SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Congress eager to cash in on Gandhi
New Delhi, January 27
Gandhi is clearly the flavour of the season. And the Congress is eager to cash in on this. The grand old party has gone into an overdrive to claim ownership of the Mahatma and position itself as the true inheritor of his legacy.

BJP on campaign trail from February 1
New Delhi, January 27
The BJP will start its campaign for the Assembly elections in Punjab from February 1 in Punjab and from February 9 in Uttarakhand with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee scheduled to address a joint rally with the Shiromani Akali Dal on February 10.

Khadi Re-mix
Bihar MLAs walk the ramp
Patna, January 27
It was the famous “Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram”,but not in its original tune. It was the remix of the original song,once the favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, on fast track which was played at Fox Hotel in Patna.

One more puja for Aishwarya
Vindhachal (Mirzapur), January 27
One birthday, 51 marriages of poor couples and a special puja to mitigate the so-called ill effects of unfavourable stars in Aishwarya Rai’s horoscope was the potent mixture that was brewed up for the eager media at the Vindhyavasini temple, some 70 km from Varanasi today.

 


EARLIER STORIES




Rahul Roy is ‘Bigg Boss’
Mumbai, January 27
Bollywood actor Rahul Roy tonight emerged victorious in “Bigg Boss”, an Indian reality TV show, beating two other finalists model Carol Gracias and Bhojpuri cinestar Ravi Kishen.

13 students killed in building collapse
Surat, January 27
At least 13 girls students were killed and 14 others seriously injured in yesterday’s school building collapse at Dhichakpura, 90 km from here.
In video (56k)

Thackeray, Modi rally today
Mumbai, January 27
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and Gujarat Chief Minister will hold a joint rally at Mumbai's Shivaji Park tomorrow ahead of the February 1 elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

Bid to break country’s social fabric: Jaiswal
New Delhi, January 27
External forces are trying to break the social fabric of the country and threatening its internal security, Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal said here today.

No personal risk insurance, no death relief: SC
New Delhi, January 27
In an important ruling relating to settlement of accident claims, the Supreme Court has ruled that no compensation will be available to the owner of a vehicle in case of death if he was driving himself and the insurance policy did not cover personal risk factor in clear terms.

Lalu (t)urns to Buddha for solace
Patna, January 27
It seems to be “Buddhan Sharanam Gachhammi” for RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav now after he was routed in the 2005 Assembly poll and his subsequent defeats in the byelections to the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats held last year in Bihar.

Timely lessons for Left
India-Russia stand on Iran and N-deal with USA
New Delhi, January 27
The just-concluded visit of the Russian President Vladimir Putin has driven home two timely messages to the Left parties —on Iran and Indo-US nuclear deal.

PM for national youth movement
New Delhi, January 27
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today highlighted the importance of young Indians in the path to progress and said that the country needed a national movement of youth to ensure social development and equality.

Acid test for Pak as US House Speaker arrives
New Delhi, January 27
Pakistan faces an acid test in diplomacy shortly as Ms Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the United States House of Representatives landed in Islamabad today to discuss a US Bill which calls for ending Washington’s military assistance to the country if it fails to stop the Taliban operating on its territory.

North-East defy boycott calls
New Delhi, January 27
The sun shone on yet another grand celebration of India’s cultural diversity, military might and its traditions of peace as millions around the country defied boycott calls by rebels to commemorate Republic Day yesterday. Be it in insurgency-stricken Northeast or militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir or Maoist-violence wracked Chhattisgarh, celebrations for the 58th Republic Day were markedly peaceful, barring the death of a trooper in Orissa.

CM unfurls Tricolour
Hyderabad, January 26
For the first time in the history of any state, a Chief Minister has unfurled the flag and reviewed the Republic Day parade in Andhra Pradesh.

Videos
Three-wheeler race draw huge crowds in Mumbai.
(56k)


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Congress eager to cash in on Gandhi
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27
Gandhi is clearly the flavour of the season. And the Congress is eager to cash in on this. The grand old party has gone into an overdrive to claim ownership of the Mahatma and position itself as the true inheritor of his legacy.

Having constantly identified the party with the Mahatma, Congress President Sonia Gandhi is all set to do so again as she gets ready to host an impressive galaxy of world leaders, Gandhian thinkers and Nobel laureates at a two-day conference on Monday to mark the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement.

