SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Set up Lok Ayukta, suggests Moily panel
New Delhi, February 12
The second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) has recommended the setting up of a Rashtriya Lok Ayukta by keeping the Prime Minister out of its ambit and called for a National Judicial Commission to oversee appointment of judges by a collegium.

Karnataka comes to a halt
Bangalore, February 12
A 12-hour bandh called by various Kannada organisations in protest against the “injustice” meted out to Karnataka by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal paralysed life in the state besides affecting air and rail services.
The streets of Bangalore were deserted on Monday during a statewide strike, called by pro-Kannada outfits, to protest the awarding of an increased share of river waters to Tamil Nadu by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal The streets of Bangalore were deserted on Monday during a statewide strike, called by pro-Kannada outfits, to protest the awarding of an increased share of river waters to Tamil Nadu by the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal. —AFP

Cong to take up ‘Parzania’ issue
New Delhi, February 12
Having launched a campaign against the non-screening of the film ‘Parzania’ in Gujarat, the state unit of the Congress has now decided to approach Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi to intervene in the matter.





 

EARLIER STORIES




Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi meets nuns of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity order upon his arrival at Mother Teresa House in Kolkata on Monday
Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi meets nuns of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity order upon his arrival at Mother Teresa House in Kolkata on Monday. —AFP

Govt hopes to procure adequate wheat
New Delhi, February 12
The government expects to procure sufficient quantity of wheat in the 2007-08 marketing season to meet the requirement of the Public Distribution System and maintain adequate buffer stock.

SC moved against Patkar
New Delhi, February 12
The Supreme Court today directed the Centre and the Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat governments to respond within four weeks to a petition seeking criminal investigation against Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar and her associates for stalling Sardar Sarovar Dam Project, and for receiving funds from foreign countries.

AP to keep wetlands out of SEZs
Hyderabad, February 12
Adopting a cautious approach on special economic zones (SEZs), the Andhra Pradesh Government today made it clear that it will not acquire wetlands for the purpose unless it is absolutely warranted.

Protect onion growers’ interest: Pawar
New Delhi, February 12
Coming strongly in favour of onion growers and virtually opposing a ban on its exports due to low availability, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar tonight deplored suggestions in this regard, saying these would adversely affect farmers interest.

Xuan Zang memorial hall opened to public
Patna, February 12
The Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Li Zhaoxing, today assured his country`s commitment towards writing a new chapter of Sino-Indian friendship so as to strengthen the bond between the two countries.

Bihar to focus on social sector, infrastructure
Patna, February 12
With its agenda to transform Bihar into a developed state by 2015, the state government has decided to place a Rs 9,773-cr annual plan for 2007-08 financial year before the Planning Commission with emphasis on social sector and infrastructure.

SC halts sealing drive
New Delhi, February 12
In a major relief to the traders, the Supreme Court today virtually halted the sealing drive in the national capital by making it inoperative on all the roads covered under the Master Plan for Delhi-2021 (MPD-2021).

SC notice  to govt on OBC quota
New Delhi, February 12
The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Union Government on a petition challenging its notification providing 27.5 per cent reservation to OBCs in educational institutions from the coming academic session 2007-2008.

SP calls Mayawati a demon
Lucknow, February 12
Samajwadi Party general secretary and UP Development Council Chairman Amar Singh today termed BSP supremo Mayawati as ‘Putna', the demon, and alleged that she was surviving on the blood of the poor of the state.

Gujral favours Indian efforts for united S. Asia
New Delhi, February 12
Former Prime Minister I K Gujral today said that a new direction and dynamism should be assigned to South Asia cooperation to help the region to emerge as an economic powerhouse in the making.

Shah Rukh dances to Bihu tunes on KBC
New Delhi, February 12
Superstar Shah Rukh Khan may have swung to typical Bollywood songs umpteen times but he is equally at home with Assam's most popular folk dance Bihu that celebrates the new harvest.

Abhi-Ash’s rituals raise Hindu body’s hackles
New Delhi, February 12
A US-based Hindu reform body has expressed concern at “astrology-related and similar unscientific rituals” performed by Amitabh Bachchan’s family ahead of the marriage of his son Abhishek with Aishwarya Rai.

