SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Sonia, PM hit poll campaign trail
New Delhi, February 5
As polls in the three states of Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur draw closer, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got down to serious campaigning today in what promises to be a tough electoral battle.

Cauvery: TN gets lion’s share
New Delhi, February 5
The 17-year-old Cauvery Water Diputes Tribunal today gave its final verdict on the river water dispute by awarding the lion’s share of 491 thousand million cubic (TMC) feet to Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Karnataka 270 TMC feet, but the century-old dispute in South India is not finally settled.

4 JeM terrorists nabbed with arms
New Delhi, February 5
Foiling a major attack plan in the Capital by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the police here arrested four of its operatives, including a Pakistan-trained militant, after a fierce encounter near Connaught Place and seized a large quantity of explosives, grenades and cash.

Alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed members Shahid Ghafoor of Pakistan (second from left) with Abdul Majid (left) Fayaz Lone (third from left) and Bashir Ahmed (right) are escorted out by the police after their remand by a court in New Delhi, on Monday.
Alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed members Shahid Ghafoor of Pakistan (second from left) with Abdul Majid (left) Fayaz Lone (third from left) and Bashir Ahmed (right) are escorted out by the police after their remand by a court in New Delhi, on Monday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal






EARLIER STORIES




PIL seeking de-recognition of SAD declined
New Delhi, February 5
In a boost to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) amid election campaign, the Supreme Court today declined to entertain a petition seeking its de-recognition on the ground that party’s political structure was based on religion which amounted to violation of the principle of secularism enshrined in the Constitution.

Monsoon may no longer be the same
New Delhi, February 5
The imminent climate change is expected to affect India the hard way. For India, the country for which agriculture is its main strength, the monsoon may no longer remain the same.

Four officials reinstated in Gorakhpur
Lucknow, February 5
While the curfew is till continuing in Gorakhpur, the four senior district officials suspended last week for their failure to control the riots have, however, already been reinstated by the state government.

Diversion of funds
Maj-Gen in dock
Chandigarh, February 5
The Army has ordered administrative action against a Major-General for alleged diversion of funds meant to construct safety aids and allied facilities at an ammunition depot in Hisar to construct a swimming pool adjacent to the flag staff house, it is learnt.

Ratan Tata to fly F-16 aircraft
Mumbai, February 5
Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Steel, has accepted an invitation by Lockheed Martin to fly its F-16 fighter aircraft during the Bangalore Air Show later this week, according to a statement by the Tata Group of companies. Lockheed Martin, which is aggressively bidding for contracts from the Indian government, extended the invitation to Tata well before the Corus deal took place, according to company sources.

Tata: Small-car project on
Mamata to intensify stir
Singur, January 5
Amid renewed agitation against the Tata Motors small-car project at Singur leading to reimposition of prohibitory orders, Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata said today the car would roll out as scheduled in 2008.

Mamata defers Singur visit, to meet PM, President
Kolkata, February 5
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today deferred her visit to the troubled area where work on the Tata Motors small car project was on.

UN peacekeeping troops take oath
New Delhi, February 5
President A P J Abdul Kalam, the supreme commander of the armed forces, today administered oath to troops heading for Congo and Sudan as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.


President A.P.J. Kalam, Chief of Army Staff J.J. Singh with Army soldiers who are proceeding on UN missions to Congo and Sudan in New Delhi on Monday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal
President A.P.J. Kalam, Chief of Army Staff J.J. Singh with Army soldiers who are proceeding on UN missions to Congo and Sudan in New Delhi on Monday.

Railways will not be privatised: Lalu
New Delhi, February 5
Union Railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav ruled out large scale privatisation of the railways and said public-private partnership was welcome in none-core activities.

Rlys increases reservation time-limit
New Delhi, February 5
Reverting to the old practice, the Railways Ministry today decided to increase the advance reservation period from 60 to 90 days (excluding the date of journey) for three months on a experimental basis.

Sabharwal murder: Witnesses turn hostile
Ujjain, February 5
In a major setback to the prosecution, two main eyewitnesses in the murder of Prof H.S.Sabharwal during a college union election, today turned hostile in a court here.

Saturn to offer treat for sky-watchers
New Delhi, February 5
Sky-watchers will have a rare opportunity to take a look at the rings of Saturn when the planet reaches in opposition on Saturday.

Sonia invites militants to the negotiating table
Imphal, February 5
Congress president Sonia Gandhi today appealed to all militant groups to shun violence and come to the negotiating table.


Congress president Sonia Gandhi with Manipur Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh during an election rally in Imphal on Monday. — PTI photo
Congress president Sonia Gandhi with Manipur Chief Minister O. Ibobi Singh during an election rally in Imphal on Monday.

