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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Is Congress MP from Asom Indian? asks SC
Allegation of citizenship by fraud
New Delhi, January 19
The Supreme Court today raised serious doubts over the citizenship of Congress MP Mani Kumar Subba, a lottery baron in North East on the face of the documents placed on record by the CBI and said prima facie it raised “high suspicion”.

Uttarkhand poll: Cong may keep top guns away
New Delhi, January 19
In an effort to deal with the factional battles in its Uttarakhand state unit, the Congress is toying with the proposal that no senior leader, including chief minister and party veteran Narain Dutt Tiwari, should contest next month’s Assembly poll.

Total Sanitation Campaign
Punjab’s lone entry rejected
New Delhi, January 19
One of the most affluent states in the country, Punjab, also happens to be the worst performer in implementation of the Total Sanitation Campaign, a Central Government scheme to ensure complete sanitation facilities in rural areas.



EARLIER STORIES


Dalit angle to fore in Nithari killings
New Delhi, January 19
The heinous serial killings in Nithari seem to be now getting caste-based hues with a group of Dalit organisations today asserting that majority of innocent children killed belonged to Dalit communities.

Gogoi rebuts ULFA
Guwahati, January 19
A day after the ULFA issued a fresh warning to the Hindi-speaking people to leave Asom, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that the state was for every Indian and ULFA has no right to talk on behalf of the people.

ULFA funds B’desh elections
New Delhi, January 19
Strange it may seem, but it is true. The United Liberation Front of Asom has emerged as a major player in the upcoming Bangladesh elections. The terrorist outfit, which is under the microscope of Indian security agencies for unleashing terror in Assam earlier this month.

Bihar alerts Centre on fresh ULFA threat
Patna, January 19
The Bihar Government today urged the Union Home Ministry to take necessary precautionary measures following reports of renewed threats by ULFA to Biharis living in Assam.

Terror alerts Nitish govt
Patna, January 19
The sudden spate of kidnappings and murders rocked the Nitish Government on the eve of the visit by the President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam to inaugurate the three-day global conclave on "resurgent Bihar" here today.

Dhruv makes foray into J&K
Chandigarh, January 19
The indigenously developed Dhruv Advance Light Helicopter is exploring new heights in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir. The fleet was grounded last year due to manufacturing defects in its rotor. “We have just re-inducted Dhruv to fly to and from Jammu and Kashmir and are in the process of testing its capability and ability,” Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command Air Marshal A.K. Singh told TNS during his recent visit here.

A Dhruv helicopter manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) takes off from the field service shop at the helicopter division in Bangalore on Friday — AFP photo

A Dhruv helicopter manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) takes off from the field service shop at the helicopter division in Bangalore

Racism is a hard reality in West: Kiran Desai
Jaipur, January 19
Booker Prize winner Kiran Desai today said that racism was a ''reality'' in the West and could not be wished away. Reacting to the recent controversy involving Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, Ms Desai noted that though efforts are on to promote multiculturalism in the West, racism was still an ''enormous issue.''

72-hour ‘samadhi’ for world peace
Ardh Kumbh Nagar, January 19
Japanese 'Sanyasin' Keiko Aikawa, rechristened 'Yog Mata', went into a 72-hour 'samadhi' inside a pit at a camp here, in keeping with her vow of taking samadhi at every Kumbh for the sake of ''world peace''.
In video (56k)

Thackeray: Raj took money
Mumbai, January 19
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray today alleged that his estranged nephew, Raj, was corrupt. Raj had broken away to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena last year. Openly naming Raj Thackeray, as both the Senas descended into the election arena for the Mumbai Municipal Corporation poll.

2 airport men fired for clearing Wadia’s gun
Mumbai, January 19
Ahead of the Republic Day when all airports in the country have been on high security alert, two employees of a private contractor, employed at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here.

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Is Congress MP from Asom Indian? asks SC
Allegation of citizenship by fraud
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 19
The Supreme Court today raised serious doubts over the citizenship of Congress MP Mani Kumar Subba, a lottery baron in North East on the face of the documents placed on record by the CBI and said prima facie it raised “high suspicion”. It said on the face of the documents, it appeared to be a “very serious” matter of a foreigner getting elected to Parliament.

Allegations against him in a petition were that he was a citizen of Nepal and had escaped to India from the custody of the jail authorities there in 1973 after being convicted in a murder case.

Petitioner Birender Nath Singh had alleged that the controversial MP from Tezpur in Asom had obtained Indian citizenship fraudulently by changing his name as his real name was M. K. Limbo in Nepal. But his counsel claimed that he was born in a village near Siliguri in March 1958 and Limbo was another person having resemblance to him.