Evidence submitted in Mahajan case
Mumbai, February 12
The prosecution today submitted to the court a list of 58 witnesses, other documents and a revolver in connection with the murder of former BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan.

Briton raped in Central Delhi hotel
New Delhi, February 12
A British tourist, staying at a hotel in Central Delhi, has been allegedly raped by a Polish national. The Polish citizen, identified as Dominique Rafel, has been arrested after the incident which happened earlier last week, the police said.

Seven BJP workers killed in accident
Dehra Dun, February 12
Seven BJP party workers were killed and four injured today when the jeep they were travelling in fell into a 300-feet gorge in Tehri district of Uttarakhand. The accident occurred as the driver was unable to negotiate a sharp turn and the jeep fell into the gorge at Peepal Mor, the police said, adding five persons, including the driver, died on the spot, while two succumbed to their injuries at a nearby hospital.

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Set up Lok Ayukta, suggests Moily panel
Tribune News Service and PTI

  • Keep PM out of its ambit.
  • Multi-member Ayukta for all states.
  • National Judicial Commission for
  • appointment/removal of Judges.
  • Partial state funding of polls.
  • For tightening of anti-defection law, a collegium for appointing CEC.
  • Suggests abolishing MP/MLA LADS.
  • Recommends amending law to define Office of Profit.

New Delhi, February 12
The second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) has recommended the setting up of a Rashtriya Lok Ayukta by keeping the Prime Minister out of its ambit and called for a National Judicial Commission to oversee appointment of judges by a collegium.

The commission also favoured that political parties leaving a coalition mid-stream should seek a fresh mandate and disqualification of candidates charged with heinous offences

In its report on ‘Ethics in Governance’, the commission, headed by Veerappa Moily, has recommended sweeping changes in political, judicial, administrative and electoral areas and suggested measures to tackle the cancer of corruption.

In the electoral sphere, the six-member commission suggested partial state funding, tightening of anti-defection law, a collegium for appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and other Commissioners, Code of Ethics for Ministers and a law to define Office of Profit.

It recommended the creation of a National Ombudsman like the Rashtriya Lok Ayukta comprising a sitting or retired Supreme Court judge as its chairperson, an eminent jurist as member and the Central Vigilance Commissioner as ex-officio member.

Emphasising that the jurisdiction of the Lok Ayukta be extended to all Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and Members of Parliament, the commission was firm that the Prime Minister should be kept out its ambit. The commission said, “The Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament and on his survival depends the survival of the government. If the Prime Minister’s conduct was open to formal scrutiny by extra-Parliamentary authorities, then the government’s viability will be eroded and Parliament’s supremacy will be in jeopardy.”

The commission observed that Parliament should be the judge if the Prime Minister was indeed guilty of serious indiscretions and the Lok Sabha should remove the PM from office.

In an interface with mediapersons after submitting the report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here today, Mr Moily said the panel also recommended amending the Constitution to incorporate a provision making it obligatory on the part of the state governments to establish multi-member Lok Ayukta to deal with cases of corruption against the ministers and MLAs.

The commission called for abolishing the MP and MLA Local Area Development Scheme as it infringed on the rights of the local government and led to conflict of interests when legislators took up executive roles.

On the Office-of-Profit issue, the commission suggested amending the law to define Office of Profit whereby no legislator held such an office involving executive decision-making, control of public funds or sanctioning expenditure.

At the same time all offices in purely advisory bodies shall not be treated as Office of Profit irrespective of the remuneration and perks associated with such an office. In respect of the National Judicial Commission, the commission said the Vice-President should be chairperson of the NJC and comprise the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha as well as the Rajya Sabha,

Under the NJC, appointment of judges will be made by a collegium having representation of the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, which can also recommend removal of a judge.

Based on the NJC’s recommendations, the President should be vested with powers to remove a Supreme Court or a High Court judge. The commission suggested amending Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution providing for the setting up of the NJC.

In the wake of the recent controversy over expulsion of MPs for misconduct, the Commission said it might be desirable to comprehensively spell out circumstances under which MPs can be disqualified by enacting a new law.

