SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

SC refers govt pension issue to larger Bench
New Delhi, February 4
The Supreme Court has referred to a larger Bench the question whether the retired government employees are entitled to the benefits of a pension scheme introduced subsequent to their retirement.

Judgement on Cauvery water dispute today
Bangalore, February 4
Politicians in Karnataka came together at an all-party meeting today to announce their intention to "fight" to protect their interests on the eve of the much-awaited judgement of the Cauvery Water Disputes tribunal tomorrow.

Nithari: Victims’ kin seek withdrawal of SSP’s transfer
Lucknow, February 4
Family members of the victims of the Nithari serial killings today threatened Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav with an agitation if their demand for the withdrawal of the transfer order of the Noida SSP R.K.S. Rathore was not met.

RSS endorses Rajnath’s new team
New Delhi, February 4
After former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, it is now the turn of the RSS to publicly endorse BJP President Rajnath Singh’s new team. Having come under sharp attack over the latest organisational changes, the approval from the RSS should come as a relief for the beleaguered BJP chief.










EARLIER STORIES




Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi (Right) with Air Chief Marshal-designate Fali H Major during the international seminar on "Aerospace Power in Tomorrow's World"
Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi (Right) with Air Chief Marshal-designate Fali H Major during the international seminar on "Aerospace Power in Tomorrow's World" in New Delhi on Sunday. — PTI

A man and his children feed pigeons in New Delhi on Sunday
A man and his children feed pigeons in New Delhi on Sunday. — PTI

No crisis in Rajasthan: BJP
Jaipur, February 4
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje is likely to meet the BJP central leadership during her visit to Delhi tomorrow even as the saffron party rubbished a news report that four ministers in her government had quit.

3 Rajasthan dissident ministers meet Rajnath
New Delhi, February 4
Dissidence in the BJP in Rajasthan today reached the party’s central leadership, with three of the four ministers up in arms against Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje today meeting party president Rajnath Singh and conveying their grievances against her.

Brahmos missile test-fired
Balasore, February 4
The Brahmos supersonic cruise missile was test-fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur near here today. After a vertical lift-off at 12.15 pm from launch pad number three at the ITR, 15 km from here, the surface-to-surface missile rose into the sky leaving behind a ribbon of white smoke, defence sources said.
In video (56k)

Gandhigiri Lalu’s new mantra
Patna, February 4
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, once considered the icon of the media for his quotable quotes, now seemed to be attaching more importance to the power of Gandhigiri in changing society than to active politics.

Tax relief for salaried class, farm loan at 4 pc, demands Left
New Delhi, February 4
The wish list of the communists for Budget 2007-08 calls for providing tax relief to salaried employees and pensioners apart from its demand of taxing the corporate and higher allocation for agriculture, health and education and priority lending to the Muslims to meet the commitments made in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP).

Bharat Ratna for Kalpana Chawla sought
New Delhi, February 4
The Punjab Engineering College Old Boys Association (PECOBA), Chandigarh, has urged the government to confer the Bharat Ratna on astronaut Kalpana Chawla. PECOBA conferred the Kalpana Chawla Excellence Awards 2007 for women to several distinguished women who have excelled in their fields.

Punjabi lad is ‘thinker of the year’
New Delhi, February 4
The young motivational guru of the West, Chandresh Bhardwaj, was conferred with “thinker of the year” award by a well-known social and cultural organisation of the Capital here today.

Bank donates Rs 2.27 cr to eye hospital
Hyderabad, February 4
Standard Chartered Bank, the country's largest foreign bank, announced a grant of Rs 2.27 crore to Sankar Eye Foundation Hospital in Visakhapatnam for the construction of a state-of-the-art eye hospital.

Videos

Ulfa strikes yet again Guwahati. 
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Hiring out elephants for joy rides. 
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SC refers govt pension issue to larger Bench

New Delhi, February 4
The Supreme Court has referred to a larger Bench the question whether the retired government employees are entitled to the benefits of a pension scheme introduced subsequent to their retirement.

A Bench comprising Justices S.B. Sinha and Markandey Katju in a judgement dated January 31 referred the issue to the larger Bench in view of the conflicting judgement rendered by this court on the issue.