Gawli comes to Shiv Sena aid
Mumbai, February 5
It’s a Faustian bargain the Shiv Sena-BJP combine in Maharashtra is agonising over support from gangster Arun Gawli’s Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS) in the Mumbai civic body in return for legitimising his political career.

US expects big pie of defence deals
New Delhi, February 5
The United States expects a big pie of the $ 30 billion defence deals with India including the contract for 126 frontline fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.

BSF chief stresses on effective communication
New Delhi, February 5
BSF Director-General A.K. Mitra has emphasised on optimum utilisation of the talents available within the force for the improvement of communication system.

SC: No automatic extension of laws pertaining to J&K
New Delhi, February 5
The Supreme Court today dismissed a petition seeking automatic extension of every law passed by Parliament to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Sanjay Dutt to appear today
Mumbai, February 5 
Actor Sanjay Dutt will appear before the special TADA court on Tuesday when the extension of bail granted to him last month expires. Dutt, who was convicted under the Arms Act in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, will argue for a further extension.

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Sonia, PM hit poll campaign trail
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
As polls in the three states of Punjab, Uttarakhand and Manipur draw closer, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got down to serious campaigning today in what promises to be a tough electoral battle.

Even before she hit the campaign trail, Ms Gandhi sent out a tough message to the faction-ridden state units to end their infighting. In the latest issue of Congress Sandesh, the party’s mouthpiece, Ms Gandhi specifically asked party cadre to put aside their personal egos and work unitedly for the party’s victory in the Assembly elections.

Ms Gandhi addressed two rallies in Manipur and is slated to visit the state again on February 13. Dr Manmohan Singh was in Punjab today where he addressed a rally at Amritsar.

The Congress president will be campaigning in Punjab on February 7 (Jandiala and Phagwara) and 10 (Rampuraphul and Sarhind) after which she will head to Uttarakhand on February 14 to campaign in the Scheduled Caste seat Srinagar, Tehri and Uttarkashi.

The Prime Minister will spend a day in this hill state on February 13 addressing rallies at Rudrapur, Pitthoragarh and Hardwar city, areas which have a substantial Sikh population.

While Ms Gandhi has set aside two days for Punjab, she will be spending an extra day in the much-smaller state of Uttarakhand suggesting that the Congress party’s prospects here are better as compared to the other states.

The party president will be campaigning in Haldwani, Almora and Bahadarabad on February 16 and will address a public rally in Dehra Dun on February 18, three days before the crucial vote.

This will be preceded by a three-day joint tour by Uttarakhand Chief Minister N.D. Tiwari, his bete noire PCC chief Harish Rawat and AICC in charge of the state Motilal Vora from February 8 to 10 in a clear effort to stamp out factionalism in the state unit and present a united face before the people.

The Congress is fighting with its back to the wall in both Punjab and Uttarakhand where it is facing heavy anti-incumbency after five years in power.

Although development will be the main electoral issue in both states, the Congress play the emotive card by highlighting how it implemented the overdue demand of the people to change the name of Uttaranchal to Uttarakhand. “Humko mila apna Uttarakhand, apni pehchan, apni nai udaan, Congress ke madhyam se,” is the key slogan of the Congress campaign here.

The Congress leadership is banking on the “achievements” of the UPA government at the Centre to pull in votes in these states. In her message in the Congress Sandesh, Ms Gandhi has exhorted workers to highlight the various pro-people programmes of the UPA, especially the priority it is according to the revitalisation of the much-neglected agriculture sector, to underline the Congress’s commitment to the welfare of the common man.

She also urged Congress cadres to highlight the failures of the Opposition, especially the BJP and other religion-based parties, to generate awareness about their divisive and elitist agenda.

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Cauvery: TN gets lion’s share
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
The 17-year-old Cauvery Water Diputes Tribunal today gave its final verdict on the river water dispute by awarding the lion’s share of 491 thousand million cubic (TMC) feet to Tamil Nadu and neighbouring Karnataka 270 TMC feet, but the century-old dispute in South India is not finally settled.

The tribunal also gave Kerala 30 TMC feet and Puducherry 7 TMC feet.

While Tamil Nadu has welcomed the decision, Karnataka and Kerala are planning to appeal against it. Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz urged all Cauvery river basin states to accept the tribunal’s verdict.

“The tribunal’s award is equal to an order by the Supreme Court. All states will have to accept it”, he told reporters, adding, “The states will have three months to respond to its order. The states can ask for an explation of the award and the tribunal can explain the queries raised by the state within an year.”

In the final order, running into over 1000 pages in five volumes, the three-member tribunal, headed by Justice N.P. Singh, said the remaining water of the river would be used for environmental development.

The dispute over its waters originated in the 19th century during the British rule between the then Madras presidency (modern-day Tamil Nadu) and the province of Mysore (now Karnataka). The verdict will supersede the historic 1882 and 1924 agreements on water-sharing between the three basin states, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

The tribunal verdict would have implications on other river water disputes, including the SYL, as the observations in the order could be referred and inferences drawn.

