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N A T I O N

Don’t use goondas for loan recovery: SC
New Delhi, February 6
The Supreme Court today came down heavily on the private banks for deploying ‘goondas’ to recover loans and asked them to stop the illegal practice forthwith. It asked them to deal with defaulters as per the procedure laid down in the law and the Reserve Bank of India guidelines.

Quit politics like Rabri, JD(U) tells Lalu
Patna, February 6
The ruling JD (U) in Bihar has dared the RJD supremo Lalu Prasad to quit politics by following his wife Rabri Devi’s suggestions.

PILs against iodisation of salt admitted
New Delhi, February 6
A bunch of petitions being deliberated by the Supreme Court during the past two years against the Centre’s notifications making the iodisation of salt compulsory was today admitted by it for a detailed hearing.

RSS pleased with Dravid
New Delhi, February 6
The Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS), ideological mentor of the BJP and head of the Sangh Parivar, is pleased over India cricket captain Rahul Dravid’s participation in a special programme held in Nagpur last month to mark the birth centenary celebrations of its leader M.S.Golwalkar.




EARLIER STORIES




Policewomen arrest a relative of an accused in the 1993 Mumbai bombings case, outside a special terrorist court (TADA) in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Policewomen arrest a relative of an accused in the 1993 Mumbai bombings case, outside a special terrorist court (TADA) in Mumbai on Tuesday. — AFP

100 pc FDI in education mooted
New Delhi, February 6
The UPA government is for permitting 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in higher education coupled with making reservation mandatory in the institutions to be set up by foreign universities, according to Higher Education Secretary R.P.Aggarwal.

FDI In Retail
BJP flays Sonia’s letter diplomacy
New Delhi, February 6
The BJP today called UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about allowing FDI in retail trade sector as “shedding of crocodile tears” saying that it was merely an indication of a favourable decision of the government on this vital issue.

Natwar uses SP dais to attack Sonia
Lucknow, February 6
Speaking from Samajwadi Party (SP) platform, former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh today made a veiled attack on Congress President Sonia Gandhi and appeared to be at home in an SP gathering.

Thackeray cousins plan sena union
Mumbai, February 6
The feuding Thackeray cousins, Uddhav and Raj, may well allow their parties to arrive at an adjustment in the Nashik municipal corporation which has a hung House following the last week's elections.

ULFA: India to seek Myanmar help
New Delhi, February 6
India is expected to again raise concerns over reports of rebel groups from the North-East operating from Myanmar when Union Secretaries of the two countries meet at Yangoon next week.

Proposals for aircraft JV not ready yet
Bangalore, February 6
The request for proposals (RFP) for India’s largest ever order of 126 fighter aircraft will take another six months to be issued and will in all probability be a joint production venture between the chosen international company and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Paramilitary forces in Karnataka
Bangalore, February 6
Twelve platoons of paramilitary forces today arrived in Karnataka to assist the State Police in maintaining law and order in view of the tense situation prevailing in the Cauvery basin districts following the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal pronouncing the final award on sharing the river waters yesterday.

Cauvery: Jaya wants more
Chennai, February 6
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary Jayaram Jayalalithaa said today the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s final award did not do “full justice” to Tamil Nadu, and the state should move the Supreme Court to get more water.

India’s safety compliance high
New Delhi, February 6
The secretary-general of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Mr Taieb Cherif, called on Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel here today and conveyed to him that India’s compliance of the 10,000 rules for safety was among the highest in the world at 99.3 per cent.

Indo-Pak meeting on Mar 6
New Delhi, February 6
The India-Pakistan Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism will hold its first meeting on March 2007, in Islamabad, the Ministry of External Affairs announced today.

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Don’t use goondas for loan recovery: SC
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 6
The Supreme Court today came down heavily on the private banks for deploying ‘goondas’ to recover loans and asked them to stop the illegal practice forthwith. It asked them to deal with defaulters as per the procedure laid down in the law and the Reserve Bank of India guidelines.

The court took serious view of the private banks resorting to illegal methods to recover loans, particularly in the cases of auto financing while hearing a petition of ICICI Bank.