Directing Subba’s counsel A M Singhvi and the CBI to place on record documents of the date and place of birth of the MP, or revenue records showing that he was born in a village near Siliguri, a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Mr Justice D K Jain said “prima facie it is highly suspicious how you came to India and how you got the Indian citizenship, we take a very serious view of It.” They were given six weeks to submit the documents.

The court took a serious view that the CBI, instead of questioning Mr Subba and asking him to produce these basic documents to prove his Indian citizenship, is resorting to taking up the issue with the Nepal Government first through Interpol.

The first step for the agency should have been to grill the MP and find these documents and if he was not forthcoming then only it should approach the Nepalese authorities, the court said.

“We are sorry to say that the CBI documents are raising serious doubts. You go to the Interpol first but don’t look at the ground realities,” the Bench told Additional Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the investigating agency.

Mr Singhvi though told the court that the MP was born in 1958 in a village near Siliguri, but he could not tell the exact date of his birth.

Mr Subba was earlier embroiled in another controversy of allegedly siphoning away money from lottery proceeds to underground Naga insurgents and the Delhi High Court had taken a cognizance of a petition on the issue.

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Uttarkhand poll: Cong may keep top guns away
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19
In an effort to deal with the factional battles in its Uttarakhand state unit, the Congress is toying with the proposal that no senior leader, including chief minister and party veteran Narain Dutt Tiwari, should contest next month’s Assembly poll.

While Mr Narian Dutt Tiwari is clearly the state’s tallest leaders, others who perceive themselves as chief ministerial candidates include PCC president Harish Rawat, Satpal Maharaj and Vijay Bahuguna. Although Mr Tiwari has publicly declared that he does not wish to contest these elections, it is also true that if he is persuaded to enter the fray, he will be the natural chief ministerial candidate.

In such a scenario, it is feared that all the aspirants for the top post could sabotage the elections to ensure the defeat of each other’s candidates. On his part, Mr Tiwari would prefer that the Congress declares him as the chief ministerial candidate as he does not wish to be clubbed with other junior leaders and be seen as just one among equals.

In order to ensure that intra-party rivalries do not derail next month’s crucial Assembly election, the party has, therefore, hit upon the idea that all senior leaders be asked to keep away from the electoral race and instead they should concentrate on ensuring the party’s victory. It is being argued that nobody will be projected as the next chief minister who will be chosen only after the elections, provided the Congress returns to power. AICC leaders said this would minimise internal sabotage.

While a final decision is yet to be taken, senior Congress leaders, led by party treasurer Motilal Vora, have held several rounds of discussions to shortlist the candidates for next month’s poll. The screening committee is expected to finalise its names within the next two days after which the party’s Central Election Committee will take over.

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Total Sanitation Campaign
Punjab’s lone entry rejected
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19
One of the most affluent states in the country, Punjab, also happens to be the worst performer in implementation of the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC), a Central Government scheme to ensure complete sanitation facilities in rural areas.

The coverage of the scheme in seven districts of the state is just 3 per cent. And in others it is even less, Ministry of Rural Development officials say, adding that it appears to be a clear case of lack of interest.

Incidentally neighbouring Haryana has done comparitively better in implementing the scheme that ensures sanitation facilities in rural areas with a broader goal to eradicate the practice of open defecation, and figures in the list of well-performing states.

In Punjab the situation is so dismal that the state had send the name of only one panchayat as its entry to compete for the prize of ‘Nirmal Gram Puruskar’.

To add vigour to the TCS, the Center had initiated the ‘Nirmal Gram Puruskar’ as an incentive scheme for fully sanitised and open defecation-free village panchayats, blocks and districts.

Union Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh today said that for 2006-07, the ministry had received 9,825 applications, out of which 9,696, including of 9,433 village panchayats, 144 block panchayats and two zila panchayats, were found valid.

While all applications are in the process of being verified, officials say Punjab’s sole entry has also been rejected since it has failed to meet the required parameters. In comparison is Maharashra with 2,900 entries and Haryana with 124 entries.

In fact, the state has performed even worst than conventional poor performers like Bihar and Chhattisgarh.

The checklist for TCS progress in schools say that in Punjab the coverage of the scheme is just 3 per cent in seven districts. The other states in the North to have done equally badly. They include Uttranchal (8 per cent in seven districts) and Himachal Pradesh (12 per cent in 10 districts). The coverage of the scehem in aanganwadis in Punjab is 0 per cent in 11 districts.

“ Punjab appears to be following its own high-cost scheme called Rajiv Gandhi Pendu Jan Sehat Kalyan Yojna. But even that does not appear to have done well,” the ministry official says.