The conference titled “Peace, non-violence and empowerment: Gandhian philosophy in 21st century”, is a Sonia show all the way. She will inaugurate the conclave while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the concluding session.

Although the entire party machinery has been working hard at organising this star-studded show at the Vigyan Bhavan, Ms Gandhi is taking no chances. Today, she went around the venue to inspect the arrangements after the Prime Minister inaugurated a photo exhibition depicting Mahatma Gandhi’s relentless fight for social justice and truth.

The exhibition is a precursor to the upcoming deliberations where participants will not just recall the charisma of the apostle of peace but also acknowledge his historical contribution and emphasise the continuing relevance of Gandhian values.

“The need for peace and non-violence is very dearly felt in today's world which is seeing violence through terrorism and conflicts," remarked Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma, who is also the conference convener.

The impressive line-up of participants includes Prime Ministers or senior ministers from several countries, including Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Spain, Italy, Sweden and South Africa. Lech Walesa of Poland, Ahmed Kathrada of South Africa, Navinchandra Ramgoolam of Mauritius and Lyonpo Khandu Wangchuk of Bhutan are among those who have confirmed their participation. Others who will take part in the deliberations include Maldivian President Abdul Gayoom, Sri Lanka Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka and senior leaders from Pakistan like chief of Awami National Party Asfandyar Khan and Muttahida Quami Movement leader Farooq Sattar. Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mohamad Yunus are among the other noted personalities who will debate the relevance of Gandhi in the 21st century while Gandhi’s family will also be represented by his grand daughter Ela Gandhi.

Elaborating the themes identified for discussion, conference spokesperson Devendra Dwivedi said these include conflict resolution, peace building, disarmament, poverty alleviation, social development and empowerment - all issues which are of vital concern not just for India but the world at large. The subjects, he added, also reflected priority items on the Congress party’s national and international agenda. The event will conclude with the adoption of a historic 'Satyagraha centenary declaration'.

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BJP on campaign trail from February 1
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27
The BJP will start its campaign for the Assembly elections in Punjab from February 1 in Punjab and from February 9 in Uttarakhand with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee scheduled to address a joint rally with the Shiromani Akali Dal on February 10.

Party in charge of the BJP campaign Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the party units and alliance partner in Punjab had been given dates of national leaders for campaigning and now places and timing of different rallies were being worked out.

Mr Vajpayee will be in Uttarakhand on February 15 and 18, Mr Naqvi said. Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K. Advani will be in Punjab on February 4, 7 and 11 and in Uttarakhand on February 13, 16, 17 and 19. President of the BJP Rajnath Singh will address rallies in Punjab on February 5, 7 and 10 and will campaign in Uttarakhand on February 8, 9, 14, 17 and 18.

The party has asked film-star-turned politicians Vinod Khanna and Hema Malni to campaign in Punjab and Uttarakhand. While Khanna will remain in Punjab during the entire campaign period, Hema will address rallies in Punjab on February 9 and 10 and in Uttarakhand on February 11 and 12, Mr Naqvi said.

Chief Ministers of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh Narendra Modi, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh will also be part of the campaign.

In charge of Punjab Arun Jaitley and in charge of Uttarakhand Ravi Shankar Prasad will stay in their respective states during the entire campaign period, he said.

Parliamentary party spokesperson Sushma Swaraj will be in Punjab on February 5,6 and 7 in Uttarakhand on February 15, 16, 17 and 18.

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Khadi Re-mix
Bihar MLAs walk the ramp
Ambarish Dutta

Patna, January 27
It was the famous “Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram”,but not in its original tune. It was the remix of the original song,once the favourite of Mahatma Gandhi, on fast track which was played at Fox Hotel in Patna.

The purpose was to help the enterprising MLAs practise cat walk on ramp to promote Khadi.

The MLAs, who took part in the practise session on ramp under the guidance of Chetan Anand today at the hotel included Nitin Navin, Anil Singh, Rameshwar Chaurasia and Sunil Kumar Pushpam.

The Patna-based Renuka Arts has conceptualised the programme to be staged at the S.K. Memorial Hall in the city on January 30, which coincided with the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The director of the media partner to this event, which apparently tends to refurbish the so-called “bahubali” image of Bihar MLAs, Srikant Pratyush of PTN news told the Tribune that altogether 10 to 12 MLAS were expected to participate at the event.