The tribunal directed that any upper riparian state would not take any action so as to affect the scheduled deliveries of waters to the lower riparian state.

However, the states concerned could by mutual agreement and in consultation with the regulatory authority make any amendment in the pattern of water deliveries.

During the arguments, Tamil Nadu had pleaded for allocating 562 TMC feet of water to meet the irrigation, domestic and industrial requirements while Karnataka had demanded 465 TMC feet.

The order would come into operation from the date it was notified by the Centre under the inter-state water disputes Act. A notification was expected in 90 days. Any party to the dispute could challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

The tribunal ordered that Karnataka should make monthly deliveries out of the 192 TMC feet to Tamil Nadu during a normal year at the inter-state point, identified as the Billigundlu gauge, and discharge station located on the border.

The tribunal explained that a normal year would mean an year in which the total yield of the Cauvery basin was 740 TMC feet and use of the Cauvery water by any person or entity of any nature within the territory of a state would be reckoned as used by that state.

The tribunal determined that the usable quantum of water of the Cauvery at the lower Coleroon Anicut site on the basis of 50 per cent dependability to be 740 TMC feet.

After allocating 726 TMC feet for the four states, it reserved 10 TMC feet for environmental production and four TMC feet for inevitable escapages into the sea.

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4 JeM terrorists nabbed with arms

New Delhi, February 5
Foiling a major attack plan in the Capital by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the police here arrested four of its operatives, including a Pakistan-trained militant, after a fierce encounter near Connaught Place and seized a large quantity of explosives, grenades and cash.

The arrests were made after the encounter at about 9.30 pm last night at Ranjit Singh flyover on Deendayal Upadhyay Marg where the three Kashmiri militants were to meet their Pakistani counterpart to deliver the consignment, Jt Commissioner (Special Cell) Karnail Singh told mediapersons today.

“In all, 32 rounds were exchanged -- 12 from the militants side and 20 from the police team. However, there were no casualties in the encounter.”

The arrested have been identified as Shahid Ghafoor (30) - a Pakistani national hailing from Sialkot, and Bashir Ahmad Ponnu alias ‘Maulvi’ (39), Fayyaz Ahmed Lone (28) and Abdul Majeed Baba (50) -- all residents of Kashmir. Three kilograms of deadly RDX, a .30 pistol, four detonators, a timer and six hand grenades apart from 10,000 US dollars, and Rs 50,000 in Indian currency were seized from their possession, he said.

“The arrests were the result of intelligence sharing between Delhi Police, state police and intelligence agencies.”

He said the three Kashmiris, had come to Delhi with the ‘consignment’ along with the explosives and grenades on the Malwa Express at 9 pm and were to deliver them to Ghafoor who had arrived the same day in the morning.

On their likely target, the Jt Commissioner said the plan was to plant the explosives in crowded market places and return back to Kolkata.

“A ‘daur-e-aam’ (basic training of 21 days) and ‘daur-e-khas’ (specialised traits) trained militant, Ghafoor, who had come to India from Bangladesh on a Biman Airlines flight had earlier too come to India in 1998 and 2002 and was involved in the 2002 attack on Rashtriya Rifles camps in Kashmir.”

This time, he came to India on the instructions of his mentor Muzaffarabad (Pakistan) resident Farukh Qureshi to carry out the ‘operation’ after receiving the ‘consignment’ from the Kashmiris. A diary, with his Pakistani address and several other numbers, has been found in his possession, he said.

“During interrogation the three Kashmiris said they had gone to Kolkata last month to exchange the $ 10,000 for fake Indian currency worth 20 lakh from their Bangladeshi ‘associates’, on the instructions of JeM Sopore commander Abu Haider, but somehow the ‘transaction’ could not take place. They were later given the present ‘consignment’ to be delivered to Ghafoor who was to carry out the ‘attacks’ in the Capital.”

The arrested were still being interrogated and central intelligence agencies were also involved in the interrogation process, said the Jt CP.

Asked about why the police had allowed the terrorists to reach the national capital, Mr Singh said it was their endeavour to bust as large a module as possible.

“Thankfully, we obtained and developed information in time allowing us to effect the arrests. Had we just arrested the three, there was a possibility that their contact, the Pakistani citizen, could have escaped.” — UNI

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PIL seeking de-recognition of SAD declined
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 5
In a boost to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) amid election campaign, the Supreme Court today declined to entertain a petition seeking its de-recognition on the ground that party’s political structure was based on religion which amounted to violation of the principle of secularism enshrined in the Constitution.

