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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

SC move to recover Rs 50-cr rent arrears from VIPs
New Delhi, January 17
After getting vacated hundreds of government bungalows from illegal occupation of politicians in Delhi and various state capitals, the Supreme Court today took a next step to recover Rs 50 crore rent arrears from them for the period of illegal possession and sought a status reports from the Centre and states concerned about the steps taken.

Many hurdles to cross, says President
Pune, January 17
President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam today reiterated India would achieve the status of a 'Developed Nation' by 2020 but has many hurdles to overcome including a large population of 220 million people still living below the poverty line. In video (56k)

SP to boycott Parliament session
Lucknow, January 17
The Samajwadi Party has decided to boycott the Budget session of Parliament to press their demand of production of a White Paper by the union Home Minister on the law and order situation in the country.



EARLIER STORIES


Trinamool Congress supremo Mamta Banerjee addresses the media after her release from a nursing home in Kolkata
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamta Banerjee addresses the media after her release from a nursing home in Kolkata on Wednesday. — PTI photo

Media opposes ban on exit polls
New Delhi, January 17
Some media organisations have opposed a petition in the Supreme Court for banning the opinion and exit polls amidst election process, saying that such a prohibition would directly come in conflict with freedom of speech and liberty laid down in Articles 19 and 21 respectively.

Polio cases worry Nitish govt
Patna, January 17
The Nitish Kumar-led NDA is worried over the alarming rise in cases of polio in Bihar. Official sources disclosed that while launching the first polio round for 2007 last week, chief minister Nitish Kumar asked the state health department to properly coordinate with all governmental and non- governmental agencies with the pledge to work with “renewed vigour” for eradication of polio.

Transfer attacker judge: SC Collegium
New Delhi, January 17
Taking a tough stance on an unsavoury incident of two Gujarat High Court judges fighting over a dispute, the Supreme Court Collegium has recommended the transfer of Justice B J Shethna to Sikkim as a punishment for allegedly giving fist blows to his colleague Justice P B Majumdar.

Hearing in Sidhu case to continue today
New Delhi, January 17
Former cricketer and BJP leader Navjot Singh Sidhu in his effort to get the Supreme Court nod for contesting byelection to the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, vacated by him today sought to invoke people’s mandate theory for the staying of the judgement on his conviction.
Members of the All India Trade Union Committee (AITUC) participate in the fourth national conference of All-India Aganwadi Workers Federation in Hyderabad
Members of the All India Trade Union Committee ( AITUC) participate in the fourth national conference of All-India Aganwadi Workers Federation in Hyderabad on Wednesday. — AFP

Nithari: Probe panel raps police, admin
New Delhi, January 17
The committee, constituted to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and serial killings of children in Noida’s Nithari village, has pinned down the police and the administration for its “apathy and indifference” to reports of missing children.

Noida probe not proper: Babbar
Lucknow, January 17
If the Rs 6 crore reportedly spent every year by the Noida authority for cleaning the drains had in actual fact been spent on doing so, the Nithari case would have surfaced much earlier and many precious lives could have been saved.

Mumbai cops’ terror hunt takes them to jails
Mumbai, January 17
A warning by the Intelligence Bureau that the Lashkar-e-Toiba may carry out terror attacks on the Republic Day parade has caused the Mumbai police to scan suspects within the city's jails.

Asom name opposed
Guwahati, January 17
Eminent citizens, including Dada Saheb Phalke award winner Bhupen Hazarika, have strongly opposed the Assam Government's move to change the name of the state to ‘Asom’.

Pardon: Haryana submits records
New Delhi, January 17
The Haryana Government today placed before the Supreme Court entire jail records regarding the grant of pardon to several murder case convicts by the previous Om Prakash Chautala Government allegedly to facilitate their premature release.

BJP for stern action against secessionists
New Delhi, January 17
In a sharp reaction to the recent killings of migrant workers in Assam by ULFA, the BJP today demanded stern action against the secessionist elements in the northeastern state.

TN bans corporal punishment in schools
Chennai, January 17
Following complaints by many parents and reports of torture on students by teachers, the Tamil Nadu government today abolished corporal punishment in schools in the state.