Mr Pratyush further stated that the organisers were targeting the young MLAs in particular with an eye to promote Khadi among the youth.

Besides, there would be professional models, who too would walk on the ramp with the MLAs to rekindle the hope of Khadi in Bihar.

Even though Bihari politicians were known for their love for khadi garments, but it failed to popularise Khadi as a dress of the masses.

The organisers felt that the overt identification of Khadi with politicians might have been proved as a hindrance to emerge as a popular dress, besides the cost effective other dress materials available in the market compared to Khadi. The participating MLAs, however, believed that their coming on the ramp would generate a lot of attraction and excitement.

The BJP MLA from Patna Nitin Navin said that he was excited with the idea.” It is a very good idea. The condition of weavers in the state is very bad. I think their cause should be promoted though the show”, he remarked.

Either of them is yet to confirm their participation.

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One more puja for Aishwarya
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Film actor Amitabh Bachchan speaks to son Abhishek Bachchan as his wife Jaya and soon-to-be daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai look on during a function at a temple in Mirzapur on Saturday. — AFP
Film actor Amitabh Bachchan speaks to son Abhishek Bachchan as his wife Jaya and soon-to-be daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai look on during a function at a temple in Mirzapur on Saturday. — AFP photo

Vindhachal (Mirzapur), January 27
One birthday, 51 marriages of poor couples and a special puja to mitigate the so-called ill effects of unfavourable stars in Aishwarya Rai’s horoscope was the potent mixture that was brewed up for the eager media at the Vindhyavasini temple, some 70 km from Varanasi today.

The occasion was the 51st birthday of Samajwadi Party national general secretary Amar Singh, who observed it by presiding over the marriage of 51 couples at the holy temple in the presence of his family that included, besides his wife Pankaja Kumari Singh, Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, SP MP Jayaprada and the entire Bachchan clan together with Aishwarya Rai.

The temple town had perhaps never seen such a line up of celebrities. The entourage arrived around 11.30 a.m. in eight helicopters. The Bachchan clan proceeded to the temple where an elaborate puja was performed to erase the evil spell of “manglik”, the star under which Aishwarya was born, which is said to put her future spouse at risk.

To ward off the possibility of any such danger the Bachchans today offered puja at the temple. When the family appeared after the 25-minute puja, there were was a faint bit of red powder visible on Aishwarya’s forehead giving rise to the rumour that the couple had indeed tied the knot during the puja.

However, at least three priests who were part of the puja - Rajan Pathak, Ishwar Dutt Tripathi and Hardayal Shastri clarified that the couple performed only puja and no marriage had taken place. She also offered a 5 kg silver chattra (umbrella), silver necklace, gold jewellery and nose ring and cash as “dakshina”. The bride-to-be also took some sindoor in a silver box which the priests said would be used during her marriage.

Later, the entire entourage attended a public function organised by the Amar Singh Fan Association to perform the mass wedding of 51 couples.

Ash can act: Big B

Putting at rest speculation over the Bachchan family’s take on Bollywood actor and their prospective daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai continuing to act after marriage, mega Superstar Amitabh Bachchan has said this was for Abhishek and her to decide and that personally he had no problems in this regard.

“It is something that has to be decided by Aishwarya and Abhishek. There is absolutely no problem from my side” Amitabh said in an interview to ‘Aaj Tak’ news channel.

Speaking to India Today’s Editor Prabhu Chawla on the channel yesterday, Amitabh also sought to clear the air on whether Aishwarya would act only with Abhishek.

“She can act with any one she wants. It is for her to decide,” the legendory actor said. — Agencies

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Rahul Roy is ‘Bigg Boss’

Mumbai, January 27
Bollywood actor Rahul Roy tonight emerged victorious in “Bigg Boss”, an Indian reality TV show, beating two other finalists model Carol Gracias and Bhojpuri cinestar Ravi Kishen.

Roy won a prize money of Rs 50 lakh, which was handed over to him by actor Arshad Warsi, the host.

A “stunned” Rahul admitted that the going was not easy inside the house in the three-month stay, but attributed his success to the Almighty and his Guruji. — PTI

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13 students killed in building collapse

Surat, January 27
At least 13 girls students were killed and 14 others seriously injured in yesterday’s school building collapse at Dhichakpura, 90 km from here.

