SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Saran in US to chalk out timetable for N-talks
New Delhi, February 1
Prime Minister’s special envoy Shyam Saran is in Washington DC and will meet Nicholas Burns, the Bush administration’s pointman on the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Centre directed to monitor Maternity Benefit Scheme
New Delhi, February 1
The National Maternity Benefit Scheme, providing for a fixed financial grant to expecting mothers of below poverty line (BPL) families, came under scrutiny of the Supreme Court with it unhappy with the negligent approach adopted by most states.

Russia to be in full force at Aero India 07
New Delhi, February 1
Faced with increased competition from the USA to remain India’s number one defence goods supplier, Russia is coming to Aero India 07, organised by FICCI, country’s biggest ever air show, with full force and an attempt to win the heart of the Indian Air Force (IAF) officials and the contract for the 126 multi-role fighter aircraft, the force is looking to purchase.

Vajpayee backs Rajnath’s team
New Delhi, February 1
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today came out strongly in support of BJP president Rajnath Singh’s new team of office-bearers, saying it had been constituted after a lot of thought and deliberations.





EARLIER STORIES




Sonia opens Surajkund Crafts Mela
Faridabad, February 1
Amidst tight security arrangements and colourful rural ambience, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi formally inaugurated the 21st Surajkund Crafts Mela here today. This marked the beginning of the fortnight-long festival of art and culture, which attracts a large number of visitors each year.






Congress President Sonia Gandhi joins steps with tribal dancers during the inaugural ceremony of the Surajkund Crafts Mela in Faridabad on Thursday. — PTI photo

Congress President Sonia Gandhi joins steps with tribal dancers during the inaugural ceremony of the Surajkund Crafts Mela in Faridabad on Thursday

4 killed in oil pipeline fire
Jamnagar, February 1
Four labourers were killed and 16 others injured when a fire broke out in a pipeline of Essar Oil’s Vadinar terminal in Gujarat early today, an Essar official said. The blaze was quickly doused by the company’s fire tenders and the injured contract workers were rushed to hospital for treatment, the official said.

Bihar govt staff to get paternity leave
Patna, February 1
The Bihar government has decided in principle to give its employees 15 days’ paternity leave and to enhance maternity leave from 90 to 135 days, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said today.

Sporadic incidents, good turnout in civic poll
Mumbai, February 1
Parties across the political spectrum have been left guessing as a large number of people in Mumbai and Thane have turned up at polling stations to cast their votes in civic elections.
In video: Politicians and Bollywood stars vote for civic polls in Mumbai. (56k)

CBI court rejects DIG’s plea
Muzaffarnagar, February 1
A CBI court here today rejected a Deputy Inspector General’s plea that he could not be prosecuted for a firing incident without the Uttar Pradesh government's permission and fixed February 15 for framing of charges against him.

CBI files chargesheet in Navy war room leak case 
New Delhi, February 1
Virtually wrapping up the probe into the Navy war room leak case, the CBI today filed a charge sheet against two former Naval officers for allegedly leaking secret information to unauthorised persons.

CBI official meets Patil over ‘forged’ signature

Hannah case: Kohli’s bail plea rejected
New Delhi, February 1
A Delhi Court today dismissed the second bail plea of Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, facing proceedings for extradition to the UK for being tried in the rape and murder case of British teenager Hannah Foster. “Merely bacause there has been a delay in inquiry proceedings before this court to which the fugitive criminal (Kohli) has also contributed to a large extent, shall not be a ground for this court to ignore his previous conduct and release him on bail,” said Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kamini Lau.

NHRC notice to Andhra CS, DGP over sale of girls
New Delhi, February 1
Taking suo motu cognisance of reports in the print and electronic media on parents selling their daughters in Andhra Pradesh, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent notices to the state chief secretary and the DGP, seeking factual reports within two weeks.

Nitish govt set to make film festival mega success
Patna, February 1
For Bihar, which often hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, a state-level film festival was a distant dream till last year. With a change of guard, the Nitish government decided to organise the Patna film festival, on the lines of the national film festival, to reposition the state in the cultural map of the country.