It also recommended a system of partial State funding of elections to reduce the scope of illegitimate and unnecessary funding of expenditure.

In a major recommendation, the commission has sought taking away the power of disqualification of MPs and MLAs on grounds of defection from the Presiding Officers and suggested that such a power be vested with President and Governors on the advice of the Election Commission.

Suggesting a code of ethics for civil servants and regulators, the commission sought a comprehensive definition of corruption, which should include squandering of public money, abuse of authority and obstruction of justice.

It suggested amendment of the Prevention of Corruption Act for a special offence of ‘collusive bribery’ if the outcome of the transaction leads to a loss to the State, public or public interest. The commission said prior sanction should not be necessary for prosecuting a public servant who has been trapped red-handed or in cases of possession of assets disproportionate to the known sources of income.

Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code was suggested for speeding up trials in criminal cases by fixing a time limit. It also sought legislation to provide protection to whistle-blowers on the lines of the recommendations of the Law Commission.

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Karnataka comes to a halt
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 12
A 12-hour bandh called by various Kannada organisations in protest against the “injustice” meted out to Karnataka by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal paralysed life in the state besides affecting air and rail services.

There were isolated cases of arson with around 10 two-wheelers of Central Government employees, who opted to attend office in Mysore, being torched.

Activists also blocked trains at the Bangalore City and Yeshwantpur railway stations besides at Hospet in Bellary district.

Air travellers exercised their option to cancel flights, which resulted in re-scheduling of various flights. Ten flights were cancelled during the day.

The police arrested 10 volunteers of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike when they tried to force their way into the airport. Airport Director Narendra Kaushal told the TNS that adequate security had been made to ensure safe passage to travellers.

There was a complete closure of shops, factories and even offices of IT companies, including Wipro and Infosys, as they had asked employees not to come to office today.

Attendance in nationalised banks and other Central Government offices was also very thin, with most of the staff not risking coming out of their houses.

Nearly 70,000 state police personnel and two battalions of central reserve force were deployed in the state today. Out of these, around 20,000 personnel were deployed in Bangalore.

State Director General of Police K.R. Srinivasan told reporters that the bandh had passed off peacefully, barring the torching of around 10 two-wheelers at the Railway Workshop in Mysore city and stray incidents of stone throwing.

The police arrested around 500 BJP activists, led by MLA P.C. Mohan.

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Cong to take up ‘Parzania’ issue
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 12
Having launched a campaign against the non-screening of the film ‘Parzania’ in Gujarat, the state unit of the Congress has now decided to approach Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi to intervene in the matter.

The Gujarat Government has not banned ‘Parzania’ officially, a film about a Ahmedabad Parsi family still waiting for a son who went missing in the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots, but theatre owenrs have declined to screen it following verbal threats from saffron outfits like the Bajrang Dal.

Several Gujarat Congress leaders, including PCC chief Bharatsinh Solnaki and B.K. Hariprasad, AICC general secretary, in charge of the state, plan to meet Mr Dasmunshi in the next few days to seek his assistance. “We will ask him to talk to his counterpart in Gujarat to make all arrangements for the release of ‘Parzania’,” Mr Hariprasad said here today.

The “unofficial” ban on the film, directed by Rahul Dholakia and starring Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika, has evoked strong protests from civil society, the Mumbai film industry and the Gujarat Congress, which had been initially reluctant to join this battle. The party feared that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, BJP’s Hindutva strongman, would use this issue to stoke passions by raising the bogey of “Gujarati pride.” With state Assembly elections due later this year, the Congress was worried about a further polarisation resulting in a Hindu consolidation in BJP’s favour.

Having shed its initial inertia, the Gujarat Congress has decided to use Narendra Modi’s war cry about “Gujarati gaurav” to make a case for the screening of ‘Parzania’.

“Modi talks about Gujarati pride... this film has been made by a Gujarati and tells the story of a Gujarati family’s trauma whose son went missing since the post-Godhra violence. This family’s suffering should be known to the entire state,” remarked Mr Hariprasad.

Not wanting to plunge headlong into this campaign, the Congress first entrusted this issue to the Youth Congress and was subsequently taken up by the party’s state unit. Gujarat Congress leaders had also planned to hold private screenings of ‘Parzania’ but were apparently not confident about public response.