Not convinced with such a stand taken in a public interest litigation (PIL), a Bench, comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Mr Justice R.V. Raveendran and Mr Justice D.K. Jain, refused to take cognisance of it after his counsel failed to place on record any order of the EC on the issue.

The court put certain questions to counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Balwant Singh Khera, whether they had filed any petition before the EC, if so, what was its fate and was a specific order passed by the EC.

When the counsel tried to make a distinction between EC’s powers on de-register and de-recognise a political party under the provisions laid down in Section 29A of the Representation of People Act (RPA), the court said it was simply asking for a specific order passed by the EC.

The petitioner’s counsel claimed that they had taken up the issue with the EC, but he failed to place on record any specific order passed by it. In view of this, the Bench told him that the court’s jurisdiction could only be invoked if the poll panel had entertained the matter and passed some order.

Mr Khera’s counsel persisted that the SAD was “aligned” to the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex religious body of Sikhs, and was “mingling its political agenda with religious affairs and has violated constitutional provisions of secularism”.

He also said the SAD though had given an undertaking to the EC to abide by the “principles of secularism” while getting itself registered, it was not sticking to its commitment as its members were contesting elections to religious bodies like the SGPC and the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC).

It is “mandatory” for all political parties to give undertaking to the EC as per the provision of Section 29A of the RPA at the time of registration. They have to swear that they would “bear allegiance to the Constitution of India, and to the principles of socialism, secularism, and democracy,” the PIL said, pointing out that no party could be registered without such commitment.

When the court insisted that the petitioner had to produce the order of the EC to invoke its jurisdiction in matter like this, Mr Khera’s counsel opted to withdraw the petition, saying that they would move the EC again.

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Monsoon may no longer be the same
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
The imminent climate change is expected to affect India the hard way.

For India, the country for which agriculture is its main strength, the monsoon may no longer remain the same.

There is likely to be a disruption in the normal distribution of rainfall, with different parts of the country experiencing differential and extreme precipitation levels, leading to water wastage in the form of runoffs in some areas and drought in others.

The impact of climate change will also be there on India’s massive coastline, with rise in sea levels within this century.

Whereas the entire coastline is likely to be adversely affected, areas most vulnerable are Goa, the Kutch region, Mangalore and parts adjacent to Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh in particular is likely to be the most affected”, said Mr R.K. Pachauri, head of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change said today.

He urged India and the neighbourhood to prepare a roadmap that would deal with impending dangers, without jeopardising developmental and poverty alleviation programmes.

Some effects might be visible as soon as the next 25 years.

After the Arctic, the Asian high mountains have borne the maximum brunt of climate change in terms of increased glacial retreat.

While warming is not uniform, it is double in the Arctic than for the rest of the globe.

The mass loss from glaciers in Europe and the Andes has not been so deviant. In this region, melting glaciers are likely to affect Bangladesh the maximum.

“With millions of people displaced in the neighbourhood, the rippling effects will also seen in India”, Dr Pachauri said. He added that a majority of mega-cities located on coastlines across the world would have to plan for the future.

Dr Pachauri today briefed the media on the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), that the UN panel presented in Paris this Friday, besides giving his take on effects of climate change in India.

The climate change will have a differential effect in different parts of the country.

The impact on individual areas will become clear in the IPCC Working Group-II report in April.

For a country that is expected to face some real problems in not-so-far future, the meeting saw a mere token presence.

Besides Dr Pachauri, the only representative from India among the 300 delegates from 133 countries was an official from the Indian Embassy in Paris.

“The official was not a climate change scientist and in comparison, there were 10 specialists from China”, Dr Pachauri said.

The government is yet to show any interest in the AR4 findings, that are supposed to impact policy and policy makers throughout the world.

“I am yet to receive any call from the Environment Ministry or any government official regarding the AR4”, Dr Pachauri said.

The Group-I AR4 has painted a rather frightening future for the earth in terms of climate, predicting rise in temperatures, followed by melting of glaciers and higher sea levels.

It says global mean temperatures are rising faster, land precipitation is changing significantly and sea level is rising.

The snow cover is decreasing, warm nights are increasing and cold ones are decreasing.

India will experience higher temperatures, extreme precipitation levels, frequent droughts, rapid melting of glaciers and heatwaves.

With precipitation levels becoming erratic, availability of water will be affected.

For example, while it may rain the exact amount it used to two decades back, instead of rainfall being distributed over 15 days, it may pour that very amount on one single day, leading to wastage of precious rainwater in the form of runoffs and scarcity.

“India and China need to do right things by focusing on what will happen after 25 years”, he said.

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Four officials reinstated in Gorakhpur
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, February 5
While the curfew is till continuing in Gorakhpur, the four senior district officials suspended last week for their failure to control the riots have, however, already been reinstated by the state government.