Mamata to launch new stir against land acquisition
Kolkata, February 1
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee today declared that a fresh agitation in support of farmers in Singur and other parts of the state against their forcible eviction and acquisition of their land will be launched.

Ahluwalia new chief of Western Air Command
New Delhi, February 1
Air Marshal Padamjit Singh Ahluwalia today took over as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the most important Western Air Command. Prior to this appointment the officer was the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Air Command.

SI held for human trade
New Delhi, February 1
The CBI has arrested six persons, including one of its sub-inspectors, on the charges of human trafficking. A CBI spokesperson said all accused, including Sub Inspector Lilu Ram, were in judicial custody. Six premises linked to the accused were searched and more than 150 passports were recovered from one place. The accused used to cheat people with the promise of sending them abroad for employment.

Ground-handling services at airports to be competitive
New Delhi, February 1
The government today cleared a policy aimed at encouraging competition in the security-sensitive ground handling services at major metro airports. The Cabinet Committee on Cecurity (CCS), which met here under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cleared the policy that had been moved by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in a bid to make the ground handling at the metro airports of world class quality.

Bhavna Yadav summoned
New Delhi, February 1
After examining the officials concerned of HDFC Bank, a city court today issued summons to Bhavna Yadav, daughter of former Rajya Sabha member D.P. Yadav, for deposition on February 21 in the Nitish Katara murder case.

Centre holds meeting on police reforms 

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Saran in US to chalk out timetable for N-talks
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 1
Prime Minister’s special envoy Shyam Saran is in Washington DC and will meet Nicholas Burns, the Bush administration’s pointman on the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Saran and Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, will be finalising the calendar of talks for the bilateral 123 agreement between India and the United States on civilian nuclear energy cooperation, US Ambassador to India David C Mulford said today.

Mulford, while talking to journalists at Roosevelt House, the envoy’s official residence, said the 123 agreement negotiations “may take a few weeks or a few months”.

The nuclear deal roadmap, as indicated by Mulford, is as below. After the 123 agreement is reached by the two sides, the US Congress will have to approve it. The Congress will come out with its decision within 90 days of the draft agreement’s tabling.

However, New Delhi and Washington still have to await the completion of a labyrinthine process before the Indo-US nuclear deal’s implementation starts.

Mulford briefly touched upon this when he remarked: “There are a couple of riders though. Then only the clock starts.”

The US Congress will not consider the draft agreement before the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) negotiates with New Delhi an additional protocol and an India-specific safeguard and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) allows nuclear commerce with India.

Asked if deal-killer clauses like a mandatory moratorium on India conducting fresh nuclear tests or India having a sovereign right to decide on reprocessing of spent fuel and uranium enrichment, Mulfrod said: “We have to see how negotiations develop.”

On the situation in Afghanistan and resurgence of Taliban, Mulford said there was “no diminution” of American involvement in Afghanistan. This was reflected in the increased American contribution by way of troops and money for Afghanistan.

He pointed out that the Bush administration has already announced more money - a whopping $10 billion - for Afghanistan.

It may be recalled that there are already 33,000 NATO troops deployed in Afghanistan. The US has recently announced that it would be sending 2,500 more American troops to take on the Taliban.

On an issue which is very close to Mulford’s heart, the envoy announced that the issuance of visas had been expedited like never before. While earlier, an Indian applicant had to wait for anywhere between 100 to 187 days to get an American visa, today the waiting period has been brought down to five or six days.

Mulford said in 2006, the US embassy here issued 8 lakh visas, as against 5 lakh in the previous year. With this, India has become the second largest country to get US visas. “This is significant because we don’t share borders with you,” Mulford said, tongue-in-cheek.

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Centre directed to monitor Maternity Benefit Scheme
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 1
The National Maternity Benefit Scheme, providing for a fixed financial grant to expecting mothers of below poverty line (BPL) families, came under scrutiny of the Supreme Court with it unhappy with the negligent approach adopted by most states.

The scheme provides for a grant of Rs 500 to an expecting mother from a BPL family and free delivery facilities in government hospitals, with the entire finance being provided by the Centre. Yet, states are not releasing the grant to the poor women, said People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) in its research paper placed before the Court.