A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had held that the employees, who retired before coming into operation of a pension scheme, were also entitled to the benefit of the said pension scheme. While another Bench had held that an employee was entitled to enhanced pension, only if, he was getting some pension at the time of his retirement and such benefit was available, only if, pension was increased through an amendment to the pension scheme subsequent to his retirement.

The important ruling came on an appeal filed by the Principal Secretary to the Finance and Planning Department, Andhra Pradesh Government, who had challenged the Andhra Pradesh High Court judgement of December 23, 2003, vide which the appeal of the state government was dismissed.

The AP Pensioner Samaj and others had challenged the Andhra Government’s order of May 25, 1998, that said the benefits of the revised fixation of pension on the basis of the last drawn pay treating it as emoluments for the purpose of pension would be available only to the employees who had retired on or after May 25, 1998.

The samaj had sought directions from the AP Administrative Tribunal that the benefits of the scheme should be extended to all pensioners irrespective of their date of retirement and the pensioners who retired earlier should be given arrears also.

The tribunal allowed the application of the pensioner to the extent that a pensioner could not be denied the revision of pension on the basis of the revised formula. The tribunal, however, declined the plea for arrears. The High Court upheld the ruling of the tribunal and dismissed the appeal of the government.

The apex court has said, “In view of apparent conflict in these decisions, we are of the opinion that the matter requires consideration by a larger Bench of this court. Another point that requires consideration by a larger Bench is whether any formal amendment to the AP Revised Pension Rule, 1980, was necessary consequent to the issue of the order issued in GOM Number 87 Finance, dated May 25, 1998, if the retired employees wanted to get the benefit of the latter. Let the papers of this case be placed before the Chief Justice for the constitution of the larger Bench”. — UNI 

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Judgement on Cauvery water dispute today
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 4
Politicians in Karnataka came together at an all-party meeting today to announce their intention to "fight" to protect their interests on the eve of the much-awaited judgement of the Cauvery Water Disputes tribunal tomorrow.

Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, while appealing to the people of the state to "fight" for their demands, however, reminded them of the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi while doing so. He said the people must adopt the Mahatma's mantra while fighting for their demands.

There is complete unanimity on the issue with the Leader of the Opposition and senior Congress leader N. Dharam Singh supporting the stand taken by the Chief Minister and announcing that his party would work with the government to get a "fair deal" for the farmers of the state. The meeting was attended by representatives of all major political parties in the state.

Karnataka politicians as well as the people of the state are wary that their state might lose out to Tamil Nadu in the forthcoming order mainly due to what they perceive is the close proximity of the Karunanidhi regime with the Centre.

The Bangalore police is also awaiting the judgment with bated breath and is not taking any chances. It has deployed 16,000 police personnel all over the city to thwart any recurrence of riots which took place after the interim judgement of the tribunal in 1992.

Meanwhile, immediately after the meeting state Home Minister M.P. Prakash held a meeting with top police officials to review the security arrangements. The Home Minister has directed the police to increase security presence at sensitive points in the city as well as at locations associated with the forthcoming Aero India show starting from February 7.

The city police has, in a precautionary move, already rounded up a few hundred anti-social elements to thwart any attempt to instigate the public in case there is an adverse award against Karnataka. Police sources said security arrangements in Mandya district, whose farmers will be most affected in case of an adverse verdict, have also been increased. Police personnel have also been deployed in the entire Cauvery basin area to guard against any untoward incident.

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Nithari: Victims’ kin seek withdrawal of SSP’s transfer
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, February 4
Family members of the victims of the Nithari serial killings today threatened Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav with an agitation if their demand for the withdrawal of the transfer order of the Noida SSP R.K.S. Rathore was not met.

This is the first time the residents of Nithari have protested against any action against a police officer since the murders came to light some one-and-a-half months ago.

During the 30-minute meeting with the CM at his official residence, the delegation led by president of the Akhil Bhartiya Navjagrat Brahma Samaj S.C. Mishra shared their apprehension that the transfer of SSP Rathore was an effort by the state government to hush up the case.

Members of 17 families with photographs of their missing children along with some other persons effected by the murders said that they would continue their agitation till their demands of punishing the guilty, adequate compensation, a home and government jobs as promised by the authorities were met.