In fact, the Congress has been at sea since the post-Godhra violence as it finds it difficult to counter Modi’s Hindutva agenda given that it has many takers in its own cadres.

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Govt hopes to procure adequate wheat
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 12
The government expects to procure sufficient quantity of wheat in the 2007-08 marketing season to meet the requirement of the Public Distribution System and maintain adequate buffer stock.

This came out after deliberations at a meeting of Food Secretaries of wheat-growing states called by the Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs Ministry here today.

The states agreed to make arrangements for additional storage and provide sufficient funds to their agencies so that farmers got their payments immediately on delivery of wheat.

Wheat is procured by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and state procurement agencies at MSP (minimum support price) announced earlier. The MSP for wheat for the 2007-08 marketing season is Rs 750 per quintal.

As per the second advance estimates compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture, wheat production in the present rabi is likely to be above 72.5 million tonnes.

This is against the production of 69.4 million tonnes last year.

Even after considering the rise in direct purchases by traders and mills in recent years, it is expected that the FCI and state agencies will be able to procure substantially higher quantities of wheat this year. They had procured 92.3 lakh tonnes of wheat in the last season.

Secretary Food and Public Distribution T. Nand Kumar called upon the state secretaries to take necessary actions in advance so that procurement operations ran smoothly at all procurement centres in their states and farmers did not have inconvenience in selling their produce.

He emphasised that Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh would need to strengthen their procurement infrastructure because wheat in these states had been sown in more area this season and a significant increase in production was expected.

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SC moved against Patkar

New Delhi, February 12
The Supreme Court today directed the Centre and the Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat governments to respond within four weeks to a petition seeking criminal investigation against Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar and her associates for stalling Sardar Sarovar Dam Project, and for receiving funds from foreign countries.

A Bench, comprising Mr Justice C.K. Thakker and Mr Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta, issued the directions after hearing counsel for the petitioner, National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL), an NGO, which alleged that Patkar and her associates were carrying on the campaign to stall the construction of various dams at the instance of the foreign companies based in the UK and the USA and were being financed by these companies.

The petition also alleged that there were several cases pending against her close associate, Rahul Banerjee, and state government officials and displaced families were being intimidated and attacked by NBA activists and houses constructed for rehabilitation of ousted families have been demolished by the followers of Patkar.

The petitioner has also alleged that there was a report of the Vigilance Department of the MP Government confirming the allegations made in the petition but no action is being taken against Ms Patkar and her associates who are allegedly preventing the state government officials from discharging their official duties.— UNI

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AP to keep wetlands out of SEZs
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, February 12
Adopting a cautious approach on special economic zones (SEZs), the Andhra Pradesh Government today made it clear that it will not acquire wetlands for the purpose unless it is absolutely warranted.

The assertion came in the customary address by Governor Rameshwar Thakur to the Legislative Assembly on the opening day of its Budget session.

“The total land that will now be allocated to SEZs will not go beyond 1.5 lakh acres, which is 0.24 per cent of the total landmass of the state,” the Governor said.

While encouraging the setting up of large number of SEZs, the Rajasekhara Reddy government is not willing to go overboard on its land selection, in the backdrop of Singur controversy.

The Congress government, however, acknowledged the need to promote SEZs, given that the agriculture sector continued to be dependent on rains in the face of drought conditions prevailing in the state for over a decade.

The state needs to create infrastructure facilities for the promotion of manufacturing and services sectors to help large section of workforce now employed in agriculture to migrate to other sectors, the Governor said.

The state is endowed with large tracts of land, unlike other states like West Bengal, Punjab, Haryana and Tamil Nadu, Thakur said, adding that agriculture in the state accounted for only 48 per cent of the total geographical area of 2,75 lakh sq km.

The Governor hoped that the state, which already has a large manufacturing base, will be able to attract investments with the help of fiscal incentives being granted by the Centre.

The state intends to increase the share of manufacturing sector to state GDP from the present 16 per cent to at least 25 per cent in the next seven years.

Without naming the previous TDP regime headed by Chandrababu Naidu, the Governor took a dig at the earlier dispensation for mismanaging power, irrigation and economy.