Taking serious view of this, a bench consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice S.H. Kapadia directed the Centre to closely monitor the scheme, ensuring that the money was properly utilised. The Centre and states have been directed to submit their responses within four weeks.

The Court said the Union Government should explore the possibility of providing the funds directly to the Gram Panchayats, which maintain the birth register in rural areas.

The Centre had in 2004 sought to rename the scheme to ‘Janani Suraksha Yojana’ but the Court had stayed the move after the PUCL opposed it stating that it would virtually amount to discontinuing the benefits to poor women.

The PUCL survey has put Utter Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Rajasthan, Orissa and Jammu and Kashmir in the list of low-performing states.

According to the government’s own estimates, every year 55 lakh women from BPL families give birth to their first child. To cover the entire cost, Rs 1,389 crore is required in a five-year plan period. But the Centre has allocated only Rs 500 crore for the 10th plan period, the PUCL added.

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Russia to be in full force at Aero India 07
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 1
Faced with increased competition from the USA to remain India’s number one defence goods supplier, Russia is coming to Aero India 07, organised by FICCI, country’s biggest ever air show, with full force and an attempt to win the heart of the Indian Air Force (IAF) officials and the contract for the 126 multi-role fighter aircraft, the force is looking to purchase.

Russia’s pavilion in Bangalore will most likely be centred around the Su-30MKI (Flanker) thrust-vectoring multi-role fighter. Importantly, the aeroplane Indian and international experts and public will see is expected to come from an IAF base, rather than from Moscow, where it was designed, or from Irkutsk, where it is produced.

Su-30MKIs have been in service with the IAF for some time and have won a formidable reputation among India’s air-combat community.

Although the initial contract was for the supply of the Sukhoi’s till 2017, but recently Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport and the Indian Defence Ministry agreed to reduce the term of the contract to 2014 (and are reportedly thinking of 2012) and shift the manufacturing base back to Irkutsk.

This is being done as India does not want to invest an estimated $ 8.71 billion in new production equipment. Secondly, they want to receive operational aircraft as soon as possible because the Air Force is a crucial part of the national defence capability and there is already a shortage of fighter aircrafts with the IAF in the wake of the MiGs being phased out.

The Su-30MKI will not be the only highlight of the Russian pavilion at the coming show. Another will be the Su-35 (also a Flanker), widely recognised as a fighter of the future, with a superior low-speed-high, AOA capability and which Russia is looking to sell to the IAF.

From the very start, the basic idea behind the Su-35 was to return to the original aerodynamics of the Su-27. (The earlier Su-27 derivatives, while more advanced on other counts, were all heavier and therefore less agile than the original). Powered by 14,500 kg AL-31Fs, and carrying the lightest and most compact avionics suite in the family, the Su-35 has the best thrust-to-weight ratio (over 15 per cent better than the earlier versions) and, importantly, a 3D thrust vectoring capability, which gives the lighter aircraft a much better climbing rate and acceleration and unrivalled low-speed-high-AOA performance.

Highly manoeuvrable and digitally automated, the Su-35 is single-seated and does not need canard fore planes. Thanks to its new electrically powered fly-by-wire system and high-lift flaps, the air brake could be removed (the take-off run/landing roll formula is nonetheless very good, 450/650), freeing more space for the integrated fuel tank and thereby increasing the plane’s operational range to 3,600 km (which is reduced to 1,580 km if the plane travels at a belowradar altitude at Mach 0.7).

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Vajpayee backs Rajnath’s team
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 1
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today came out strongly in support of BJP president Rajnath Singh’s new team of office-bearers, saying it had been constituted after a lot of thought and deliberations.

Responding to questions about dropping of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi from the parliamentary board and general secretary Arun Jaitley not being the party spokesman after inaugurating an art exhibition, Mr Vajpayee said it was a wrong perception that the new team had resulted in disaffection within the party.

Asked if there was ‘santulan’ (balance) in Mr Rajnath Singh’s team, the former Prime Minister said, “There was a balance, there is a balance and there will be a balance after criticism”.

The endorsement came after party spokesman Prakash Javadekar had sought to downplay the media criticism, saying it was the prerogative of the party president to appoint the national executive and office-bearers, but he had held wide-ranging consultations with seniors (Mr Vajpayee and Mr L.K. Advani).

