police soon intervened and resorted to lathicharge. Several persons, including CPM supporter Shyamal Adhikery, were injured in the police action.

In the state Assembly, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee also reiterated that Tata Motors car factory would be built at Singhur, whatever be the resistance by the opposition.

TMC leader Mamata Banerjee at a protest rally in the Esplanade area warned the Chief Minister and the CPM of dire consequences against any eviction of the poor farmers at Singhur. She declared that now the protest would also target Ratan Tata.

Over 5000 TMC workers and supporters, including Ms Banerjee, courted
arrest while leading a protest march towards the Assembly. They all were, however, released later.

Tomorrow, the TMC will organise another protest rally at Singhur.

Meanwhile, TMC and Congress workers organised separate protests at several places in the city today against the attack on the wife of union Information Minister Priya DasMunshi yesterday.

The Chief Minister said he had already ordered an inquiry into the incident and assured an impartial probe.

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Baba Ramdev invites Gandhians’ wrath

Jabalpur/Indore, November 29
Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has courted the wrath of followers of Mahatma Gandhi for his comment that Gandhi’s non-violence alone did not achieve freedom for the country.

Ramdev, hugely popular for propagating the healing of diseases through yoga, said the country should not ignore the contributions of revolutionaries in its fight against British colonial rule.

He said this in Jabalpur, where he is imparting yoga training to Army personnel.

“See! I am a follower of penance, sacrifice, non-violence and truth. But, I am also a follower of revolutionaries. I live a simple life. I don’t do what everyone else does. But I believe that the freedom of our country is because of the sacrifice of martyrs,” Baba Ramdev said.

“If somebody says that the country achieved independence without arms, without bloodshed, I believe that is an insult to the country's martyrs,” he added.

Gandhi’s followers, mainly activists of the Congress, were quick to retort.

They charged Ramdev with insulting the Father of the Nation.

Youth workers of the Congress burnt posters of Ramdev and shouted slogans against him.

Angry protesters urged the Baba to concentrate on yoga only. “We believe what he (Ramdev) said is not correct. He should just concentrate on yoga only,” said Devendre Singh Yadav, a leader of the Youth Congress in Indore. — ANI

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Child sacrifice: Death for 4

Ghaziabad, November 29
A woman and her three sons have been sentenced to death by a court in Bulandshahr for sacrificing a child early this year.

Bulandshahr Additional District and Sessions Judge Shankar Lal yesterday convicted them of hacking to death an eight-year-old boy on the advice of a tantrik on February 14.

The court awarded the death penalty and slapped a fine of Rs 2,200 on each of them. The judge gave them 30 days to file an appeal in the high court against the verdict.

Acting on the suggestion of the tantrik, Subhadra and her sons sacrificed Akash to get rich. His body was found in Badha village in February and the woman and her sons were arrested.

They confessed to the crime during the course of the trial. The tantrik is still absconding. — PTI

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Oppn wants tougher anti-terror laws
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
The Opposition yesterday reiterated in the Rajya Sabha its demand for the revival of tough anti-terror laws to check terrorism and accused the government of being soft on terrorists.

BJP member Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi wanted to know how Al-Qaida elements had surfaced in India. He suggested the revival of tough anti-terror laws like POTA.

“Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, sitting in the factory of terrorism, is demanding that India should give evidence of his country's involvement of terror in this country and our government says that it has no clinching evidence. This shows that the government has bowed to their demands which is not in the interest of the country.”

He said the government had replaced “POTA with quota” on the basis of religion and this would encourage separatism and terrorism in the country.

AIADMK member N. Jothi said the internal security scenario was alarming. He asked the government to strike at terrorist training camps in Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Congress member Rashid Alvi said the security situation in Kashmir and the North- East had improved. On the Naxal movement, he said since 70 per cent of such incidents were happening in BJP-ruled states, they should first set their own house in order.

CPM member Moinul Hassan said nearly 156 districts in 13 states were affected by Left-wing terrorism. He said Left-wing terrorists and Maoists had sophisticated arms and it was necessary to provide better facilities to the police.

National Conference member Farooq Abdullah said: “I have no doubt that there is a definite decline in militancy but the militants you have today are far more trained.”