“The banks have a right to recover the dues but they cannot use force to recover the loans… you can’t send goondas to their (defaulters) house… there are ladies alone at home,” a Bench of Mr Justice A.R. Lakshmanan and Mr Justice Altamas Kabir told ICICI counsel Mukul Rohtagi in uncertain terms.

The direction for restraint against such practice came after the ICICI counsel said it had become difficult to recover the loans through legal means as there were millions of defaulters who simply ignored repeated notices issued to them.

Taking exception to a stand that smacked of endorsing the use of force by the bank’s counsel, the court said it could not be justified whatever may be the reason.

It said the banks could appoint agents to recover the loans but a care should also be taken in their appointment that they also did not resort to using force in an effort to earn more commission.

The ICICI Bank’s Manager in Sardar Patel Nager branch in Allahabad had moved the Supreme Court after the Allahabad High Court had ordered registration of an FIR agaisnt him, bank’s President, Chairman and Managing Director on a complaint of 75-year-old widow Prakash Kaur.

In her petition before the High Court, she had complained that “goondas” were sent by the bank to harass her for the recovery of last five installments of truck loan taken in May 2002. The bank had advanced Rs 8 lakh for the purchase of the truck and monthly instalments with interest were fixed at Rs 28,824.

The bank had alleged that she failed to pay Rs 1.62 lakh towards the last five instalments and partial payments of some other instalments despite four notices sent to her.

Following the registration of an FIR on the order of the High Court, ICICI bank’s top officials had apprehended their arrest and moved a special leave petition (SLP) in the apex court, which had stayed their arrest earlier when the bank’s counsel had mentioned about the filing of the SLP.

While praying for the setting aside of the High Court order, the bank’s counsel sought the laying down of clear guidelines how the loan recovery cases should be handled by lower courts.

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Quit politics like Rabri, JD(U) tells Lalu
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 6
The ruling JD (U) in Bihar has dared the RJD supremo Lalu Prasad to quit politics by following his wife Rabri Devi’s suggestions.

Talking to the mediapersons here today, national general secretary and spokesman of the party, Mr Shivanand Tiwari said by quitting politics Mr Lalu Prasad could do a great service to the country. “It is always good to follow the advice of one’s better half,” Mr Tiwari said.

Earlier, addressing a gathering near Hajipur on Saturday, Mr Lalu Prasad had admitted of having received suggestions from his wife to quit the “thankless job of politics”.

Mr Lalu Prasad, who had ruled Bihar for 15 years, also said it was the best ever advice he had received from anyone in his life as “politics always thrust upon us (read Lalu-Rabri) court cases and tensions”.

The RJD supremo had also observed that Gandhigiri was a better way to serve the society and fighting injustice than active politics.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, however, refrained from commenting on the issue by stating that it was their internal matter.

Meanwhile, insiders in the RJD sought to view such remarks as nothing but Mr Lalu Prasad’s habit to crack jokes in public for which he was better known in the past.

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PILs against iodisation of salt admitted
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 6
A bunch of petitions being deliberated by the Supreme Court during the past two years against the Centre’s notifications making the iodisation of salt compulsory was today admitted by it for a detailed hearing.

A three-judge Bench, headed by Mr Justice B.N. Agrawal, admitted the petition after the government had submitted its replies finding prima facie merit on the issue raised by the petitioners, who claimed that the excessive use of iodised salt could lead to various health problems.

An NGO, Common Cause, RSS affiliated organisation Swadeshi Jagarn Manch and the Academy of Nutrition and some individual activists had challenged the Centre’s November 17, 2005, notification making it mandatory for all salt companies to iodise their product and sought striking it down.

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RSS pleased with Dravid
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
The Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS), ideological mentor of the BJP and head of the Sangh Parivar, is pleased over India cricket captain Rahul Dravid’s participation in a special programme held in Nagpur last month to mark the birth centenary celebrations of its leader M.S.Golwalkar.

This has naturally sparked off speculation about Dravid’s growing proximity to the BJP, which has former cricketers like Navjot Singh Sidhu, Kirti Azad and Chetan Chauhan as its members.

The RSS has been holding special Surya Namaskar mahayoga programmes in different states as part of Golwalkar’s birth centenray celebrations. Last month, a series of such camps were held in the Vidharba region of Maharashtra, and Rahul Dravid was a special invitee at one such programme held at the Ramnagar Maidan in Nagpur on January 20. Coincidentally, Dravid’s in-laws are from Nagpur.