Sources said 14 students have been admitted to various hospitals with injuries. They said four dead students have been identified as Dharmishta Chaudhuri, Premika Chaudhuri, Bimbika Chaudhuri and Thejal Gamit.

Meanwhile, rescue operations have almost been completed and a medical team comprising doctors from hospitals of Bardoli, Kakarapara and Surat have reached the spot.

The wall adjacent to a staircase in the four-storyed Adarsh Nivasi Shara, a residential school for tribal girls at Dhichakpur, collapsed last evening around 5.30 p.m. All students in the residential school were in the 13-16 age group.

Surat District Collector Vatsala Vasudev said an inquiry would be ordered into the cause of the tragedy.

NELLORE: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced an exgratia of Rs 1.5 lakh for the families of the students killed in yesterday’s school building collapse at Dhichakpura in Vyara area in Gujarat.

Mr Modi, who had come here to participate in a programme, told newspersons that Rs 1 lakh would be given from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund and Rs 50,000 as exgratia from the state government to the families of the victims.

The state government would provide medical facilities and treatment to the injured. Mr Modi said Rs 25,000 would be given to the families of the injured. — UNI

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Thackeray, Modi rally today
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 27
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and Gujarat Chief Minister will hold a joint rally at Mumbai's Shivaji Park tomorrow ahead of the February 1 elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

The joint rally comes at a time when both parties, which are in power at the BMC for 20 years, are facing anti-incumbency and rebellion.

Activists of both parties are busy at the grassroots level mobilising thousands of supporters from across the city for the rally. Hundreds of trucks and cars have been mobilised in Mumbai and Thane, which also goes to the poll on February 1.

Both Mr Modi and Mr Thackeray are expected to hit out at the Central Government's hesitancy in hanging Afzal, who has been convicted in the Parliament attack case. Shiv Sena sources say both speakers will also target Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his efforts to provide sops to the disadvantaged segments of the minority communities.

Both the sena and the BJP are jointly contesting the elections to municipal corporations in Maharashtra which go to the polls next week.

However, dissidents led by Revenue Minister Narayan Rane who broke away from the Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray who floated his own Maharahstra Navnirman Sena have chipped away at the sena's vote banks.

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Bid to break country’s social fabric: Jaiswal
S Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27
External forces are trying to break the social fabric of the country and threatening its internal security, Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal said here today.

“We are a nation having multi-religions and multi-cultures. Certain external forces are constantly trying to break our social fabric as they wanted to give us maximum damage internally rather than externally,” the Union Minister said addressing a seminar on “India’s security concerns: external and internal”.

He said the threat had been continuing for the last 30 years and might increase manifold in the coming years if not tackled properly.

India cannot ignore the possible dangers that can harm the social fabric of the world's largest democracy, he said.

Mr Jaiswal said the need of the hour was to deal with the situation in such a manner that the evil designs of external forces were defeated.

“We are aware of the dangers facing the internal and external security of the country.

Naxalism, terrorism, communalism, military strategies of India's neighbours are some of the perceived and identified threats which are being tackled by our various enforcement agencies and defence establishments round the clock,” he said.

Mr Jaiswal, however, admitted that situation in Jammu and Kashmir, in the north-east and some Naxal -affected states continued to be a matter of concern.

The recent activities of ULFA are also issues which require the strengthening of our national resolve to strongly fight back the divisive tendencies among some segments of society who are anti-social in their approach, he said. 

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No personal risk insurance, no death relief: SC
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 27
In an important ruling relating to settlement of accident claims, the Supreme Court has ruled that no compensation will be available to the owner of a vehicle in case of death if he was driving himself and the insurance policy did not cover personal risk factor in clear terms.

“An owner of a vehicle can only claim provided a personal accident insurance has been taken out,” a Bench of Mr Justice S.B. Sinha and Mr Justice Markandey Katju ruled.

The court made a distinction between the premium paid for “own damage” and the personal risk factor, holding that the words “own damage” in an insurance policy would mean only a premium on the vehicle and non-electrical accessories.

Clarifying further, the court said the premium for “own damage” was towards the damage to the vehicle and not for injury to the owner while driving it under the definition of Section 147(b) of the Motor Vehicle Act, which in no uncertain terms covers the risk of a third party only.

“Section 147 does not require an insurance company to assume risk for death or bodily injury to the owner of the vehicle… the liability of the insurer company is to the extent of indemnification of the insured against the injured person, a third person or in respect of damages of the property.