The list of well-performing states include Gujarat (71 per cent), Tamil Nadu (68 per cent), West Bengal (60 per cent) and Haryana (56 per cent) with the top performer being Tripura with 96 per cent coverage.

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Dalit angle to fore in Nithari killings
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19
The heinous serial killings in Nithari seem to be now getting caste-based hues with a group of Dalit organisations today asserting that majority of innocent children killed belonged to Dalit communities. Basing their argument on this, the group has asked the government to declare the incident as a clear case of atrocities against the Dalits and demanded that the two accused, Moninder Singh and Surinder Koli, should be booked under Section 3(1)(xii) and 3(2)(v) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989.

The National Campaign on Dalit Human Right, which claims to have based their findings on on-the-spot visits , meetings with victims’ families, officials and newspaper reports, say that 15 out of 17 children killed were Dalits and asked the CBI to investigate the incident with a Dalit perspective.

In fact, the group goes further to allege that 95 per cent of children who have reportedly gone missing in the past two years belong to the SC/ST communities from other states, who have now gone back.

While 17 is the number of victims so far officially accepted by the police, the group says that 95 per cent of the 38 missing children from Nithari belong to the Dalit communities. “ Most of them have gone back to their states, losing their children in Noida,” says a member of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Ms Urmila.

“The government should clearly spell out that this case is one of the worst atrocities committed on Dalits, she says, alleging that “the perpetrators of crime were aware of the castes of the victims."

According to convener of the SG4CADE Annie Namala, the media has been reporting that majority of children killed were marginalised and poor. However, when their team investigated the social background of the children killed, it found that 15 out of 17 killed were Dalits.

“The media has not highlighted this fact. We feel that the accused were aware of this and knew these children had no ration cards, hence no identity,” she added.

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Gogoi rebuts ULFA

Guwahati, January 19
A day after the ULFA issued a fresh warning to the Hindi-speaking people to leave Asom, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that the state was for every Indian and ULFA has no right to talk on behalf of the people.

Addressing a news conference, he asserted that both the Centre and the state governments were taking 'tough' steps to neutralise the militant organisation and reiterated that ''sovereignty is non negotiable''.

''We are ready to discuss development, but not sovereignty. ULFA should not build castles in the air. For Assamese, development is the only issue,'' he said.

The Chief Minister assured that all Indian citizens would be protected in Asom. ''As thousands of Assamese people are living outside Asom, every Indian has the right to stay, work and earn in Asom,'' he said.

The ULFA's latest warning has created a panic amongst the Hindi speaking community in the state as they have already been terrorised by last fortnight's violence which left 66 people dead.

''I am grateful to the people of Asom and Bihar for showing resilience. They handled the situation admirably. Let me tell you that not a single Hindi speaking person living in Asom permanently has left the state in this wake of violence. They are part of greater Assamese society. Those who left, are the migrant workers,'' Mr Gogoi said.

Refusing to divulge the details of the Army operation, he said that it had been going on in full swing. ''But it was the people of Asom and, media in particular, that the situation could be returned to normal in such a short time. The bombings in Guwahati are aberration as the ULFA has been constantly trying to terrorise,'' he said.

''I would like to ask the ULFA from where they got the authority to ask the Hindi speaking people to leave Asom. The truth is that they never wanted peace and discussion. They want violence and backwardness so that their policy could continue,'' he said.

Mr Gogoi reiterated that as he respected Dr Indira Goswami, he persuaded the central government to hold peace talks with the Peoples Consultative Group. — UNI

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ULFA funds B’desh elections
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 19
Strange it may seem, but it is true. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has emerged as a major player in the upcoming Bangladesh elections.

The terrorist outfit, which is under the microscope of Indian security agencies for unleashing terror in Assam earlier this month, is funding candidates and donating liberally to party funds of some major parties. All this is being done by proxy as all ULFA financial transactions are ‘benami’.

The Government of India has graphic details of ULFA pitch-forking itself onto the political radar screens of Bangladesh in an obvious effort to buy political favours and patronage. ULFA has deployed scores of crores of takas for the purpose. Though no authentic figures are available, conservative estimates put the ULFA doles to Bangladeshi politicians and political parties at 50 crore takas or Rs 30 crore.

It is more than a coincidence that most of the Bangladeshi candidates getting ULFA “donations” are also very close to Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

Self-styled Commander-in-Chief of ULFA, Paresh Barua, is said to be one the wealthiest leaders in the outfit and his personal earnings per annum from his business ventures in Bangladesh are over Rs 30 crore. Baruah, against whom numerous Interpol alerts have been issued, is also known as Kamruj Zaman Khan, Nur-uz-Zaman or Zaman Bhai in Dhaka.