Woman drugged, molested in car
Mumbai, January 17
A 40-year-old woman was allegedly drugged by four unidentified persons and molested in a car in Central Mumbai, police said here Wednesday.

Videos
‘Guru’ and ‘Anwar’ running across the theatres in the  capital.
(56k)
A ray of hope for orphaned kids in Gaya.
(56k)
Hema Malini dazzles during Ardh Kumb.
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SC move to recover Rs 50-cr rent arrears from VIPs
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 17
After getting vacated hundreds of government bungalows from illegal occupation of politicians in Delhi and various state capitals, the Supreme Court today took a next step to recover Rs 50 crore rent arrears from them for the period of illegal possession and sought a status reports from the Centre and states concerned about the steps taken.

Taking serious view of the Department of Estate of Union Government and various states not taking coercive steps to recover the money from the defaulters, they were given three months’ time to file the affidavits.

In the national Capital alone, 418 houses were vacated by the court after it had issued a series of directions to the government.

A Bench of Mr Justice B.N. Agrawal and Mr Justice P.P. Naolekar also raised questions on the regularisation of the allotments to over 80 occupants.

As per the government affidavit, total arrears with the Congress were Rs 1.06 crore for four bungalows, BJP Rs 17 lakh, governments of Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir Rs 9.60 lakh, Rs 11.21 lakh and Rs 11.75 lakh, respectively.

Prominent politicians and personalities owning the arrears include, BJP leader Jaswant Singh - Rs 18.97 lakh, UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh - Rs 12.4 lakh, Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur - Rs 21.87 lakh and family of former premier P.V. Narasimha Rao - Rs 1.8 lakh.

Majority of the accommodations, vacated were, however, in the possession of government employees in Delhi.

Besides, the court had got vacated hundreds of houses from illegal occupation of politicians, political parties and government servants in Lucknow, Patna, Bhubaneswar, Kolkata and some other state capitals.

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Many hurdles to cross, says President

Pune, January 17
President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam today reiterated India would achieve the status of a 'Developed Nation' by 2020 but has many hurdles to overcome including a large population of 220 million people still living below the poverty line.

Addressing the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of the National Insurance Academy (NIA), Dr Kalam said ''They need education, habitat, health care and creation of employment potential. To meet their needs, we have the second vision of transforming India into a developed nation by the year 2020.'' Dr Kalam said, ''We have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action: Agriculture and food processing, Reliable and quality electric power and surface transport for all parts of the country, Education and Healthcare, Information and Communication Technology and Self reliance in critical technologies. These five areas are closely inter-related and if implemented in a co-ordinated fashion will lead to food, and economic security, and national security. A strong partnership among the R&D, academy, industry, banking, insurance and the community as a whole with the Government departments will be essential to accomplish the vision for a developed India.'' Indian GDP is growing at an average rate of eight per cent per annum, while the economists suggest that to remove poverty of 220 million people we have to grow at the rate of 10 per cent per annum consistently for over a decade. One of the components through which the rural-urban divide will be bridged and prosperity will be brought to the seven hundred million people living in six hundred thousand villages is Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA).

He said the number of PURA units for the whole country is estimated to be 7,000. This envisages integrated connectivities to bring prosperity to rural India. These are - physical connectivity of the village clusters through quality roads and transport; electronic connectivity through tele-communication with high bandwidth fibre optic cables reaching the rural areas from urban cities and through Internet kiosks; and knowledge connectivity through education, vocational training for farmers, artisans and craftsmen and entrepreneurship programmes. These three connectives will lead to economic connectivity through starting of enterprises with the help of banks, micro credits and marketing of the products.

Each PURA cluster will connect about 20-30 villages depending upon the region and population and will cost about twenty million dollars. There are three types of PURAs: Plain terrain PURA, Coastal PURA and Hill PURA. This is a viable and sustainable business proposition. After initial short-term employment during construction etc. We have to plan for initiating actions for providing regular employment and self-employment opportunities in nationally competitive small enterprises in agro processing, manufacturing and services sectors for about 10 to 15 per cent of the population of the village cluster.

If the industrial/business parks are marketed well, they can generate employment opportunities in support and services sector for about 30 per cent eligible people, the President said. — Agency

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SP to boycott Parliament session
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, January 17
The Samajwadi Party has decided to boycott the Budget session of Parliament to press their demand of production of a White Paper by the union Home Minister on the law and order situation in the country.