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Child’s labour lost
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
When young Nishant Nihar sent an email to Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee with the plea that all political parties sink their differences to take up the cause of children, he had obviously not reckoned with the world of realpolitik.

His appeal, however, fell on deaf ears as the Opposition first made sympathetic noises but was quick to disrupt proceedings once the session got underway.

Mr Chatterjee had distributed copies of Nihar’s email to the leaders of all political parties at the morning meeting in the hope that it would get a positive response.

Referring to the Speaker as “Nanajee”, Nihar’s message wondered why the whole House could not put aside various differences and pass a resolution for the future of 1.26 crore poor child workers.

“Why cannot Parliament show us — the future citizens of India — how to stand united on national and social problems? Why cannot our leaders teach us values and responsibility of leadership to care for the weakest of the weak? After all, what you do today will set the guidelines for us to repeat it tomorrow. I appeal to you to set an example for us,” the message read.

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No end to Sanjay’s worries yet
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 29
Even though actor Sanjay Dutt has got substantial relief after being cleared of conspiracy and TADA charges, it might not be smooth sailing for him when the special court would pronounce the sentence considering the seriousness of the Arms Act charges under which he was found guilty.

The special TADA Judge has convicted him under Section 3 for acquisition and possession of arms and Section 7 that deals with possession of prohibited arms. The conviction for these offences had been given under Section 25-1A and 25-1B that spelt out the punishment pattern applicable for the offence committed.

The plain reading of these sections together makes it clear that if a person had possessed or acquired arms declared as prohibited by the government under Section 7, the minimum punishment for him shall be five years and maximum 10 years.

The prohibited arms that fall in the definition of Section 7 would mean firearms so designed or adapted that, if pressure is applied to the trigger, missiles or bullets continue to be discharged until pressure is removed from the trigger or the magazine containing the missiles or bullet is empty and various other categories of weapons.

Since he was accused of possessing an AK-56 rifle, it fell in the category as defined as “prohibited” under the Act and the plain reading of Section 25-1A says that the punishment shall not be less than five years. In the face of the clear provision of law it might not be an easy proposition for him when the sentence is pronounced.

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Royal scion to build temple to erase curse
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, November 29
A curse woven into popular history has come into focus again with the scion of the erstwhile Mysore royal house initiating steps to build a temple in honour of the woman who is said to have cursed his family.

Srikantadatta Narsamiharaja Wadiyar and his wife Pramoda Devi visited Talakad in Mysore district Monday to offer prayers at the site of the whirlpool where the wife of a former Viceroy of Vijaynagar - Alamelamma is said to have jumped into the Cauvery rather than be captured by the soldiers of the Mysore king about 400 years back.

Alamelamma is said to have fled to Talakad with the jewels of Sri Ranganayaki, the consort of Sri Ranganatha, the presiding deity of the temple at Srirangapatna after Raja Wodeyar overtook the Srirangapatna fort in 1617. She first refused to part with the jewels when Raja Wodeyar's soldiers demanded them but later returned a nose ring of the consort and when pressurized further jumped into the Cauvery and escaped unscathed.

She is said to have cursed the Mysore house before jumping into the river.

According to history, none of the direct descendents to the Mysore throne have borne heirs and only those who are adopted as heirs beget heirs. The present scion - Srikantadatta Wadiyar, whose father ascended the throne on account of being the nephew of the then king, is also issueless.

Srikantadatta has, however, for the first time given credence to popular history by speaking about the curse which he says has had an effect on his family. Talking to TNS, Srikantadatta said the curse had an impact on the history of the Mysore state and that it was only in the late 1600s that it was modified by Alamelamma who appeared in the dreams of Raja Wodeyar and said though he would not have direct descendents, he would have indirect ones.

The scion of the Mysore house says the curse is slowly wearing off as he claims most curses have an effect for seven generations only. Wadiyar himself prays before the idol of Alamelamma at the Mysore palace everyday. A separate place has been set aside for the idol as well as the hair of Alamelamma which are said to have come off when the soldiers were in hot pursuit.

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21 top military officers facing graft charges

New Delhi, November 29
Instances of corruption are on the rise in the armed forces with statistics revealing that as many as 21 top-level officers, including two Lieutenant-Generals, have been chargesheeted over the past two years.