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Sonia opens Surajkund Crafts Mela
Tribune News Service

Faridabad, February 1
Amidst tight security arrangements and colourful rural ambience, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi formally inaugurated the 21st Surajkund Crafts Mela here today. This marked the beginning of the fortnight-long festival of art and culture, which attracts a large number of visitors each year.

While over 300 artisans and craft persons from 22 states are taking part in this event, Andhra Pradesh has been made the theme state this time with a special focus on the art and craft of the state.

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Union Tourism Minister Ambika Soni were among a galaxy of the VIP’s present on the occasion.

Ms Gandhi, whose name as the chief guest was announced just a couple of days before the inauguration, also danced a little along with the troupe from Andhra Pradesh where she was accompanied by state Tourism Minister Kiran Chaudhary.

Contrary to the expectations of the media, Ms Gandhi did not address the gathering nor spoke to the media, but spent over 45 minutes going round the stalls and watched three cultural events at the Chaupal, the centre point of the mela venue. The dance events included Kuchipudi by a troupe of six girls, Mayur dance of Mathura and a Haryanvi group dance by girls.

Dubbed as an all women show, the organising team this time has a majority of women.

The hustle and bustle in the fair is likely to start from tomorrow as no resident or visitor was allowed entry till about 1.15 pm today when Ms Gandhi left the place and the security personnel allowed some relaxation. While about a 1,000 policemen and a large number of SPG persons were present at the spot, many of the artisans and craft persons could not put their items at the stalls allotted to them till 2 pm.

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4 killed in oil pipeline fire

Jamnagar, February 1
Four labourers were killed and 16 others injured when a fire broke out in a pipeline of Essar Oil’s Vadinar terminal in Gujarat early today, an Essar official said.
The blaze was quickly doused by the company’s fire tenders and the injured contract workers were rushed to hospital for treatment, the official said.

Three workers, who sustained severe burn injuries, may be shifted to another hospital for treatment while others who suffered minor burns are being treated locally, he said.

“The fire has not affected the functioning of the refinery and it is working normally as the pipeline where the fire broke out is far from the terminal. A team of experts from the company has begun an investigation into the cause of the mishap,” the official said.

The kin of the dead workers will be compensated according to the company’s rules.

Jamnagar’s District Collector V P Patel told PTI that the fire appeared prima facie to be an accident. He said the police would conduct an inquiry into the incident.

Located in the coastal district of Jamnagar, Essar’s oil refinery at Vadinar is a deep-draft natural port. It has a capacity of 1.05 crore tonne a year and is designed to handle a diverse range of crude mixes. — PTI

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Bihar govt staff to get paternity leave

Patna, February 1
The Bihar government has decided in principle to give its employees 15 days’ paternity leave and to enhance maternity leave from 90 to 135 days, Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi said today.

Modi said the fitment committee constituted to suggest the pay structure and service conditions of employees had recommended introduction of paternity leave and increasing the days of maternity leave.

“This will allow parents to give adequate love and care to the neo-natal child,” Modi said here. The leave will be given for two children. — PTI

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Sporadic incidents, good turnout in civic poll
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 1
Parties across the political spectrum have been left guessing as a large number of people in Mumbai and Thane have turned up at polling stations to cast their votes in civic elections.

Maharashtra’s Chief Election Commissioner Nand Lal told reporters at the close of polling that the turnout was expected to be between 48 and 50 per cent.

Traditionally elections to the Mumbai and Thane municipal corporations, under which a large number of migrants lived, saw a poor turnout.

In the last elections to the Mumbai civic body held in 2002, barely 30 per cent voters had turned up.

According to the state Election Commission, about 23 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise by early afternoon.

Polling was picking up and there were long queues in front of polling stations at 5.30 pm when polling closed.

Polling in Mumbai was marred by untoward incidents.

Several prominent citizens like Governor S.M. Krishna, the Ambanis and veteran film-maker Gulzar found their names missing from the voter lists.

Many voters were found running from one ward to another, trying to find their names in one or the other voter lists.

There were reports of violence as well.

Workers of the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena clashed at a polling station in Central Mumbai, the police said.