The party had decided to go on the offensive virtually cornered by embarrassing developments in the Nithari case.

Accusing the BJP, BSP, Congress and RLD of joining hands against the SP by launching a “false propaganda campaign” on the law and order front, party general secretary and senior minister Shivpal Singh Yadav said “in fact National Police Record Bureau data shows that the situation in UP was far better than many states. We want the Home ministry to come out with the real situation”.

Mr Yadav said that it would be clear that the “so-called secular Congress and RLD would not hesitate to join hands with the BJP to vote against the SP, the party that was instrumental in dislodging the BJP from the centre”.

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Media opposes ban on exit polls
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 17
Some media organisations have opposed a petition in the Supreme Court for banning the opinion and exit polls amidst election process, saying that such a prohibition would directly come in conflict with freedom of speech and liberty laid down in Articles 19 and 21 respectively.

The Hindu led the media organisations in opposing the blanket ban on publishing, telecasting or broadcasting the results of opinion polls and exit polls during elections before a Bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, Mr Justice D K Jain and Mr Justice H S Bedi.

P Narasimhan, appearing for D K Thakur, who had filed a PIL for ban, said that even the Election Commission had supported the prohibition on publishing the results of such polls prior to the last date of election.

The court had issued notice to the Centre, various political parties and the EC on the issue earlier.

This assumes significance in the wake of assembly elections being held in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and likely to be announced for U P.

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Polio cases worry Nitish govt
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 17
The Nitish Kumar-led NDA is worried over the alarming rise in cases of polio in Bihar.

Official sources disclosed that while launching the first polio round for 2007 last week, chief minister Nitish Kumar asked the state health department to properly coordinate with all governmental and non- governmental agencies with the pledge to work with “renewed vigour” for eradication of polio.

Going by the figure provided by the UNICEF, the case of polio in Bihar registered 90 per cent increase in 2006 over the corresponding period in 2005.

57 cases of polio were detected in 2006 against 27 such cases were diagnosed in 2005.

Mr Kumar further asked the state health minister Chandramohan Rai to examine how the programme could be further improved and strengthened so that the state could achieve the target of eradication.

According to the UNICEF, Bihar and UP were the two states which experienced the maximum recurrence of polio related cases in recent past.

Bihar government was also planning to involve religious leaders in selected pockets, mostly dominated by the minority, to overcome the inhibition in administering polio drops. "Some people believe that polio drops will kill the fertility in child and use religion to obstruct this", sources remarked.

It was further learnt that UP and Bihar together contributed in substantially pushing up the total polio cases in India in 2006.

Out of 641 fresh cases recorded in 2006, UP alone contributed 541, followed by Bihar`s 57.

The rest was from Jharkhand, West Bengal, Haryana and few other states.

This was the second spurt of polio related cases after 2002.

The country recorded 1,600 fresh cases in 2002.

But incidentally polio occurrence had steadily declined in India since 2002.

In 2005, only 66 cases had been reported, making public health experts optimistic about India becoming polio-free by 2007.

But it again shot up in 2006.

The recent investigations conducted jointly by the union and state health departments further revealed that 12 percent houses were missed by vaccinators in Bihar during the polio immunisations campaigns in 2005 and 2006.

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Transfer attacker judge: SC Collegium
S. S. Negi
Legal correspondent

New Delhi, January 17
Taking a tough stance on an unsavoury incident of two Gujarat High Court judges fighting over a dispute, the Supreme Court Collegium has recommended the transfer of Justice B J Shethna to Sikkim as a punishment for allegedly giving fist blows to his colleague Justice P B Majumdar.

Since certain procedural formalities were yet to be completed, the proposal of the Collegium could not immediately be sent to the Law Ministry, sources said.

One of the formality is that in the transfer of a High Court Judge, his consent has to be obtained though it was immaterial whether to accept his views or not.

The sources said that former Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, who demitted the office on January 14, had convened the meeting of the Collegium on January 12, his last working day in office and got the approval of the transfer.

Both Justice Sabharwal and the new CJI K G Balakrishnan had taken serious view of the two High Court judges coming to blows. They had termed the incidents as ‘very serious and unfortunate’.