The family members told the CM that they would be forced to go on hunger strike and may even consider self-immolation if the government did not provide them government jobs and punish the guilty people involved in killing their children.

Interestingly, the families also questioned the role of the CBI in the ongoing probe and expressed the fear that the main accused Moninder Singh Pandher might be given a clean chit by the agency. The family members have also submitted a memorandum to Mr Yadav about their demands and apprehensions.

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RSS endorses Rajnath’s new team
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 4
After former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, it is now the turn of the RSS to publicly endorse BJP President Rajnath Singh’s new team.
Having come under sharp attack over the latest organisational changes, the approval from the RSS should come as a relief for the beleaguered BJP chief.

Expressing satisfaction over the revamp undertaken by Mr Rajnath Singh, an editorial in the latest issue of the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, commented, “The new team is a carefully crafted exercise in political manoeuvre and accommodation. He resisted the temptation to change for its own sake. He has cobbled together a young team of office-bearers, sticking to the principle of continuity with change”.

The editorial has taken note of the what it describes as “unbiased” analysis of the new team in the media, but goes on to give a thumbs up to Mr Rajnath Singh’s leadership qualities and the manner in which he reconstituted the new team, combining continuity with change.

“The beauty was that he had not disturbed the rhythm of the onward march. It was a new face, a new look team but sculptured essentially out of the party’s established and proven leadership composition. By effecting minimum possible changes he had tried to accommodate and balance all sections, both new blood and old guard,” it added.

Although it is over a week since Mr Rajnath Singh revamped his team, the controversy over the changes refuses to die down. The main Opposition party is in the throes of a churning as internal divisions have resurfaced after the party president decided to drop Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from the BJP’s all-powerful Central Parliamentary Board and general secretary Arun Jaitley as national spokesperson.

This is the latest in the series of controversies surrounding Mr Rajnath Singh. Ever since he took over as party president, he has been under constant pressure, especially since outgoing president and leader of Opposition L.K. Advani continues to take an active interest in organisational affairs. 

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No crisis in Rajasthan: BJP

Jaipur, February 4
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje is likely to meet the BJP central leadership during her visit to Delhi tomorrow even as the saffron party rubbished a news report that four ministers in her government had quit.

In the national capital, Ms Raje will attend a meeting of the Planning Commission to discuss the state plan, party sources said.

She might utilise the opportunity to meet top BJP central leaders, they said.

Yesterday, BJP spokesman Prakash Javedkar said here on phone that there was no truth in a news channel report that four ministers had submitted their resignations to party chief Rajnath Singh.

"There is no crisis, no tension in the Rajasthan BJP," he said reacting to the report that Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, Education Minister Ghanshyam Tiwari, Social Welfare Minister Madan Dilawar and Health Minister Bhawani Joshi had quit.

Rajasthan BJP chief Mahesh Sharma, who yesterday said there was no dissidence in the party, today left for Mumbai for personal reasons.

When contacted last evening, the ministers denied that they had tendered their resignations to Mr Rajnath Singh.

Ms Raje on Friday stripped Mr Dilawar, a hardcore Bajrang Dal activist, of the Cooperative Department, a day after his outburst against his colleague Mr Rajendra Rathore, Parliamentary Affairs Minister.

Mr Tiwari, Mr Dilawar and Mr Kataria did not attend a special cabinet meeting convened by Ms Raje at Kota on January 25. — PTI

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3 Rajasthan dissident ministers meet Rajnath

New Delhi, February 4
Dissidence in the BJP in Rajasthan today reached the party’s central leadership, with three of the four ministers up in arms against Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje today meeting party president Rajnath Singh and conveying their grievances against her.

Ms Raje would reach New Delhi tomorrow to attend a meeting of the Planning Commission and was likely to take the opportunity to meet the party’s central leaders to discuss the developments in the state unit of the BJP.

Mr Gulab Chand Kataria, Mr Ghanshayam Tiwari and Mr Madan Dilawar met the BJP chief and explained to him their position in the wake of reports, which had been rebutted by the party, that they had resigned in protest against the Chief Minister.

Mr Rajnath Singh directed the state BJP chief and the general secretary (organisation) there to resolve the crisis at their level.