Offences range from irregularities in procurement of dry rations and frozen meat contracts, liquor bootlegging to financial misappropriation.

The dishonour roll list includes four Major-Generals, a DIG rank officer of the Coast Guard, nine Brigadiers, one Naval Commodore, an IAF Group Captain and a naval Commander and a Lieutenant Commander.

According to a list placed before Parliament in response to a written question, Lieut-Gen (now retired) S.K. Sahni has been indicted by a court of inquiry for irregularities in procurement of dry rations.

Along with Sahni, others indicted include Major-General B.P.S. Mander, Brig S.K. Handa, Brig P.S. Gill and six junior officers.

Western Army Commander has directed disciplinary action against Sahni, Brig Handa, Brig Gill and three others and administrative action against Maj-Gen Mander and three other officers.

However, Sahni has moved the court against the sentence that has restrained the government from taking any action against the officer till disposal of his writ petition.

Lt-Gen S.K. Dahiya was found guilty by a court of inquiry of irregularities in contract for supply of frozen meat to troops stationed in Ladakh. Brig DVS Bishnoi and three other officers were also indicted for various acts of commission and omission in the same contract.

Northern Army Commander, under whose jurisdiction the court of inquiry was held, has issued directions for action against these officers. However, action has been restrained as one of the officers has filed a writ petition in a Delhi court against the decision.

The bootlegging dishonour comprises Maj-Gen G.I. Singh Multani, Brig D.S. Grewal, Brig G. Illangovan, Brig Rajeev Devikar, Brig R.S. Rana, the entire top rung of a mountain division as well as seven other officers.

These officers, Defence Minister A.K. Antony informed the Rajya Sabha, had been found guilty of acts of commission and omission in sale of liquor and financial irregularities.

The court of inquiry had orderded disciplinary action against the GOC of the Division and adminstrative action against 10 others.

Maj-Gen K.T.G. Nambiar has been indicted by a court of inquiry, for financial and various other irregularities, which directed disciplinary action against him.

Maj-Gen Rana Goswami, who was also asked to appear before the court of inquiry in the same case, has been punished with administrative action.

Brig S.S. Rao, whose battalion commander was indicted for fake encounters, was hauled up by a court of inquiry for abetting the fake encounters and disciplinary action ordered against him.

Brig Iqbal Singh, who was one of the officers to be charged in Tehelka expose, has been cashiered from service and sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for two years.

Commander C.S. Singh was found guilty of making false challans, sacked from naval service and sentenced to prison term.

Another senior naval officer Commodore NMM Pandit, indicted for falsifying official records and making fraudulent statements, has been cashiered from service and awarded prison sentence.

Two other Naval officers Commander — A.G. Gandhi and Lt Commander M.P. Verma — were found guilty of possessing assets disproportionate to their income as well as cruelty and sacked from service.

Two other senior officer hauled up on corruption charges are IAF officer Group Captain Shamsher Singh and DIG S.K. Dey of Coast Guard. — PTI

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Maj-Gen Sujlana new Colonel of Sikh Regiment
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
Maj-Gen R.S. Sujlana took over as the Colonel of the Sikh Regiment from Lieut-Gen Devraj Singh, DG Infantry, who retires from service tomorrow.

Born in 1951 at Ambala, General R.S. Sujlana did his schooling from Punjab Public School, Nabha. An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla, he has done Master’s in defence studies from Madras University.

He is a third-generation Army Officer. Continuing a family tradition, the officer commanded the same Infantry Battalion as his father.

He was commissioned in 9th Battalion of the Sikh Regiment in June, 1971, and, as a young officer took active part in the 1971 War. He has had five tenures in active counter-insurgency operations both in Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East.

He has also done prestigious Army courses at the Infantry School, Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, Army War College, Mhow and National Defence College, New Delhi. He was decorated with the Vishishth Seva Medal on Republic Day in 2002 for his role during Operation Prakram.

He has commanded 3rd Battalion of the Sikh Regiment, a mountain brigade in Assam (Operation Rhino) and an infantry division in desert. He has also been an instructor at the prestigious Indian Military Academy and held various important staff appointments like Brigade Major of an infantry brigade, Colonel-General Staff CIF (J&K), Deputy Director-General (Public Information) and is presently serving as the Additional Director-General of Public Information at the Army headquarters.