“If the insured could not be fastened with any liability under the provision of the Motor Vehicle Act, the question of the insurer being liable to indemnify insured, therefor, does not arise, the court said.

The apex court gave the all important ruling, allowing an appeal of Oriental Insurance Company against the Guwahati High Court and a local accident claim tribunal’s order asking it to pay for the death of a man four years ago when his Maruti van had dashed into a tree in a bid to save a goat that came in his way.

The insurance company challenged the orders on the ground that as per the Motor Vehicle Act and rules framed thereunder, the owner was not entitled to any compensation if he died in an accident driving the vehicle which was insured for their party risk

It was immaterial whether the owner of the vehicle had a valid driving licence, the insurance company had argued.

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Lalu (t)urns to Buddha for solace
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 27
It seems to be “Buddhan Sharanam Gachhammi” for RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav now after he was routed in the 2005 Assembly poll and his subsequent defeats in the byelections to the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats held last year in Bihar.

Lord Buddha, preaching peace and tolerence all through his life, perhaps never had thought that his ashes could lead to a political stir in Bihar.

The RJD today kicked off a march from Kesaria, demanding shifting of the the urn carrying the holy ashes of Buddha to Vaishali. The urn is now lying in the Patna museum.

Kickstarted by Lalu in the presence of Union Ministers Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Akhilesh Singh and state RJD president Abdul Bari Siddiqui, the march would conclude at the Shahid Smarak in Patna on February 2.

Even though the ruling NDA has already disapproved the idea of shifting the ashes, the Opposition wanted to keep it in Vaishali on the ground that the ashes were excavated from here only in 1958.

Countering the views expressed by the Opposition, senior BJP leader Kiran Ghai said the state government favoured keeping it in the museum to allow easy access to the pilgrims.

On the contrary, defending his party’s stand, the principal general sceretary of the RJD Shyam Rajak told the Tribune that a notification to shift the holy urn to Vaishali was issued during the President’s rule in 2005.

He stated that his party was insisting on shifting it to Vaishali because of its historical relevance. “If the government was unwilling to shift the ashes to Vaishali, then why the same Nitish government was not setting up the Nalanda International University in Patna, instead of Nalanda, as proposed. One can not ignore the historical significane of any place,” Mr Rajak argued.

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Timely lessons for Left
India-Russia stand on Iran and N-deal with USA
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27
The just-concluded visit of the Russian President Vladimir Putin has driven home two timely messages to the Left parties —on Iran and Indo-US nuclear deal.

In their Joint Statement on the outcome of the January 25-26 visit, India and Russia did some clever diplomatic balancing on the ticklish Iran issue, which the Indian Left parties cannot afford to miss.

India and Russia reiterated their respective individually stated position in a joint manner when they said an effective solution to the Iranian nuclear issue was "best found through political and diplomatic efforts." At the same time, they also invoked the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council Resolution 1737 which envisions sanctions against the military nuclear programme allegedly being pursued by Iran. The Joint Statement significantly pointed out that Resolution 1737 serves as an important political incentive to Tehran to actively and openly cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The Left allies have left no chance to haul the UPA Government on the Iran issue. The outcome of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s talks with Mr Putin has shown that Russia too, which has far higher stakes in Iran than India, does not support an increasingly isolated Iran beyond a point.

Now the Indo-US nuclear deal. Those who thought that the good old Russian friends were just round the corner, ready with a shipment of nuclear reactors to help the Indian civilian nuclear energy programme, think again.

The obvious became a part of the diplomatic paperwork as after the Manmohan Singh-Vladimir Putin talks, New Delhi and Moscow agreed that their civilian nuclear energy cooperation would be "in accordance with their respective international commitments and national legislations."

Blandly put, it means that till the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was to lift restrictions for nuclear commerce with India -- the last of the three-stage process that would eventually end India's nuclear apartheid -- the Russians would not be able to do anything to help the Indian civilian nuclear energy programme.

On the brighter side, Russia pledged that it would continue to work with the participating governments of the NSG to create conditions through amendment to its guidelines to facilitate expansion of civilian nuclear energy cooperation with India.

Russia has agreed to build four more nuclear reactors for India's Kudankulam nuclear power plant and other plants in addition to the two units already under construction. Russia is currently building the first and second power units for the Kudankulam nuclear power plant (NPP) in Tamil Nadu under the NPP-92 project.