Exulting about the cricketing hero’s presence at its programme, RSS mouthpiece Panchjanya, which also carries his photograph, said Dravid exhorted the large number of schoolchildren to perform “surya namaskar” to stay fit.

The Panchjanya article quotes Dravid as saying, “You stay healthy and fit if you perform surya namaskar every day.” 
While the RSS was predictably thrilled with this “prize catch”, the BJP maintained that there was no political agenda in this programme. “This was not a BJP programme and, in any case, there are some things beyond politics...physical fitness being one of them,” said BJP man P Javdekar.

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100 pc FDI in education mooted

New Delhi, February 6
The UPA government is for permitting 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in higher education coupled with making reservation mandatory in the institutions to be set up by foreign universities, according to Higher Education Secretary R.P.Aggarwal.

The group of ministers (GoMs) studying the Foreign Education Bill is believed to have favoured 50 per cent FDI in higher education, but Mr Aggarwal said the GOMs’ report was awaited.

Addressing the Editor's Conference on Social Sector issues, Mr Aggarwal said what applied to domestic institutions would apply to foreign ones as well. Quota could be made mandatory for foreign universities in this country by according them national status. — TNS

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FDI In Retail
BJP flays Sonia’s letter diplomacy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
The BJP today called UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about allowing FDI in retail trade sector as “shedding of crocodile tears” saying that it was merely an indication of a favourable decision of the government on this vital issue.

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said the UPA chief’s letter to the Prime Minister like her earlier three letters was part of her “letter diplomacy” for “fooling” the people.

Quoting her letters on petrol and diesel prices, on the SEZs and price rise of essential food items, Mr Javadekar said the government after receiving her letters either did not take an action or took a decision contrary to her recommendation.

The BJP is not principally opposed to the FDI, but it is against bringing it in the retail sector as it would affect millions of small traders, he said, adding the party never opposed opening of retail stores by Indian businessmen.

About the meeting of the general secretaries, which was presided over by BJP President Rajnath Singh, Mr Javadekar said the meeting reviewed the election campaign of the party and analysed the feedback.

The spokesman said the party was getting a positive popular response and there was a need to consolidate it further.

He said the party had decided to launch a three-week long nationwide “daam roko (stop prices)” programme from March 23 to April 15 during which public meetings would be held on all 500 district headquarters in the country.

The party is going to hold a “samarpan divas” (dedication day) on February 11, when all party members would rededicate themselves to the party giving their token contribution to the party coffers, the spokesman informed and added that from February 11 to 29 conferences of all new entrants to the party would be held. 

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Natwar uses SP dais to attack Sonia

Lucknow, February 6
Speaking from Samajwadi Party (SP) platform, former External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh today made a veiled attack on Congress President Sonia Gandhi and appeared to be at home in an SP gathering.

Obviously happy to be on an anti-Congress plank, he said he expected to be expelled from his party by the evening because of his sharing a platform with the SP.

Suspended a year ago in the wake of his attack on the Congress leadership after his exit from the Manmohan Singh ministry after his name figured in the Iraqi oil payoffs, Mr Natwar Singh appeared on the platform provided by the SP.

Speaking at a seminar on India's foreign policy and Iraq, organised by the Ram Manohar Lohia Trust, in the presence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and General Secretary Amar Singh, he claimed that he was thrown out of the government under the US "pressure", as he had opposed the invasion of Iraq.

"Only those who are born in the country could understand religion, knowledge, prayer and charity, which are the hallmarks of our culture," Mr Natwar Singh said in an apparent broadside against Ms Sonia Gandhi.

"I expect that the Congress high command will expel me after this meeting and I shall welcome it," he said, adding that he would not resign from the Rajya Sabha to enable the Congress become richer by a Rajya Sabha seat. When the audience, comprising mainly the SP leaders, including ministers, said there was a vacancy in the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh, Mr Natwar Singh looked towards Mr Yadav, who said he favoured the idea.

Alleging that it had been the tradition of the Gandhi-Nehru family of "ruining" leaders, Mr Yadav said "no one" would be allowed to ruin Mr Natwar Singh's career.