The meeting between the three Rajasthan ministers and Mr Rajnath Singh followed the BJP chief’s attempts to downplay the crisis in the state unit of the party after Ms Raje divested Mr Dilawar of his PWD portfolio as dissidence against her mounted.

The crisis in the BJP government in Rajasthan came less than a week after he announced his team following the ratification by the national council of his re-election as party chief. — PTI

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Brahmos missile test-fired

Balasore, February 4
The Brahmos supersonic cruise missile was test-fired from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur near here today.
After a vertical lift-off at 12.15 pm from launch pad number three at the ITR, 15 km from here, the surface-to-surface missile rose into the sky leaving behind a ribbon of white smoke, defence sources said.

"The launch was successful but we will have to analyse data to make an evaluation," a source said.

The launch was carried out from a mobile launcher, with an indigenously built multi-axle Tatra truck serving as the base platform.

The trajectory of the missile’s flight was tracked by sophisticated instruments and radars on a ship located close to the point of impact in the Bay of Bengal, the sources said.

Brahmos Aerospace CEO A. Sivathanu Pillai was present during today's launch.

He recently said India was preparing to test the submarine version of the Brahmos by the end of the year.

The Brahmos - named after the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers - was developed by a joint venture company set up by India and Russia following an agreement signed by the two countries in 1998.

Brahmos has a range of 290 km with a speed faster than that of sound. It can travel at Mach 2.8 to 3 and carry a conventional warhead of 200 to 300 kg, sources said. — PTI

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Gandhigiri Lalu’s new mantra
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 4
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, once considered the icon of the media for his quotable quotes, now seemed to be attaching more importance to the power of Gandhigiri in changing society than to active politics.

Mr Prasad said near Hajipur yesterday that of late, his wife Rabri Devi had often advised him to switch over from the useless and thankless job of politics to social service.

Without hiding his growing disenchantment with politics, Mr Prasad quoted his wife, stating that politics only gave them (Lalu and Rabri) tension and court cases.

Though Mr Lalu Prasad did not divulge his future plans, he admitted that the advice given by his wife to quit politics was the best he had ever received from anyone.

In a pensive mood, he regretted that despite serving the poor and the downtrodden during 15 years of his rule, he would now have to sit in the Opposition in the Assembly.

He urged the people to take recourse to Gandhigiri to protest against injustice and non-development, adding that the days of politics in the country were over.

Known for his unique sense of timing, Mr Yadav stopped short of quitting politics by exhorting the people to uproot the Nitish Kumar government in the state as it was “fooling the masses”.

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Tax relief for salaried class, farm loan at 4 pc, demands Left
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 4
The wish list of the communists for Budget 2007-08 calls for providing tax relief to salaried employees and pensioners apart from its demand of taxing the corporate and higher allocation for agriculture, health and education and priority lending to the Muslims to meet the commitments made in the National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP).

The four Left parties, which prop up the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre, last evening submitted their joint Budget proposals and suggestions to Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and urged him to show political will to mobilise resources to meet the promises made in the NCMP.

The withdrawal of standard deduction of salaried employees along with the raising of the basic income tax exemption limit to Rs 100,000 made in Budget 2006-07 have put the salaried employees in a disadvantageous position as compared to businessmen. However, the businessmen are able to show expenditures like travel, depreciation as business activities in the account books while salaried employees cannot claim exemption on account of travel and other related expenses.

This could be corrected through the reintroduction of standard deduction for salaried employees. Tax relief should be provided to senior citizens. The health allowance for pensioners, who could not access the CGHS, should be enhanced, it said.

It is learnt that the Left leaders are pressing for the need to raise the tax exemption limit for ordinary taxpayers to Rs 2 lakh from the present Rs one lakh.

For mitigating the continuing crisis in agriculture, the Left proposal said Budget 2007-08 should put in place a mechanism on the lines suggested in the approach paper, whereby automatic tariff revision could be made in case the price of agricultural products crashes.

The Budget should reduce interest rate on farm loans for farmers to 4 per cent and provide debt relief to all debt-stressed farmers by ensuring 50 per cent of priority sector lending to agriculture goes to small and marginal farmers.