District Magistrate Dr Hari Om and SSP Raja Srivastava had been reinstated yesterday. Today the other two officers - additional SP Ram Chandra Yadav and Deputy SP Devendra Nath were given back their jobs. Their new postings are yet to be announced.

This is not the first time that the state government has tried to calm the situation by suspending senior officials for ostensible dereliction of duty and publicly demonstrating that they mean business.

The fact remains that officials are dismissed in the face of public outcry, allowed to cool their heels and then reinstated often on coveted postings. This is something the public rarely gets to know.

There are many recent instances, when officials were removed and then brought back when the public objection had died down.

For instance, Ajay Anand was SSP, Aligarh, when riots broke out last year and he was removed. He is now the SSP of a far more sensitive and much sought after district - Moradabad.

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Diversion of funds
Maj-Gen in dock
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 5
The Army has ordered administrative action against a Major-General for alleged diversion of funds meant to construct safety aids and allied facilities at an ammunition depot in Hisar to construct a swimming pool adjacent to the flag staff house, it is learnt.

Acting upon directions issued by Army Headquarters, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, south Western Command, Lt Gen P.K. Singh, has issued a show-cause notice to Maj-Gen R.K. Loomba, who was the General Officer Commanding of a armoured division in Hisar when the alleged diversion is said to have been taken.

Sources said that a court of inquiry (CoI), presided by the GOC, 10 Corps, Lt-Gen N.S. Brar, to investigate the said diversions, had submitted its findings to Headquarters, South-Western Command, last month. The CoI apparently held the general blameworthy.

According to an audit note forwarded to the Comptroller and Auditor-General, the construction of the swimming pool involved “misappropriation” of funds of over Rs 23 lakh. There were also allegations of money from the division GOC’s welfare fund being used for such works. Under regulations, public funds and welfare funds cannot be combined.

On the recommendations of boards of officers (BoO), an armoured division had sanctioned three works related to construction of static water tanks, augmentation of water supply, erecting boundary wall and other facilities at the depot in 2003.

It was later revealed that a swimming pool was instead constructed.

Commenting upon the “irregular construction of assets”, the audit note stated, “In the garb of providing static water tanks and allied services for fire fighting, a swimming pool was constructed which resulted in misuse of delegated powers of the sanctioning authority.”

According to sources, the pool is just about 200 meters away from the flag staff house, and about four km from the ammunition depot where the original fire fighting pool was supposed to have been built.

After the pool was inaugurated, the Army had taken up a case for re-appropriation of the expenditure incurred under a different head.

Reappropriation if any has to be sanctioned by the Defence Ministry before the new works are commenced.

In another case related to the same division, a JCO alleged to have used fake educational certificates for enrolment and subsequent promotions was summoned along with his commanding officer, by the GOC, 1 Corps, last week.

Sources said that a CoI headed by Col Arvinder Singh, Commandant of an armoured regiment, had held him blameworthy, following which the brigade commander, Brig S. Bhatia, had directed that his services be terminated.

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Ratan Tata to fly F-16 aircraft
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 5
Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Steel, has accepted an invitation by Lockheed Martin to fly its F-16 fighter aircraft during the Bangalore Air Show later this week, according to a statement by the Tata Group of companies. Lockheed Martin, which is aggressively bidding for contracts from the Indian government, extended the invitation to Tata well before the Corus deal took place, according to company sources.

Tata, 69, is a licensed pilot who flies both fixed wing airplanes as well as aircraft. However, it is the first time that he would be flying the F-16 fighter aircraft.

Tata will, however, not be flying alone. He will be accompanied by a Lockheed test pilot during his flights.

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Tata: Small-car project on
Mamata to intensify stir

Singur, January 5
Amid renewed agitation against the Tata Motors small-car project at Singur leading to reimposition of prohibitory orders, Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata said today the car would roll out as scheduled in 2008.

Mr Tata, who flew in here to meet Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, said: “The project will come up on schedule at Singur. The work on the plant has started and the production will start as per schedule. There is no question of backing out”.

Meanwhile, the Hooghly district administration reimposed prohibitory orders ahead of a visit by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee to address her party-led Save Farmland Committee and meet affected farmers.

Trinamool Congress activists who tried to march to Singur, in a renewed stir, were stopped at Kamarkundu, 10 km away, with police firing teargas and resorting to lathicharge to disperse the crowd.

A TMC councilor of Kalyani municipality suffered head injuries in the lathicharge, the police said.

Ms Banerjee told reporters here that she was deferring her visit to Singur, while terming the reimposition of prohibitory orders as “an undemocratic act by the Bhattacharjee government with the Centre’s help”. “It is a totally undemocratic act only to prevent me from visiting Singur. I have no language to describe this. Whatever he is doing, he is doing with Central help. The Centre has a role to play in this situation,” she said. — PTI

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Mamata defers Singur visit, to meet PM, President
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News service

Kolkata, February 5
Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee today deferred her visit to the troubled area where work on the Tata Motors small car project was on.