Mr Natwar Singh showered praise on the SP, saying it was a secular party, which was a "big thing".

He said he was offered a Lok Sabha seat by Mr Yadav long time ago but he had declined the offer, saying he would have to leave him if Sonia Gandhi entered politics.

"Such was my loyalty to the Nehru family and today I am wondering what I am doing here (at the seminar) with SP leaders," he said. — PTI

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Thackeray cousins plan sena union
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 6
The feuding Thackeray cousins, Uddhav and Raj, may well allow their parties to arrive at an adjustment in the Nashik municipal corporation which has a hung House following the last week's elections.

Of the 108 corporators in the civic body, the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party has 40, while the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party have 21 and 17, respectively. Raj Thackeray's MNS with 12 seats and independents make up the rest. Raj Thackeray is already playing the role of kingmaker with both saffron combine and the two Congress parties holding talks with him.

Raj Thackeray raised his bids today by stating that he was not against the Shiv Sena. "The MNS is not out to finish the Shiv Sena," Raj Thackeray told reporters at Nashik when questioned about the possibility of holding talks with his old party. He, however, insisted that the stand taken by the MNS would be visible in the next five weeks.

"We will however make it a pre-condition that whichever party we support pledges to improve the quality of civic life in that city," Thackeray said. He noted that the MNS concentrated on civic issues in every civic body without whipping up passions. "We will work to implement our election manifesto in every civic body," Thackeray said. He further added that the MNS would not use its bargaining power to blackmail whichever formation comes to power.

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ULFA: India to seek Myanmar help
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
India is expected to again raise concerns over reports of rebel groups from the North-East operating from Myanmar when Union Secretaries of the two countries meet at Yangoon next week.

Union Home Secretary V.K. Duggal, who will be leading the Indian delegation to Myanmar beginning February 13, is also expected to seek enhanced cooperation from his counterpart in cracking down on arms and drug trafficking.

While security issues such as border management are likely to figure in the 13th round of Home Secretary-level talks, New Delhi will seek a categorical assurance that Myanmar will not allow its territory to be used for activities detrimental to its interests.

In the last such meeting held in New Delhi in September last year, both sides agreed to further strengthen cooperation for tackling the activities of insurgents and drug traffickers with Myanmar assuring that arms smugglers would be severely punished if caught on its soil.

As peace talks with the insurgent groups of the North-East make headway in fits and starts, the security situation in the region continues to be a cause of concern, especially with some rebel groups taking refuge and having camps in Myanmar.

Senior home ministry officials say while cooperation from the military junta of Myanmar has been forthcoming in recent years much more needs to be done. 

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Proposals for aircraft JV not ready yet
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 6
The request for proposals (RFP) for India’s largest ever order of 126 fighter aircraft will take another six months to be issued and will in all probability be a joint production venture between the chosen international company and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Disclosing this when questioned at the Aero India exhibition grounds here, Secretary, Defence, K.P. Singh, said due to the large nature of the procurement order the IAF and the Department of Defence still needed time to knot together all loose ends.

He said though foreign companies were only allowed to invest a maximum of 26 per cent in the country’s defence industry, this rule could be waived by the Cabinet. “We can ask for higher participation as high technology involved is critical to the needs of the country”. He said exceptions already existed and the country was also forging an equal partnership to produce the Russian Multi-Role Transport Aircraft in India.

Replying to a question, Mr K.P. Singh, said the offset clause in all defence deals under which foreign companies were obligated to buy 30 per cent of the product they produced jointly from India would realise a trade of $ 5 billion by 2010. He said the first offset deal worth Rs 250 crore had already been signed by Israeli radar manufacturing company Alta with Larsen and Toubro and Astra.

He said similarly the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft deal with Russia envisaged the production of 145 aircraft in India out of which 100 were needed by Russia. The Secretary, Defence, said the inter-governmental agreement in this regard would be signed shortly as the draft agreement was already in place. He said a few issues like whose permission was required to export to a third country remained unresolved. “We feel both partners should have this right as it is an equal partnership”, he added.

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Paramilitary forces in Karnataka

Bangalore, February 6
Twelve platoons of paramilitary forces today arrived in Karnataka to assist the State Police in maintaining law and order in view of the tense situation prevailing in the Cauvery basin districts following the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal pronouncing the final award on sharing the river waters yesterday.