The total assets of ULFA are valued at over Rs 500 crore.

It is an open secret that Paresh Barua's funds are being managed and assisted by a senior party functionary of Jatiya Party (Ershad), who is also an aspirant in the general elections.

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Bihar alerts Centre on fresh ULFA threat
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 19
The Bihar Government today urged the Union Home Ministry to take necessary precautionary measures following reports of renewed threats by ULFA to Biharis living in Assam.

Sources in the state home department disclosed to TNS that ULFA on Thursday again asked Hindi-speaking migrant workers, mostly from Bihar, to quit Assam or face the consequences. The threat came in the wake of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Assam where he categorically assured that "terrorism would not be tolerated and will be dealt with firmly.” The Prime Minister had also met family members of the victims.

The series of attacks by ULFA in Assam between January 5 and 8 had claimed 71 lives, 61 of whom were migrant workers from Bihar. The Nitish Government subsequently sent a five-member delegation to Assam for an on-the-spot assessment after the carnage.

Soon after the attacks, the Chief Minister had demanded that the Centre come up with a concrete plan of action to tackle the ULFA problem. He also said that the country deserved a statement from the Centre as to why Hindi-speaking people were being selectively targetted by ULFA in Assam.

Home department sources said that a communication urging the Centre to protect the lives and property of the people of Bihari residing in Assam or working as migrant labourers had been sent.

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Terror alerts Nitish govt
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 19
The sudden spate of kidnappings and murders rocked the Nitish Government on the eve of the visit by the President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam to inaugurate the three-day global conclave on "resurgent Bihar" here today.

The purpose of the conclave was to focus on the turnaround of Bihar under Nitish Government to influence the prospective investors to have a relook at the state's unexplored potentials.

Two school children, aged 8 and 10, were kidnapped by unidentified armed miscreants from Begusarai on Thursday. The sons of a prominent businessman, the abducted children were students of DAV school.

The DGP A.K.Sinha told the Tribune that all check-posts and police stations have already been alerted to trace the children.

Besides, two engineers working for the centre-sponsored NH 31 project in the state were shot dead by miscreants on Thursday night. The miscreants targeted the engineers after the contractor reportedly refused to pay the ransom.

The Nitish Government already assured to protect the engineers and contractors working for NH 31 against the goons who were used to enjoying extortion money from these projects in the past.

In Context, the Patna High Court had ordered the Bihar government earlier this month to search for the state's 143 missing children, mostly abducted in the last five years, and submit a report within six weeks. According to a recent state government affidavit submitted in the court, 1,076 children were abducted in the state since 2001.

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Dhruv makes foray into J&K
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 19
The indigenously developed Dhruv Advance Light Helicopter is exploring new heights in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir. The fleet was grounded last year due to manufacturing defects in its rotor.

“We have just re-inducted Dhruv to fly to and from Jammu and Kashmir and are in the process of testing its capability and ability,” Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Air Command Air Marshal A.K. Singh told TNS during his recent visit here. Dhruv is yet to begin regular operations in the Siachen sector though it did fly to the glacier during trials.

Manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the twin-engined Dhruv is also getting a new, more powerful engine and a weapons pack to give it more teeth and make it multi-mission capable. Christened Shakti, the new engine developed in collaboration with France, would be about 12-15 per cent more powerful than the existing TM-333 engine. It would increase the helicopter’s performance in high altitudes and increase its pay load capability by around 300 kg.

While Dhruv helicopters -- of which about 66 which are already in service in the armed forces -- are unarmed, armed versions are ready and deliveries are scheduled to begin next year. Trials following integration of weapons, including missiles, rockets and machine guns as well as related systems and avionics with the helicopter are now reported to be complete. Weapons would be add-ons to the helicopters’ fuselage.

The Army, Navy and Coast Guard operate the Dhruv and each service wing has its own version. The Air Force as well as the Army are keen on armed versions of Dhruv to boost the capability of their rotor-wing components. The Navy, according to sources, is yet to put forth its requirements for an armed Dhruv. In addition to existing orders, the Defence Ministry recently accepted the demand for an additional 39 choppers for the Army.

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Set to have powerful engine
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, January 19
A select group of journalists who were shown the ALH assembly line at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) here today, saw the new engine being fitted onto an ALH being readied for delivery to the Army. HAL Chief Test Pilot Wg Cdr C.Upadhaya disclosed that the engine would be undergo a ground run this month itself and would be test flown in the third week of February.