Peace was restored after the activists were warned of action.

In Thane and Ulhasnagar, Shiv Sena activists attacked offices of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, though no one was seriously injured.

Polling at one booth in Ulhasnagar was called off after activists of the Nationalist Congress Party damaged the electronic voting machine.

In different parts of Mumbai, candidates and their supporters traded charges of bribing voters with money and free gifts.

Mr Nandlal Singh, candidate of the Samajwadi Party from Kandivli, was arrested after he was caught distributing money among voters from his election office, the police said.

From suburban Goregaon, one man was arrested for distributing saris among slum dwellers, but the police could not establish who he worked for.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena workers alleged that he worked for the Congress, with rival party leaders the other way round.

Nationalist Congress Party activists in downtown Cuffe Parade heckled sitting Congress corporator Puran Doshi for allegedly distributing cash among voters in the sprawling Ambedkar Nagar slums.

The police searched his car, but did not find any cash in his vehicle.

The police also recorded several incidents of stabbing and violence involving political activists across Mumbai.

The Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, which had been ruling the corporation for the past 20 years, was facing a tough challenge following the split in the Shiv Sena.

Opinion polls forecast a narrow victory for the two saffron parties since the Congress and the NCP were divided.

Apart from Mumbai and Thane, civic poll was being held at Ulhasnagar, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Nashik, Solapur, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur.

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CBI court rejects DIG’s plea

Muzaffarnagar, February 1
A CBI court here today rejected a Deputy Inspector General’s plea that he could not be prosecuted for a firing incident without the Uttar Pradesh government's permission and fixed February 15 for framing of charges against him.

The case against Varanasi’s DIG R.P. Singh dates back to 1994 when he, then posted as the Superintendent of Police at Muzaffarnagar, ordered policemen to fire on activists demanding a Uttarakhand state at Rampurtirana near here.

Rejecting Singh’s plea, CBI Judge Piyush Pandey said:

“Tampering with police records does not come under official duty and permission is not necessary to prosecute the accused.”

Earlier, Singh’s counsel argued he could not be prosecuted without the government’s permission and court proceedings against him should be withdrawn.

The CBI had sought permission from the state government to prosecute Singh but this was turned down.

Based on statements of 72 witnesses, the agency filed cases against 28 police officials under Sections 218 (public servant framing incorrect record for saving somebody from criminal punishment) and 120 (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC.

Uttarakhand Activists Welfare Council chairman Dhirendra Pratap welcomed the court’s decision. “It is not just a legal issue, but a question of the sentiments and dignity of the people of Uttarakhand,” he said. — PTI

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CBI files chargesheet in Navy war room leak case 

New Delhi, February 1
Virtually wrapping up the probe into the Navy war room leak case, the CBI today filed a charge sheet against two former Naval officers for allegedly leaking secret information to unauthorised persons.

The chargesheet was filed against retired Naval captain Salam Singh Rathore and retired Naval commander J.S. Kalra in the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Seema Maini under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Officials Secrets Act.

The CBI filed the chargesheet on the last day of the mandatory 90 days period for which the duo have been in judicial custody. However, the CBI’s case relating to sacked Naval Captain Kashyap Kumar and two other businesspersons — Raj Rani Jaiswal and Mukesh Bajaj — will also be examined by the court.

In its chargesheet, the CBI alleged that Rathore during his tenure in acquisition wing of the Defence Ministry had got “illegal gratification” from Kulbushan Parashar, one of the main accused in the Naval war room leak case.During searches at his residence, the CBI claimed to have recovered several incriminating documents out of which he had allegedly passed on three “sensitive papers” to Kalra, who had resigned from the Navy and joined Hindustan Aeronautics Limited as its Deputy General Manager (Customer Service). — PTI

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CBI official meets Patil over ‘forged’ signature

New Delhi, February 1
A CBI official today visited the Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, in his North Block office here to authenticate his signature in connection with a case involving his allegedly forged signature on a letter seeking the transfer of a police officer in Uttar Pradesh.The letter purportedly written with the Home Minister's signature was addressed to the Commissioner in UP seeking the transfer of a police officer. — PTI

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Hannah case: Kohli’s bail plea rejected

New Delhi, February 1
A Delhi Court today dismissed the second bail plea of Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, facing proceedings for extradition to the UK for being tried in the rape and murder case of British teenager Hannah Foster.“Merely bacause there has been a delay in inquiry proceedings before this court to which the fugitive criminal (Kohli) has also contributed to a large extent, shall not be a ground for this court to ignore his previous conduct and release him on bail,” said Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kamini Lau.