Karnataka Inspector-General and Director-General of Police K R Srinivasan said special security arrangements have been made in Bangalore Rural, Bangalore Urban, Mandya, Tumkur, Mysore and Chamarajanagar districts as a precautionary measure. Paramilitary forces have been requisitioned only as a standby in view of the prevailing situation, he clarified.

He said a total bandh was observed in Mandya, Chamarajanagar, Kollegal, Pandavapura, Srirangapatna and KR Pet, but no untoward incident was reported. “The situation is by and large peaceful in the State, barring stray incidents of road blockade on the Bangalore-Mysore State Highway and burning of effigies of CWDT members.”

Educational institutions remained closed in the Cauvery basin districts as a precautionary measure. The Bangalore-Mysore State Highway wore a deserted look, with State Transport Corporation authorities suspending bus service and farmers agitating against the Tribunal verdict. Bus services to neighbouring Tamil Nadu have also been suspended, but buses were plying till the border. —UNI

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Cauvery: Jaya wants more
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, February 6
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) General Secretary Jayaram Jayalalithaa said today the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s final award did not do “full justice” to Tamil Nadu, and the state should move the Supreme Court to get more water.

She pointed out that the tribunal’s final award of 192 TMC of water was very less compared to 205 TMC allocated by the interim award and that out of the 192 TMC, seven TMC had to be given to Puducherry and Tamil Nadu would be getting only 185 TMC, 20 TMC lesser than the interim award.

Ms Jayalalithaa said, “The award should not be welcomed as done by M. Karunanidhi. The only way left to the state is to move the Supreme Court to get more water”. She said Mr Karunanidhi should prevail upon the Centre to get the final award notified in gazette and appoint a regulatory authority to monitor its implementation and added that while doing this, the state should move the apex court to get more water at least in future.

Describing the allocation of 30 TMC of water to Kerala as “atrocious”, she said the water would go waste into sea.

Criticising the verdict, she said, “Great injustice had been done to the farmers in Bhavani delta, as five TMC of water is going to be given from the Bhavani dam to Kerala”.

Meanwhile, road transport from Tamil Nadu to Karnataka has been hit as fallout of the verdict that came yesterday.

While Tamil Nadu is happy with it, Karnataka feels that gross injustice has been done to the state and apprehending violence by farmers, buses to Bangalore and Mysore from here have been cancelled.

A large number of people rushed to the Chennai Moffusil Bus Terminus (CMBT) since last night only to find that buses of both state transports had been cancelled till Sunday.

Though private operators were running their buses it was not enough to accommodate such number of people.

Officials of the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka state run buses have no clue as to when the services would be resumed.

The only advice that they could offer to the passengers was to board a bus for Hosur near the Karnataka border and avail services of private bus operators to reach their destinations in Karnataka.

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India’s safety compliance high
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
The secretary-general of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Mr Taieb Cherif, called on Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel here today and conveyed to him that India’s compliance of the 10,000 rules for safety was among the highest in the world at 99.3 per cent. He also spoke about the issue of machine readable and electronic passports. He stressed that there was an urgent need for India to upgrade its facilities to E-passports to be on a par with the world standards.

Mr Cherif appreciated this country readily giving its consent to the ICAO for making public their safety related information while other member nations were expected to do so only by March 2008. The ICAO lauded India’s commitment to transparency and sharing of information.

Noting that the Asia-Pacific region was registering the highest growth rate in the Civil Aviation sector globally, Mr Cherif said India and China were leading and the former had more potential for growth compared to the latter.

With India strategically positioning itself for the growth of the Civil Aviation sector, the ICAO said by 2020 there would be seven billion passengers flying. Therefore, issues pertaining to infrastructure and airline capacities as well as airspace management required to be addressed. He was impressed that India was one of the few countries in the world that had already started addressing these issues.

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Indo-Pak meeting on Mar 6

New Delhi, February 6
The India-Pakistan Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism will hold its first meeting on March 2007, in Islamabad, the Ministry of External Affairs announced today.

The three-member Indian delegation will be led by Mr K.C. Singh, Additional Secretary (International Organisations), MEA. A meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was held on September 16 last in Havana. — TNS

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