Wing Commander Upadhaya said the new engine was being fitted onto the ALH following feedback from the Army. He said after the Kargil war the Services felt they needed more power in the weapon fitted ALH being used at high altitude. "We have responded with the Shakti engine and after its installation the helicopter which could carry only 200 kilogram weight at high altitudes will now be able to carry 560 kg".

By the end of 2007 all ALH-Dhruv choppers will be fitted with the ALH engines and glass cockpit.

Meanwhile, HAL officials disclosed that a second squadron of 10 choppers was ready for delivery to the Army. The Army is already operating one squadron of 10 choppers at Bangalore and Nasik. The second squadron will go to Nazira while a third squadron of 10 more choppers is under manufacture and will be stationed at Jorhat. The IAF is operating 22 ALH choppers. Among the new orders for ALH aircraft, include a 12 chopper order which is in the pipeline from the Disaster Management Authority of India.

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Racism is a hard reality in West: Kiran Desai

Jaipur, January 19
Booker Prize winner Kiran Desai today said that racism was a ''reality'' in the West and could not be wished away.

Reacting to the recent controversy involving Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, Ms Desai noted that though efforts are on to promote multiculturalism in the West, racism was still an ''enormous issue.''

The author, whose Booker Prize-winning book ''The Inheritance of Loss'' itself deals with the dilemma of an immigrant caught between the two cultures of origin and living, recalled that when she was declared as the winner, some people commented ''another Indian.'' ''This has an underlying racist tone,'' she noted.

Asked about her life after the Booker, Ms Desai said, ''I realised that now all the time I am talking and travelling. It is much different from the pre-Booker period of thinking, reading and writing.'' ''These days I hardly get any time to read,'' she added.

Ms Desai said though the Booker gives ''a stamp of legitimacy'' as a writer with instant recognition and helps in the selling of the book, a lot of factors like ''luck and chance'' are involved in getting the prize.

''Good writing does not come from prizes, but the prizes helps in getting legitimacy and recognition to the author and the work,'' she said, adding that she believed that her closeness and genes of her mother, renowned writer mother Anita Desai, played a significant role in her evolution as a writer.

Noting that writing the book brought her ''much close to India,'' she promised that she would frequently visit her roots to understand today's India closely. — UNI

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72-hour ‘samadhi’ for world peace

Ardh Kumbh Nagar, January 19
Japanese 'Sanyasin' Keiko Aikawa, rechristened 'Yog Mata', went into a 72-hour 'samadhi' inside a pit at a camp here, in keeping with her vow of taking samadhi at every Kumbh for the sake of ''world peace''.

After becoming a disciple of Maha Yogi Hari Baba 15 years ago, Aikawa went into the underground 'samadhi' yesterday in the presence of a curious crowd that included over 50 Japanese devotees.

The 'samadhi' was undertaken at the camp of Pilot Baba -- a former Indian Air Force (IAF) officer, who is known to have mastered the 'art of death' - by practicing 'samadhi'.

''She has successfully come out alive in the previous Kumbh's and will do so at 1 pm on January 21. The process of her coming back to life will start at 12.45 pm on Sunday and she will come back alive at the camp 15 minutes later through Yogic power,'' a devotee said.

The Pilot Baba describes Keiko as his 'guru sister' -- as both are disciples of the same Guru. — UNI

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Thackeray: Raj took money
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 19
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray today alleged that his estranged nephew, Raj, was corrupt. Raj had broken away to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena last year.

Openly naming Raj Thackeray, as both the Senas descended into the election arena for the Mumbai Municipal Corporation poll, Bal Thackeray said his nephew took money while in the Shiv Sena. In an interview in party mouthpiece ‘Saamna’, Thackeray hit out at Raj's claims that he was suffocated in the Shiv Sena. "Did Raj entertain the idea of leading the Shiv Sena for the past 20 years? After taking money to their heart's content, they have turned against us," Thackeray said.

Strongly defending son Uddhav, Thackeray said he did not feel that the younger lot in the party were using him for electoral gains. "I am still consulted for all decisions in the Shiv Sena,” he said.

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2 airport men fired for clearing Wadia’s gun

Mumbai, January 19
Ahead of the Republic Day when all airports in the country have been on high security alert, two employees of a private contractor, employed at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here, have been suspended following revelations that Bombay Dyeing chairman Nusli Wadia carried a gun and at least 30 bullets on board an Air India flight.

The matter came to light when Wadia was detained at Dubai airport last Saturday for more than three hours when the weapon was found in his check-in baggage. Sources said Wadia called up powerful people in Delhi to get himself released. The gun was also released after Wadia produced his license which was sent to Dubai by another flight. — TNS

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