Earlier, the defence had sought Kohli’s enlargement on bail on the plea that there was an inordinate delay by the Union of India in examining the witness and completing the evidence.Dismissing the bail plea of Kohli, the court emphasised on his previous conduct, saying “he himself had absconded and was fleeing from justice for over a year before being apprehended by the police.”“In this view of the matter, the possibility that it may be difficult to secure Kohli’s presence during the remaining proceedings cannot be ruled out,” it added. — PTI

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NHRC notice to Andhra CS, DGP over sale of girls
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 1
Taking suo motu cognisance of reports in the print and electronic media on parents selling their daughters in Andhra Pradesh, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent notices to the state chief secretary and the DGP, seeking factual reports within two weeks.

The NHRC today said the reports, if true, were a serious issue of violation of human rights of girls. The electronic media report on January 27 said young girls were being sold for as little as Rs 12,000 in the Rajmundary district of Andhra Pradesh.

It said they were being turned into sex workers. The report also highlighted that those involved in selling and forcing the girls into flesh trade were their own parents.

The newspaper report on January 28 said after being tipped off, the Rajmundary police had managed to rescue 41 girls from different places in Maharashtra, out of which 37 were from Andhra Pradesh. The police had arrested 12 brokers and two parents.

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Nitish govt set to make film festival mega success
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 1
For Bihar, which often hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, a state-level film festival was a distant dream till last year.
With a change of guard, the Nitish government decided to organise the Patna film festival, on the lines of the national film festival, to reposition the state in the cultural map of the country.

The first Patna film festival, which kicked off last year, made a humble beginning with initial teething problems due to lack of experience.

However, the state PRD secretary, Vivek Singh, is leaving no stones unturned in making the second film festival beginning here on February 9 a mega success.

Talking to the Tribune, Mr Singh described the forthcoming week-long film festival as a "cultural renaissance" and added that the event will offer a variety of Hindi, regional and foreign films.

And it is virtually the who`s who of Bollywood who are set to regale the audience of Patna where 18 films are slated to be screened between February 9 and 15.

Among the celebrities, Madhur Bhandarkar and Nagesh Kukunoor are expected to be here with their films "Traffic Signal" and "Dor". Others to attend the event include, Chandraprakash Dwivedi, Shekhar Suman and Pakash Jha.

To be inaugurated by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the film festival will conclude with the screening of Tirupati Sharan`s "Woh Subah Kidhar Nikal Gayee". Noted film directors will also interact with the audiecne after the screening of their respective films.

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Mamata to launch new stir against land acquisition
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, February 1
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee today declared that a fresh agitation in support of farmers in Singur and other parts of the state against their forcible eviction and acquisition of their land will be launched.

“This time our agitation will be more stronger and will involve all political parties, including some partners of the Left Front now opposing the Chief Minister’s land acquisition policy at Singur and Nandigram,” Banerjee said.

She, however, refused to disclose the identity of those Front partner parties.

But the Chief Minister announced that he would continue with the policy adopted in Singur in the government’s new industrialisation policy irrespective of the opposition the government may face on the issue.

She alleged that Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had dishonoured and betrayed both the President and the Prime Minister by sticking to his decision without listening to the grievances of the evicted farmers and redressing the same.

Paying least attention to Banerjee’s allegations, the Chief Minister claimed at a public rally at Coochbehar in north Bengal today that the farmers and land owners had now been coming forward to surrender their lands willingly to industries since they realised that this was in their larger interest.

Union Information Minister Priya Dasmunshi strongly criticised the Chief Minister and declared that he would support Banerjee’s agitation on the Singur and Nandigram issue.

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Ahluwalia new chief of Western Air Command
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 1
Air Marshal Padamjit Singh Ahluwalia today took over as the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the most important Western Air Command.
Prior to this appointment the officer was the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Air Command.