He attributed the present power shortages to the wrong policies of the previous government.

Not only did the Naidu government fail to implement as per schedule power projects with a combined capacity of 2500 MW despite signing PPAs, it also could not get gas linkages to the short gestation power projects.

After the Volkswagen fiasco, the government was able to attract a new car project to the state. Announcing that the government had recently cleared Rs 1,200-cr MLR Motors project in the neighbouring Medak district, the Governor said work on the project would begin in April this year.

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Xuan Zang memorial hall opened to public
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 12
The Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Li Zhaoxing, today assured his country`s commitment towards writing a new chapter of Sino-Indian friendship so as to strengthen the bond between the two countries.

India and China today opened a jointly restored memorial dedicated to the seventh-century Chinese traveller, Xuan Zang, at Nalanda who studied at this ancient university in eastern India.

Besides Chinese Foreign Minister, Governor R.S. Garvi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Union Minister for Tourism Ambika Soni, and Indian Centre for Cultural Relations Chairman Karan Singh were also present at the ceremony marking the opening of the hall dedicated to Xuan Zang.

Xuan Zang was a religious scholar who travelled overland from China to India and spent five years at Nalanda University. Historians say Xuan helped disseminate the teachings of Gautama Buddha,the founder of Buddhism.

About 80 monks chanted Buddhist prayers near a bronze statue of Xuan as Li and Ambika Soni cut a ribbon to open the memorial hall to visitors.

The hall is about a km away from the site of the partly excavated Nalanda University, one of the world's oldest universities, established in the 5th century.

The Chinese Foreign Minister said:"Xuan Zang is considered a symbol and an instrument of cultural exchange between the two great civilisations of India and China.”

Ironically, before the memorial could be completed, India and China had fought a brief war in 1962 which soured relations between the two Asian neighbors for the next few decades.

In the recent years, relations have improved which were reflected by joint efforts to restore the memorial. The Nitish government is trying to attract religious tourists to the state from across the world, especially Southeast Asia, by developing Nalanda-Rajgir-Gaya-Bodhgaya as a relgious tourist circuit.

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Protect onion growers’ interest: Pawar 

New Delhi, February 12
Coming strongly in favour of onion growers and virtually opposing a ban on its exports due to low availability, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar tonight deplored suggestions in this regard, saying these would adversely affect farmers interest.

“Eight months back onion was not even able to get the transport cost. At that time nobody had shown any sympathy for onion growers. Everyone was happy. Now suppose the situation has changed a little, a lot of proposals have come to you including this control, that control. Whenever farmers are in a bad shape nobody thinks about the control,” Pawar told NDTV.

Concerned over its spiraling prices, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit wrote to Pawar to ban export of onions.

“Onion exports through the NAFED should be banned immediately and diverted to the local market in the national capital to ease its availability and hence prices,” said Dikshit in a letter to Pawar. Onion prices during February fluctuated between Rs 13 a kg to Rs 17 a kg. — PTI

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Bihar to focus on social sector, infrastructure
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 12
With its agenda to transform Bihar into a developed state by 2015, the state government has decided to place a Rs 9,773-cr annual plan for 2007-08 financial year before the Planning Commission with emphasis on social sector and infrastructure.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will leave for Delhi today to finalise the proposed plan at a meeting with Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia tomorrow.

Sources in the Chief Minister’s Secretariat said besides the annual plan for 2007-08, the size of the 11th Five Year Plan prepared by the state government involving Rs 58,310 crore, with a projected annual growth of 8.5 per cent, was also expected to be finalised during the meeting.

The size of the 10th Five Year Plan for Bihar was Rs 21,000 crore, Rs 37,310 crore less than the one prepared by the state government for the 11th plan.

A senior official in secretariat said the primary focus of the annual plan for 2007-08 was on social sector, including social security, besides road construction, irrigation and flood control.

While 30 per cent of the annual plan outlay amounting to Rs 3,000 cr would be spent on social sector, transport and road construction would get about Rs 2,400 crore.

During his recent meeting with the head of the World Bank (South Asia) Prafulla Patel, Nitish Kumar was advised to focus on infrastructure development to attract investments, besides ensuring socially balanced growth.