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Hawala probe was manipulated: CBI ex-official
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
In a book that is likely to create some political storm, a former CBI official B.R. Lall has claimed that the much-hyped Jain hawala case was manipulated to save several top Congress politicians and some persons who are still close to the ruling party’s senior-most tiers.

In his book, “Who Owns CBI - The Naked Truth”, Mr Lall, a former Joint Director of the CBI, who headed the investigation into the Jain Hawala case, has alleged that he was shunted out of the agency for strongly protesting against “shady going-ons” in the case.

The book is scheduled to be released by former Chief Election Commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh tomorrow.

The then CBI Director K. Vijaya Rama Rao deliberately put up roadblocks when the probe reached the doorsteps of highest levels in the government, Mr Lall, who retired as the Haryana Police chief in 2004, has claimed in the 338-page book. Mr Vijay Rama Rao wanted to close the investigations by filing bogus charge sheets against some bureaucrats and subsequently included the names of certain politicians in the list, but he refused to oblige, he added.

“Later the Director asked for charge-sheeting certain politicians from both the ruling and the Opposition, including L.K. Advani, but the author resisted any blanket charge sheet without requisite evidence and instead advocated complete investigation, including searches for looking into the assets of all, including the heavyweights like Union ministers (serving and the former), leaders from other than the ruling parties…,” Mr Lall claims in the book, published by Manas Publications.

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Non-BJP MPs visit Gujarat today
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
All secular parties have joined hands to launch a combined offensive against the Narendra Modi government in the run-up to next year’s Assembly elections in Gujarat.

As a first step, a team of non-BJP parliamentarians will visit Gujarat tomorrow to assess how the state government has fared in providing relief and rehabilitation to those affected by the 2002 riots.

The nine-member team, which includes Madhusudan Mistry and Rashid Alvi from the Congress, Mohammad Salim and Basudev Acharia from the CPM, Ramji Lal Suman from the Samajwadi Party and Alok Mehta from the RJD, will spend a day in Ahemdabad and its adjoining areas to see what concrete measures have been taken to help the riot-hit Muslim families so far.

“There have been several complaints from civil society groups and victims that the state government has not provided the requisite infrastructure like roads, schools and drinking water which has held up the proper rehabilitation of riot victims,” Mr Mistry explained.

CPM leader Mohammad Salim said there were reports that the riot affected continued to live in refugee camps while the Central funds for their rehabilitation had not been used.

Of the Rs 155 crore given by the Centre for relief and rehabilitation measures, the state government had returned Rs 19 crore on the plea that these were not required. Moreover, he said, they wanted to reassure the victims that they had not been forgotten.

Both Mr Mistry and Mr Salim insisted that their team was not going at the behest of the government or Parliament, adding that they would not be submitting any formal report on their visit. “We will inform the nation about the conditions of the riot affected through Parliament,” they maintained.

It is, however, no coincidence that this visit comes shortly after the Centre asked the Narendra Modi government for a report on the measures it has taken to provide relief and rehabilitation for those hit by the riots.

The Centre’s move followed a damaging report submitted by the National Commission for Minorities which gave details of the pathetic condition of over 5,500 riot-affected Muslim families.

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Kumaraswamy pulled up for code breach
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
Observing that Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy had violated the code of conduct by making some poll-eve announcements in the Chamundeshwari Assembly constituency, the Election Commission reprimanded him and asked him to be “extra careful”.

The commission had earlier slapped a notice on the Chief Minister to explain whether he had announced a new scheme to provide loans amounting to Rs 5,000 to SC/ST members.

Mr Kumaraswamy said he did not announce a new scheme and only mentioned the Swayam Udyog Yojana which was an ongoing scheme.

The EC said he could not produce any document which proved that the scheme was an old one. The EC also scrutinised the documents relating to a self-employment programme of the Karnataka Government and other schemes but no such schemes were found in operation, it said.

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ASI to preserve Dr Prasad’s house
Tribune News Service

Patna, November 29
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided to preserve the ancestral house of the first President of independent India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, as a nationally protected monument (NPM).