The Collegium took the prompt decision after receiving a report from the Gujarat High Court Chief Justice, which was called for by Justice Sabharwal after reports about the incident appeared in media.

According to media reports, Justice Shethna and Justice P B Majumdar had a virtual fight over certain dispute recently and the former allegedly had given fist blows to the latter.

The incident reportedly occurred when they had met at Justice Shethna’s official residence in Ahmedabad to sort it out.

Meanwhile, reports from Ahmedabad suggested that Justice Shethna had expressed his desire to resign rather than agreeing for the transfer.

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Hearing in Sidhu case to continue today
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 17
Former cricketer and BJP leader Navjot Singh Sidhu in his effort to get the Supreme Court nod for contesting byelection to the Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, vacated by him today sought to invoke people’s mandate theory for the staying of the judgement on his conviction.

Replying to court’s query whether contesting election could be a valid ground under the law for staying the conviction, Sidhu’s counsel Harish Salve told a Bench of Mr Justice G P Mathur and Mr Justice R V Raveendran that “he resigned because he will go back to the people, that is the factor the court should consider.”

Mr Salve opened the arguments on Sidhu’s application for the stay of conviction at the fag end of today’s proceeding and could not complete it and the case was adjourned for tomorrow.

The thrust of Mr Salve’s arguments was that in cases where prima facie it appeared that the appeal had greater chance of success, the stay of conviction could be granted though he admitted that interim stay on conviction was an “exception” not a rule.

When Sidhu joined politics in 2004, he was a free man acquitted by the trial court and the conviction was the result of a Punjab and High Court judgement on appeal which came only on January 12.

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Nithari: Probe panel raps police, admin
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
The committee, constituted to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and serial killings of children in Noida’s Nithari village, has pinned down the police and the administration for its “apathy and indifference” to reports of missing children.

The three-member committee, chaired by Ms Manjula Krishanan, Joint Secretary in the Women and Child Development Ministry, has expressed surprise over inadequate police action on finding out missing children.

The committee has drawn these inferences after visiting Nithari and holding discussions with officers of the district administration besides meeting families of victims and local residents.

In its report submitted to the Minister of State for Women and Child Development, Ms Renuka Chowdhury, here today, the committee said, ”It is surprising that despite the reports of a number of children missing from just one locality, the police failed take sufficient action for recovering these children”.

The committee observed that the families of the victims did not receive any support or cooperation from the administration or the community until very recently when the crimes got nationwide publicity.

The panel also observed that the modus operandi and the motive of the crimes was still not clear and these crimes needed to be investigated from different perspectives and angles, including organ trade and sexual exploitation.

The report reads, “In view of the fact that CBI investigation is discovering more new bodies spread over a larger area, involvement of other persons other than those accused as well as a larger geographical spread also need to be investigated. Another factor that was observed that the identification of the victims was based only on the confessions of the accused persons and therefore further investigation is needed to confirm the initial findings”.

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Noida probe not proper: Babbar
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, January 17
If the Rs 6 crore reportedly spent every year by the Noida authority for cleaning the drains had in actual fact been spent on doing so, the Nithari case would have surfaced much earlier and many precious lives could have been saved.

According to records Noida authority has been claiming Rs 6 crore every year, for the last three years, towards the cleaning of drains from which the remains of bodies continue to tumble out on a daily basis pointing at irregularities not only in the police force but across the board declared Jan Morcha convener Raj Babbar today.

Hinting at the involvement of a senior SP leader in the Nithari case, Babbar alleged that it was at the behest of these politicians that the two main accused Moninder Singh Pandher and Surendra Koli, who had been arrested by the Noida police at least thrice, had to be released.

Urging the UP DGP to stand up and plead for action against the political bosses who were instrumental in the release of the accused on the three earlier occasions, Babbar held that it was demoralising for the entire police force if junior officers were made scapegoats . It was on the behest of this very politician who Babbar said, “considers Noida as his personal fiefdom” that the UP police investigation was conducted in a lackadaisical manner.

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Mumbai cops’ terror hunt takes them to jails
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 17
A warning by the Intelligence Bureau that the Lashkar-e-Toiba may carry out terror attacks on the Republic Day parade has caused the Mumbai police to scan suspects within the city's jails.