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SC halts sealing drive

New Delhi, February 12
In a major relief to the traders, the Supreme Court today virtually halted the sealing drive in the national capital by making it inoperative on all the roads covered under the Master Plan for Delhi-2021 (MPD-2021).

The direction by a Bench comprising Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat, Mr Justice C K Thakker and Mr Justice R V Raveendran came after a brief hearing on a petition filed by an NGO challenging the provisions of the MPD-2021, which was notified on February 7.

The Bench maintained that any further orders on the issue of sealing would be issued only after examining the master plan for which it asked senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae, to put forward his suggestions, objections and deficiencies in the MPD within four weeks so that remedial steps could be taken.

Thereafter, the Centre, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the Delhi Government would file rejoinder to the suggestions by the amicus curiae within two weeks, the Bench said.

The court made it clear that to decide on the issue of the legality and constitutional validity of the MPD-2021, grievances from all quarters would have to be addressed through the amicus curiae and no individual applications would be heard on the issue.

The Bench said that the suggestions and views of the court-appointed Monitoring Committee on sealing would also be brought before it through the amicus curiae. While posting that matter for April 10, the Bench said, “In view of this order, the interim order of stopping sealing by the MCD will remain operative till further order.” “The direction will be operative only to those premises which falls on the roads covered under the MPD,” it further clarified. — PTI

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SC notice to govt on OBC quota

New Delhi, February 12
The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Union Government on a petition challenging its notification providing 27.5 per cent reservation to OBCs in educational institutions from the coming academic session 2007-2008.

A Bench comprising Justices K.G. Balakrishnan and D.K. Jain, however, declined to tag the writ petition filed by the All India Equality Forum with similar petitions already pending in the court.

The petitioner forum has contended the caste-based reservation policy being pursued by the Central Government is dividing the Indian society along caste lines and such a policy is also detrimental to the concept of efficient administration.

Reservation should be provided to weaker sections of the society irrespective of their caste and religion.

The petitioner has also contended the new reservation has been prepared without adequate data and was in fact aimed at votebank politics. — UNI

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SP calls Mayawati a demon

Lucknow, February 12
Samajwadi Party general secretary and UP Development Council Chairman Amar Singh today termed BSP supremo Mayawati as ‘Putna', the demon, and alleged that she was surviving on the blood of the poor of the state.

Addressing a party public meeting of different most backward communities here, Mr Singh said Mayawati, in true sense, can be termed 'Putna' who tried to kill Lord Krishna during childhood.

“When Mulayam Singh Yadav is trying to uplift the backwards by recommending them to be included in the Scheduled Caste category,the BSP has put a spanner by going to the High court against it,”he said.

Without taking any name, Mr Amar Singh said a probable PM candidate and a youth icon of a national party can answer whether his computer can find the names of these most backward communities.“These people don't even know the real problems of these communities but are dreaming of becoming the PM,'' he commented.

Criticising the Congress and BJP for targeting Mulayam for their vested interests, the SP national spokesman said: “Both the parties are united against the UP government and now BSP had, too,joined their bandwagon.” — PTI

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Gujral favours Indian efforts for united S. Asia
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 12
Former Prime Minister I K Gujral today said that a new direction and dynamism should be assigned to South Asia cooperation to help the region to emerge as an economic powerhouse in the making.

“South Asia is at the crossroads and there is a conducive situation for crafting the changes in an unprecedented manner,” Mr Gujaral said inaugurating the Rotary South Asian Goodwill Summit here.

Calling for repositioning South Asia to take advantage of the newer interest in the region, Mr Gujral opined that to have better results in the dialogue, unofficial parallel negotiations among the non-governmental organisations should be given importance.

Stating that the new regionalism should lay emphasis on not only building connectivity among the countries of South Asia, but also linking East Asia, Mr Gujaral exhorted India to take a lead in bringing together South and East Asia together.

The former Prime Minister wanted New Delhi to show some unilateral gestures that could build business cooperation, goodwill and trust in the region.

Referring to the heavy losses, countries in the region incurred, by not building business links among them, Mr Gujral said Pakistan was loosing every year $ 110 million by not importing tea from the neighbouring countries.