A highly decorated and professionally respected officer, the Air Marshal has approximately 4,000 hours of flying experience on all types of fighter aircraft. He has held a judicious mix of staff and field appointments and has done several tours of professional and diplomatic assignments abroad.

In his previous appointment as Director General Flight Safety, he was instrumental in crafting and executing a strategy that has reduced the accident rates of the Indian Air force to an all time historical low.

Air Marshal Ahluwalia is considered a highly Operational Commander with exceptional managerial skills. The Western Air Command is the oldest, largest and the most operationally sensitive command of the IAF.

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SI held for human trade

New Delhi, February 1
The CBI has arrested six persons, including one of its sub-inspectors, on the charges of human trafficking.
A CBI spokesperson said all accused, including Sub Inspector Lilu Ram, were in judicial custody. Six premises linked to the accused were searched and more than 150 passports were recovered from one place. The accused used to cheat people with the promise of sending them abroad for employment.

“They contacted unemployed people and promised them jobs in foreign countries, extracting huge amounts of money from them,” he said.

“They then arranged travel documents, including passports, visas and travel tickets, for them,” he added.

He said on arrival the travel documents of the victims were taken away and then they were constantly shifted from one place to another. “One such victim had somehow managed to return to India”. — UNI

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Ground-handling services at airports to be competitive
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 1
The government today cleared a policy aimed at encouraging competition in the security-sensitive ground handling services at major metro airports.
The Cabinet Committee on Cecurity (CCS), which met here under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, cleared the policy that had been moved by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in a bid to make the ground handling at the metro airports of world class quality.

As per the new policy, there would be three ground handling agents at the airports. They would be the airport operator or its subsidiary, a subsidiary of Air India and the Indian and a ground handler selected through competitive bidding, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters after the meeting.

The Civil Aviation Ministry had earlier finalised the draft policy for allowing at least three players to undertake these services at major airports like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

Mr Chidambaram informed that the defence areas had been kept out of the ambit of the policy for which a separate scheme would be worked out later.

As the ground handling services were considered sensitive, the ground handler selected for each airport would have to abide by strict security protocols, the Finance Minister said.

As per the new policy, the players allowed ground handling would either be the Airports Authority of India or the private-led joint venture partners at these airports, the state-owned Air India or the Indian or their subsidiary and an independent agency chosen by the competitive bidding process.

The annual revenue generated from ground handling operations is estimated at about Rs 1,000 crore now and is expected to grow rapidly, with private players taking the plunge into this lucrative segment.

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Bhavna Yadav summoned

New Delhi, February 1
After examining the officials concerned of HDFC Bank, a city court today issued summons to Bhavna Yadav, daughter of former Rajya Sabha member D.P. Yadav, for deposition on February 21 in the Nitish Katara murder case.

According to the prosecution, Bharti Yadav has categorically denied during her examination in the court the use of cellphone bearing number 9810038469 and also denied having received any call from Neelam Katara, Bharat Diwakar, Gaurav Gupta and Nitin Katara on February 16 and 17, 2002. The company has reported that the SIM card number concerned was issued in the name of Ms Bhavna, resident of Raj Nagar, Ghaziabad, which belongs to D.P. Yadav, father of Bharti and Bhavna.

“It is very much essential to examine Bhavna, sister of Bharti Yadav, to ascertain as to who was using the cellphone number concerned on the relevant days and dates.”

Bharti’s brother Vikas Yadav and her cousin Vishal Yadav were accused of murdering Nitish Katara after abducting him from a marriage party in Ghaziabad.— UNI

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Centre holds meeting on police reforms 

New Delhi, February 1
The Centre today held a high-level meeting with officials of the Union Territories to elicit their views on the implementation of the Supreme Court order on police reforms and to formulate the Model Police Act which is likely to come in the Budget session of Parliament.The meeting convened by Home Ministry was chaired by Home Secretary V.K. Duggal.The views of the Union Territories have been elicited as a follow-up to the Supreme Court directives on January 11, dismissing the plea of the states and the UTs to modify or review its earlier directives of September 22 on implementation of reforms. — UNI

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