Instead she decided to lead a deputation to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh soon, seeking their intervention for protecting the poor farmers and the people of the state against the “Marxists onslaught”. She might also demand the imposition of the President’s rule in the state. Both President and the Prime Minister were instrumental in Ms Banerjee’s ending of the 25-day hunger strike.

Ms Banerjee cancelled her visit to Singur, but a large number of her followers today marched to Singur in several batches who had been forcibly resisted and charged with tear gas shells and lathis by the police posted at all entry points.

Incidentally, the orders under Section 144 CrPc were reimposed after yesterday’s violent incidents at Singur and Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cancelled his proposed public meeting there on February 15.

However, the CM today held an urgent meeting in the evening with Mr Ratan Tata at Salt Lake.

Violent incidents occurred at Kamarkundu rail station, Dankuni, Nandigram, Khejuri and other adjoining areas following the clashes between the police and workers of the Krishi Bachaoo Committee.

But in some places, TMC and CPM supporters were involved in the pitched battles in which bombs, lathis and other handy weapons were freely used. In some areas, the press, particularly the electronic media, was also not spared by the angry demonstrators. The demonstrators attacked the police, burnt the railway track at Kamarkundu station and burnt several vehicles.

Ms Banerjee also held a meeting at Nizam place with leaders of other parties supporting the farmers’ agitation. They decided to intensify their agitation statewide.

But the meeting was summarily stopped for facilitating Ms Banerjee and other leaders to rush to Chinsura on way to Singur in the wake of the outbreak of violent incidents there.

After the meeting, Ms Banerjee said the situation could now rightly call for the President’s rule in the state since people’s basic rights were being denied and there were utter misuse of the police and the administration by the CPM.

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UN peacekeeping troops take oath

New Delhi, February 5
President A P J Abdul Kalam, the supreme commander of the armed forces, today administered oath to troops heading for Congo and Sudan as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

As part of his six-point oath in Hindi, the President, who recalled General K Thimayya’s accomplishments as head of UN forces in 1964 in Cyprus, emphasised that high moral character leads to uniformity among troops and organisation and that the peacekeepers should remain mindful of the fact that they represent India while on job abroad.

“You must realise that due to India’s unblemished record as a dedicated and committed member of the UN towards world peace, India finds a unique place in the world community. I am sure the services rendered by you will further enhance the image of our country in the international arena,” he told the Africa-bound Army contingent of 3,600 troops.

Kalam recalled that an Indian doctor, D S Kotnis, had worked 72 hours at a stretch while treating war casualties to China in 1938 during the Japanese invasion.

“I am sure all of you assembled here can appreciate the message given by these two great Indians (Thimayya and Kotnis) on how soldiers should work in foreign assignments,” the President said.

Kalam, who was impressed with the uniform of the peacekeeping mission, acknowldeged conditions in Congo and Sudan demanded extreme professionalism, commitment and dedication.

In his address, Army chief J J Singh said Kalam’s six-point oath would be administered to all contingents heading for peacekeeping missions in future. — PTI

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Railways will not be privatised: Lalu
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
Union Railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav ruled out large scale privatisation of the railways and said public-private partnership was welcome in none-core activities.

Disclosing that Rs 3,00,000 crore will be invested in the railways over five years for modernising the system, he stressed that he was against handing over the railways to private players. Out of this 40 per cent will involve public-private partnership.

Addressing a two-day international conference on “meeting India’s Infrastructure needs”, the minister said private participation was welcome subject to“meeting our conditions and in the overall interest of the common man.”

Maintaining that core activities of the running of trains will vest with the railways, Lalu said the railways had witnessed a spectacular turnaround and is expected to have cash surplus of Rs 20,000 crore at the end of the current fiscal.

He said private players will be involved in running container trains, construction of dedicated freight corridors, modernisation of railway stations and establishing logistic parks and warehouses.

Union Finance minister P Chidambaram, who also attended the conference, backed the Railway Minister. “I endorse the Railway Minister’s view that core activities in crucial infrastructure area like the railways could remain with the public sector. The private sector could be roped in for allied activities.”

Emphasising that the railways will not be privatised as long as he remained the political head of the railways, Lalu made it clear that he did not consider the railways a monopoly player. Railways was one of the many modes of transport functioning in the market amid stiff competition, he added.

He said the role of the railways was not to disburse available finances under various heads like an accountant but leverage the limited resources whereby an investment of Re 1 brought a profit of Rs 10 in the shortest possible time.

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Rlys increases reservation time-limit

New Delhi, February 5
Reverting to the old practice, the Railways Ministry today decided to increase the advance reservation period from 60 to 90 days (excluding the date of journey) for three months on a experimental basis.