The project, which was developed by Russian nuclear scientists and leading nuclear energy enterprises, stipulates the construction of third generation water-cooled reactors with capacity of 1,000 MW each and upgraded security systems.

The NPP-92 project's main advantage lies in its use of advanced equipment, involving several consecutive protection barriers combined with passive and active security systems. The reactors also incorporate specialised equipment to track, cool and localise core meltdowns beneath the reactor shell, and have a protection system against earthquakes, hurricanes, and crashed planes. The main advantage of the project with third-generation reactors compared with previous projects is the use of advanced equipment, several protective barriers and additional passive and active safety systems, which add to the reliability of the Kudankulam NPP.

To prevent a hypothetical accident beyond the design basis, the power units being built in India by Russian specialists are provided with a device for capturing, cooling and containing a fuel melt from the core located under the reactor vessel -- the so-called concrete melt trap.

In addition, there is protection against earthquakes, hurricanes or crashing aircraft. The two power units of the station going up on the coast of the Indian Ocean have already withstood the impact of a tsunami âs specially designed breakwater facilities have successfully resisted the tidal wave.

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PM for national youth movement
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today highlighted the importance of young Indians in the path to progress and said that the country needed a national movement of youth to ensure social development and equality.

Addressing the annual Prime Minister's National Cadet Corps Rally here, Dr Manmohan Singh also said that there was a need to move ahead with greater speed.This, he said ,was important to sustain the progress and to ensure social justice to all as the country rolls on the path to development.

India needs a national movement of young people engaged actively in social development, sports and the development of personal character. Values like discipline, comradeship, loyalty, dedication to the nation and the cause of social equality are built through such movements, he said.

“After six decades of our independence, our Republic today marches forward with confidence. We have to move ahead with greater speed to sustain our progress and ensure social justice and equality to our people,” The Prime Minister said.

He was all praise for the country's largest student's force, which the Prime Minister said, had contributed a great deal to the development of the personality of thousands of youngsters.

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Acid test for Pak as US House Speaker arrives
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 27
Pakistan faces an acid test in diplomacy shortly as Ms Nancy Pelosi, the new Speaker of the United States House of Representatives landed in Islamabad today to discuss a US Bill which calls for ending Washington’s military assistance to the country if it fails to stop the Taliban operating on its territory.

Ms Pelonsi is due to meet Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf within the next couple of days. The House Bill talks about several acts of omission and commission on part of Pakistan vis a vis Taliban and how these these had the potential of undermining international security. However, the legislation also acknowledges Pakistan's role as an "important partner" in the war on terrorism.

If the Congress were to pass the legislation, it will mean that President George W Bush would have to certify to the Congress that Pakistan was doing its level best to combat insurgents before releasing any new military assistance.

As the Bill is a double-edged sword which can cut both ways, the Bush administration, however, believes that any such conditionality on aid to Pakistan would undermine cooperation in the war on terrorism and is trying to persuade the Congress to drop the provision before it becomes law.

On January 26, US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice met NATO allies in Brussels over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the resurgence of Taliban. The USA plans to beef up the 33,000-strong NATO strength in Afghanistan by deploying 2500 more American soldiers there. More than 4000 persons were killed in Afghanistan 2006 alone, signifying the string resurgence of Taliban.

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North-East defy boycott calls

New Delhi, January 27
The sun shone on yet another grand celebration of India’s cultural diversity, military might and its traditions of peace as millions around the country defied boycott calls by rebels to commemorate Republic Day yesterday. Be it in insurgency-stricken Northeast or militancy-hit Jammu and Kashmir or Maoist-violence wracked Chhattisgarh, celebrations for the 58th Republic Day were markedly peaceful, barring the death of a trooper in Orissa.

The grandest spectacle of them all unfolded in capital New Delhi. People in the restive Northeast defied a boycott of the Republic Day called by separatist guerrillas in Assam, Manipur and Tripura.

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CM unfurls Tricolour
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, January 26
For the first time in the history of any state, a Chief Minister has unfurled the flag and reviewed the Republic Day parade in Andhra Pradesh.

In the absence of a full-time Governor for the state, the Chief Minister Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy took the salute and reviewed the Republic Day parade, marking a departure in the convention.

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