On the radar are a number of terror suspects lodged in the Arthur Road Central Jail in the city. All of them belong to fundamentalist Islamic organisations and regularly hold common prayers and meet regularly within jail premises. The authorities now fear that the suspects could be plotting terror attacks from inside jail premises.

Following the IB's warnings, Maharashtra's Home Department has asked jail authorities to split the suspects into different groups and lodge them separately within jail premises. Some of the suspects have been moved out of the jail premises altogether and lodged at the Byculla and Thane jails as a precautionary measure.

Among those who are under fresh scrutiny include suspects held following the last July's serial blasts in Mumbai trains and those held following the blasts in the town of Malegaon. All of them are being questioned by the Anti-Terror Squad of the Mumbai police.

Sources say, all of them are tough nuts to crack even under sustained interrogation, so efforts are on to prevent them from executing future terror plans. Visitors to these suspects are also under scrutiny with local police stations regularly summoning them for questioning.

According to the IB advisory two militants from the LeT have been staking out targets in Mumbai and Western Maharashtra. Possible terror targets include government buildings and irrigation projects like dams and bridges.

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Asom name opposed

Guwahati, January 17
Eminent citizens, including Dada Saheb Phalke award winner Bhupen Hazarika, have strongly opposed the Assam Government's move to change the name of the state to ‘Asom’.

Four former presidents of the apex literary body of the state — Asam Sahitya Sabha — along with Jnanpith awardee Dr Indira (Mamoni) Roisam Goswami said the move was "undemocratic and entirely unwarranted". The four former ASS presidents are Sahitya Akademi awardees Homen Borgohain, Dr Nagen Saikia, Dr Birendra Dutta and Dr Lakhminandan Bora.

Hazarika in a statement said, "I strongly support retention of the name Assam for my state". He said it was not the Britishers who introduced the name Assam, but it was a local name that existed since the Tai Ahoms came to the state in the 13th century.

US-based prominent Assamese NRI Rajen Barua said in a statement that retention of the name was essential to maintain harmony among all sections of people of the state.

The Assam Legislative Assembly at its last session had unanimously approved the name change and was awaiting Presidential assent to the decision. — PTI

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Pardon: Haryana submits records
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 17
The Haryana Government today placed before the Supreme Court entire jail records regarding the grant of pardon to several murder case convicts by the previous Om Prakash Chautala Government allegedly to facilitate their premature release.

The voluminous documents were placed before a Bench of Mr Justice H.K. Sema and Mr Justice B. Sudershana Reddy, which was to hear arguments prior to the final disposal of two public interest litigations (PILs) on the issue.

The documents include the release of 11 convicts between 1999 and 2001 following which the PILs were filed by advocate Anil Sharma and a social organisation, the Society for Human Rights and Civil Liberties.

They had alleged that the Chautala government had gone on a spree of recommending to the Governor premature release of convicts.

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BJP for stern action against secessionists
Satish Mishra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
In a sharp reaction to the recent killings of migrant workers in Assam by ULFA, the BJP today demanded stern action against the secessionist elements in the northeastern state.

BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad, addressing a demonstration of activists and supporters from the northeastern states, said people form these states were working in all parts of the country to eke out a living while contributing immensely to the welfare of that region.

“We are building roads in Leh and Ladakh where oxygen is in short supply, so also in inaccessible places of Assam because it is our home,” Mr Prasad said.

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TN bans corporal punishment in schools
Tribune News Service

Chennai, January 17
Following complaints by many parents and reports of torture on students by teachers, the Tamil Nadu government today abolished corporal punishment in schools in the state.

Accepting the recommendations of a committee, headed by former director of School Education A. Muthukrishnan, which went into the complaints, the government issued orders today.

One girl had reportedly committed suicide on the school premises at Salem recently while another student at suburban Tambaram had been admitted to a hospital following physical torture.

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Woman drugged, molested in car

Mumbai, January 17
A 40-year-old woman was allegedly drugged by four unidentified persons and molested in a car in Central Mumbai, police said here Wednesday.

She was allegedly pulled into the car in Antop Hill late on Monday night by the four men and served a soft drink laced with sedatives and allegedly molested, the police added. — PTI

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