Sources in the ASI disclosed that the proposed move was aimed at developing Dr Prasad’s double-storeyed house, made of brick and terracotta tiles, as a personality museum.

This is reportedly the first time the ASI decided to adopt a building of any political leader from Bihar. The building of Dr Prasad at Jiradel is more than 150 years old.

A senior official of the Bihar chapter of the ASI said in view of the illustrious history of the building, it was decided to develop it on the lines of Anand Bhawan in Allahabad which had housed the first Prime Minister Jawherlal Nehru.

The ASI has already approached the Sadaquat Ashram to provide things belonging to Dr Prasad in its possession. A letter was also reportedly sent to Parliament house to send all mementos related to his period.

The ASI has also decided to name a room of the building after Mahatma Gandhi where he used to stay during his visit to Jiradel.

The museum was expected to be open for public view by early next year.

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Centre backs uniform stamp duty on real estate
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 29
Favouring rationalisation and uniform rates of stamp duty on real estate to check black money and undervaluation of property transactions, the Centre has decided to raise this issue at the next meeting of the standing committee of state secretaries of stamps and registration, likely to be held soon.

The effort of the Centre will be to evolve a consensus among state governments on rationalisation of stamp duty on real estate transactions, as it is a state subject. High rates of stamp duty levied on real estate transactions by some of the state governments are perceived to be a major reason for undervaluation of property transactions.

The Parliamentary Committee on Finance, headed by BJP MP and former Union Minister B.C. Khanduri, has also urged the government to impress upon the state governments to bring in rationalised and uniform rates of stamp duty on lines similar to the one that paved the way for arriving at a uniform VAT in the states.

However, a consensus could not yet be achieved among state governments, though some states like Delhi reduced the stamp duty to induce more compliance and discourage undervaluation.

Earlier, this year the Tax Consultants Association had demanded that the rate of stamp duty should not be more than 2 per cent of the gross value of the tranferred property.

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3-pronged initiative to save tiger

New Delhi, November 29
In its first-ever meeting held today, the recently constituted National Tiger Conservation Authority proposed three initiatives for tiger reserve states, including the formation of state-level steering committee, preparation of tiger conservation plan and establishment of tiger conservation foundation.

The meeting today deliberated on several issues related to tiger reserves, including the general approach for the XIth Plan covering anti-poaching, infrastructure, man-animal conflict, co-existence in buffer, research, staff development, determination of inviolate spaces for wildlife, and mainstreaming livelihood concerns. — TNS

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US N-vendors are here
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, November 29
More than 250 delegates from several prominent American defence technology companies are presently in Mumbai to sell nuclear power and defence-related technology in the country. In all there are representatives from 25 nuclear technology related companies alone.

Participants are also from the healthcare, IT and telecom industries.

According to information available from the US Embassy, the delegates from 189 American companies are in the country on the invitation of the FICCI and the CII.

The delegates will participate in a two-day business summit in Mumbai before moving on to other cities in the country.

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BRIEFLY

5 cops shot at, arms looted
PURULIA
:
Armed Maoists shot at five policemen in West Bengal’s Durulia district early on Wednesday. District police Superintendent Ashoke Vir Prasad said a group of armed Maoist rebels ambushed on a patrol party while the security men were boarding a pickup van. Among the injured was an ASI agent and four West Bengal National Voluntary Force jawans. — UNI

Threat to Karunanidhi
COIMBATORE
:
A postcard, containing a threat to the life of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi unless he raised the recruitment age of police personnel to 29 years, has been received by Chairman of Tirupur Municipality K Selvaraj. The date and place seal was not clear on the card sent by an anonymous person, the police said on Wednesday. — PTI

Life term for killing gangster
GUNTUR:
Twelve persons, including five women, have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a gangster in Mangalaguri town, near here, in 2000. A sessions judge on Tuesday convicted the accused, including four members of a family, for the murder of N Srinu, allegedly involved in several cases of murder and extortion in the area. — PTI

Narayan is new envoy to Canada
New Delhi:
Mr Rajamani Lakshmi Narayan, High Commissioner of India to Malaysia, has been appointed as the next High Commissioner of India to Canada in place of Ms Shyamala Balasubramanian, the Ministry of External Affairs announced Wednesday. — TNS

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