The advance reservation period of 90 days will be applicable with effect from March 1.

A review of bookings made during March 1-April 30 will be done in the first week of May to take a decision regarding the continuation of this enhanced reservation period of 90 days.

''There will be no change in the case of certain daytime express trains like Taj Express and Gomti Express, where lower time limits for advance reservations are at present in
force,'' a ministry official said.

There will also be no change in the case of the limit of 360 days for foreign tourists.

The ministry had earlier reduced the reservation period from three months to two months following large-scale complaints of malpractices by touts. — UNI

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Sabharwal murder: Witnesses turn hostile

Ujjain, February 5
In a major setback to the prosecution, two main eyewitnesses in the murder of Prof H.S.Sabharwal during a college union election, today turned hostile in a court here.

Both Komal Singh (peon) and Manohar Dodia (assistant) of Madhav College were declared hostile by the District Judge, Anil Kumar Sharma, following their refusal to identify those arrested by the state CID for allegedly murdering Professor Sabharwal on August 26 last year after the cancellation of the college union polls.

Both Singh and Dodia told the court that though they had seen some people manhandling the Professor, they were unable to identify them.

Singh said that he had rushed towards Sabharwal soon after some people started manhandling him. Since the Professor fell, he could not identify anybody as he was totally involved in lifting and helping him.

Dodia also said that he reached the spot on hearing the call from Singh to lift Sabharwal, but added that he had not seen anybody assaulting the Professor.

Prosecution advocates Vikram Singh Sikrwar and Vijay Kadel later told reporters that the court had declared the two key eyewitnesses in the case hostile, as they were unable to identify anybody.

After the death of Sabharwal, it was Singh only who claimed that he had seen people beating the Professor and when mediapersons especially asked whether Akela and Tomar were among them, he did not deny they were not present. — PTI

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Saturn to offer treat for sky-watchers

New Delhi, February 5
Sky-watchers will have a rare opportunity to take a look at the rings of Saturn when the planet reaches in opposition on Saturday.

The ringed planet is brighter this year than it will be until 2015 due to slight dimming as the ring tilt becomes narrower and Saturn's distance from the earth increases.

This year the planet's ring-tilt angle varies from 15.4 degrees to 6.7 degrees and the oppostion on Saturday will give astronomers a chance to get a better view the rings.

The tilt of the rings has been decreasing since 2003 and star-gazers will get an edge-on view of the planet in 2009 when it will become nearly invisible.

Saturn reaches opposition at 00:11 IST on Sunday and astronomy club Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators has made arrangements at the Nehru Planetarium here to observe the planet from Saturday evening.

Using high-power telescope or binoculars, enthusiasts can observe the rings of Saturn which will rise at sunset and set just near dawn. A view through a large telescope will show many moons of the planet, the gap between the rings and also gold and brown cloud bands on the planet. — PTI

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Sonia invites militants to the negotiating table

Imphal, February 5
Congress president Sonia Gandhi today appealed to all militant groups to shun violence and come to the negotiating table.

Addressing two public meetings at Kadompokpi ground at Thoubal district and another at Hapta Kangjeibung at Imphal west for the coming Assembly elections, she said the door is always open for all to come forward for talks. But they should first give up their arms, she added.

She said the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, was an issue debated in the region. The Congress-led government in Manipur had withdrawn it from the seven Assembly constituencies of the state and the Act may be withdrawn from other parts also, Sonia observed.

Addressing the two meetings, she said the Congress party will never compromise the territorial integrity of Manipur. She expressed happiness over the presence of large numbers of women during the meetings.

She said the women of the state were exhibiting their skill in various fields and their participation in all walks of life needs to be emulated by other women folk of the country.

She stated that in the interest of the youth and women the government will take up schemes for self employment. She said Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had also addressed public meetings at Manipur and she herself had addressed a public meeting five years ago.

She appealed to the people to support the Congress for the sake of the people. Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh, Congress president Gaikhangam, Congress General Secretary Oscar Fernandes and other Congress leaders were present during the two meetings.

The Thoubal district where she addressed her first meeting has 10 Assembly segments and will go to the polls on February 8 and it is the home constituency of the Chief Minister. — UNI

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Gawli comes to Shiv Sena aid
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 5
It’s a Faustian bargain the Shiv Sena-BJP combine in Maharashtra is agonising over support from gangster Arun Gawli’s Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS) in the Mumbai civic body in return for legitimising his political career.

With just 112 seats in the 227-member Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the two saffron parties have only four Independent corporators to back it. With everyone else ranged against the Hindutva combine, Gawli immediately threw an extra lifeline to them. The two corporators from ABS - his daughter and sister-in-law will back the Sena-BJP combine, Gawli has promised. All he wanted in return, Gawli said, was development of the wards where ABS enjoys some support.