The Left said the government could find all the resources required for improving the conditions of farmers and workers by reintroducing the longterm capital gains tax at the rate of 15 per cent and a flat securities transaction tax of 0.1 per cent. It called for an increase in wealth tax from one to 3 per cent.

Check price rise of essential commodities, strengthen procurement and increase agricultural production and universalise the PDS by increasing food subsidy, it said.

The proposal called for bringing down prices of petrol and diesel by restructuring the duty structure on petroleum products.

It called for extending the employment guarantee scheme, NREGA, to 200 more districts. Allocate more funds for the rural employment and infrastructure development. Increase expenditure on education to meet 6 per cent of the GDP. Increase education cess to fund the expansion of education at all levels. Also to increase expenditure on health to 2-3 per cent of the GDP.

The proposal called for the allocation of funds to initiate a social security scheme for unorganised workers. Universalise the ICDS. Introduce a gender component in all development programmes and set gender-based targets of at least one-third of total beneficiaries being women, it said. Commence a national programme for minor irrigation of lands owned by Dalits and adivasis. Redistribute land to landless families.

Formulate sub-plan allocating 15 per cent of the total resources on all development programmes for minorities, especially Muslims and ensure 15 per cent of the priority sector lending target for minorities, the Left parties said, adding that the Finance Minister should consider the Sachar Committee finding while formulating his proposals.

The tariff liberalisation following the free trade agreement, which has hit the domestic vanaspati industry, rubber producers and colour TV makers, the communists called for increased customs duties in sectors being hit by cheap imports and reduce excise duties for small scale industries.

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Bharat Ratna for Kalpana Chawla sought
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 4
The Punjab Engineering College Old Boys Association (PECOBA), Chandigarh, has urged the government to confer the Bharat Ratna on astronaut Kalpana Chawla.
PECOBA conferred the Kalpana Chawla Excellence Awards 2007 for women to several distinguished women who have excelled in their fields.

Speaking on the occasion, Amarjit Singh Kohli, founder general secretary of PECOBA urged the Centre to award Kalpana Chawla posthumously with the Bharat Ratna.

Film actress Nandita Das, Kashmiri folk singer Shameem Azad, and sarod maestro Sharan Rani were among the recipients of the awards at a function to mark the fourth death anniversary of the astronaut.

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Punjabi lad is ‘thinker of the year’
Nalini Ranjan

New Delhi, February 4
The young motivational guru of the West, Chandresh Bhardwaj, was conferred with “thinker of the year” award by a well-known social and cultural organisation of the Capital here today.

Chandresh, who hails from Gurudaspur district in Punjab, is currently pursuing higher studies at Baruch College, New York.

According to president of the organisation Sanjeev Kumar, his regular column on positive thinking titled, “Beware of what you say”, in a local daily has become so popular that curious readers across the globe has started taking his advice on various sensitive and complex issues related to life.

He has written about two dozen pieces on motivation, positive thinking and new way of life in the paper and is toying with the idea of compiling all those articles in a book for the benefit of his potential readers.

He said, “Our words derive from thoughts. Thoughts are powerful and helpful, yet they are the most dangerous things we have. Your thoughts can destroy you. You personality, the state of your life and your nature reflect the quality of your thoughts”.

Bhardwaj started thinking on human-related issues when he was in sixth standard. “Depression in people’s mind always used to bother me and I thought that there should be different ways of looking at things that come in anybody’s life. I have learned so many things from my grandfather Ratan P. Bhardwaj, who was once rated among a few original Punjabi writers. All-time great thinker of India J. Krishnamurthy also inspires me.”

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Bank donates Rs 2.27 cr to eye hospital
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, February 4
Standard Chartered Bank, the country's largest foreign bank, announced a grant of Rs 2.27 crore to Sankar Eye Foundation Hospital in Visakhapatnam for the construction of a state-of-the-art eye hospital.

The contribution was made last week under the aegis of ‘Seeing is Believing’ programme, which aims to restore sight to people suffering from avoidable blindness. This programme, in its current phase, completed 79,000 surgeries through the bank's implementation partners.

"Through this programme, our global initiative, we hope to touch the lives of needy people in and around Visakhapatnam, Chattisgarh and Orissa," Robert Green, regional credit officer (India and South Asia) said on the occasion.

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