The Shiv Sena immediately jumped at Gawli’s offer. Party spokesman and Member of Parliament Sanjay Raut said his party did not have any problems with Gawli’s daughter and sister-in-law since they were elected democratically. “There is no hesitation in accepting their support,” Raut said today.

However the Sena’s ally, the BJP, is suffering through minor tremors about taking Gawli’s support. A section of the RSS is keen on giving Gawli a wide berth. “At least four Independents, all rebels for the Sena-BJP are supporting us. So why take Gawli’s support,” a senior BJP leader here said.

But leaders of both the parties feel that the Congress-NCP may instigate the Independent corporators to play mischief once the honeymoon period of the winning candidates wears off.

Moreover, with strongmen like Narayan Rane and Chagan Bhujbal out of the Shiv Sena, the party is in need of muscle to rein its own ambitious corporators. Hence, the need for the likes of Gawli. Ever since he entered the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in the last elections, Gawli has been growing from strength to strength. His union has moved into several companies in and around Mumbai and is eyeing the workforce of the Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.

The Shiv Sena itself seems to have decided to make peace with Gawli. In the 1990s when Gawli first floated his ABS, all his office-bearers were gunned down by unknown assailants. The Shiv Sena now puts out that the killings were the handiwork of Narayan Rane during his reign as Chief Minister and hence it is time for both Senas to smoke the peace pipe.

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US expects big pie of defence deals
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
The United States expects a big pie of the $ 30 billion defence deals with India including the contract for 126 frontline fighter jets for the Indian Air Force.

"We are convinced that the US has the most capable aircraft. We expect to prevail," observed former American Defence Secretary William Cohen in an interface with mediapersons here today. "The competition will be fair and depends on how it turns out."

"We are looking at a $ 30 billion opportunity in the defence sector in India over the next five years," Mr Cohen said.

India proposes to float a tender soon for purchasing 126 fighter aircraft at an estimated cost of $ 10 billion. Other fighter aircraft in the fray are Russian, Swedish and French.

Mr Cohen is leading a US-India Business Council Executive Mission to the five-day Aero-India show that begins Wednesday in Bangalore.

Buoyed by the India-US civil Nuclear deal, the George Bush administration plans to further cement the relationship with India in the defence sector by offering new opportunities in the coproduction of military hardware.

Such coproduction ventures were likely to generate thousands of jobs for Indians, Mr Pickering noted. "There is a sea change in India's defence relationship with the US," he said drawing pointed attention to the recent sale of the USS Trenton to India.

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BSF chief stresses on effective communication
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 5
BSF Director-General A.K. Mitra has emphasised on optimum utilisation of the talents available within the force for the improvement of communication system.

Inaugurating the two-day annual operational communication conference of BSF Communication Officers here today, Mr Mitra highlighted the importance of research and development and continued improvisation in the field of communication.

The conference is organised every year by the BSF to review the existing communication system and to provide solutions to communication-related problems by adopting latest technologies.

An exhibition of electronic gadgets developed by various frontiers and training institutions was also organised as part of the conference.

Integrated campus security system, border surveillance system and multipurpose macro processor-based access control system etc are some of the useful gadgets displayed at the exhibition.

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SC: No automatic extension of laws pertaining to J&K
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 5
The Supreme Court today dismissed a petition seeking automatic extension of every law passed by Parliament to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

A Bench of Mr Justice B. N. Agrawal and Mr Justice P. P. Naolekar rejected the petition, holding that there was no merit in the petition moved jointly by B. S. Billowria and Manzoor Ali Khan.

They had challenged the Part-B States (Laws) Act, 1951, whereby the definition of India had been substituted by excluding the laws passed by Parliament from automatic implementation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Because of this Act, every time any law is passed, it has to be specifically laid down that it would also extend to Jammu and Kashmir.

In this context, the petitioners had cited the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, Kazis Act, Indian Merchandise Act, Indian Limitation Act, Indian Registration Act, Indian Companies Act, Indian Copyright Act and some other laws regarding which it had been specifically stated that for implementing them “India” means the territory, excluding the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

This gives an impression that the Jammu and Kashmir “is not integral part of the Union of India”, the petitioners said. They had sought quashing of the Part-B States(Laws) Act by declaring it contrary to the Constitution.

This not only was giving a handle to the separatist forces to launch anti-India campaign, but to certain forces within Pakistan to fuel separatism by referring in their speeches that Jammu and Kashmir was not an integral part of India as its laws were not applicable in the state.

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Sanjay Dutt to appear today
Tribune News Service 

Mumbai, February 5 
Actor Sanjay Dutt will appear before the special TADA court on Tuesday when the extension of bail granted to him last month expires. Dutt, who was convicted under the Arms Act in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, will argue for a further extension. Arguments are due to begin on Tuesday on the actor's plea for release on probation.

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