“Also, the potential for bilateral trade between India and Pakistan was in the vicinity of $ 5.5 billion and the actual figures were much below the expectation,” he said.

Mr Gujaral also underscored the need for building transport connectivity among the South Asian countries. “Despite having the largest Railway network in South Asia the countries are not linked,” he quipped.

Addressing the summit, former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga said that there was a trust deficit among the nations in the region and also within the nations.

She referred to the conflicts and bloody wars fought among the South Asian nations and the domestic ethnic friction rampant among the nations, which had a heavy tool on the peace process and economic development. Also, there was abject proverty, corruption and violation of human rights in the region, she said.

“We have to set aside these differences and work towards a dynamic and development-centric South Asia,” she said, adding that non-governmental organisations like Rotary should take concrete steps for bridging the trust gap.

Referring to the integration of West European countries into a single economic entity, despite them fighting amongst themselves for almost 10 centuries, Ms Kumaratunga said that South Asians shared a common history and cultural legacy and said that efforts should be afoot to permeate these ideas to the grassroots.

Former Foreign Secretary of Bangladesh Farooq Sobhan favoured restriction-free economic and trade tie-ups between South Asian countries, besides, moving towards a ‘visa-free’ regime and ‘one-currency’ regime in the region.

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Shah Rukh dances to Bihu tunes on KBC

New Delhi, February 12
Superstar Shah Rukh Khan may have swung to typical Bollywood songs umpteen times but he is equally at home with Assam's most popular folk dance Bihu that celebrates the new harvest.

Khan's skills at Bihu came to fore when a contestant from Assam at the television game show, Kaun Banega Crorepati, asked him to shake a leg.

Shah Rukh obliged and enthusiastically did some Bihu steps "for the first time".

"I just asked him if he would like to do a few steps of our traditional dance and he readily agreed," said Mridul Gogoi, a businessman who hails from Assam's Dibrugarh district.

Gogoi, who won Rs 3.20 lakh in the contest today said the organisers told him the actor danced for the first time on the sets of the show.

"I was really impressed by Shah Rukh's attitude. He was very interested in knowing about my place. When I said I was from India's easternmost state, he wanted to know more. He told me he has been to Arunachal, but not to Assam," Gogoi added. — PTI

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Abhi-Ash’s rituals raise Hindu body’s hackles

New Delhi, February 12
A US-based Hindu reform body has expressed concern at “astrology-related and similar unscientific rituals” performed by Amitabh Bachchan’s family ahead of the marriage of his son Abhishek with Aishwarya Rai.

In a statement from Troy in Michigan, Navya Shastra strongly disapproved the ‘manglik-related’ ceremonies performed by the Bachchan family before and after the couple’s engagement.

“Astrology and similar unscientific practices should be renounced in marital matchmaking and other everyday activities in Hindu society,” said Navya Shastra chairman Jaishree Gopal.

“What concerns us is that millions of people may rationalise their mistreatment of women based upon the Abhishek-Rai example.

“As it is, hundreds of thousands of women - and even some men - have difficulty marrying because of the alleged perniciousness of a random confluence of stars,” Gopal said.

Aishwarya’s manglik sign (Mars-bearing) is believed to have negative consequences on her impending marriage.

Special pujas were performed at Kashi Vishwanath temple and Sankat Mochan temple in Varanasi before the couple’s engagement. After the Big B announced last month that Abhishek and Aishwarya were engaged, the family went to Vindhyavasini temple where manglik-related ceremonies were performed.

According to Navya Shastra, “These actions will have a unhealthy impact on their (the family’s) fan base and subject brides-to-be to expiation ceremonies”. — PTI

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Evidence submitted in Mahajan case

Mumbai, February 12
The prosecution today submitted to the court a list of 58 witnesses, other documents and a revolver in connection with the murder of former BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan.

Pravin Mahajan, the younger brother of the slain leader, has been accused of the murder.

He allegedly shot his brother at the latter’s residence at Worli on April 22 last year.

After a long battle for his life, Pramod Mahajan succumbed to his injuries on May 3, while undergoing treatment at the P.D. Hinduja Hospital.

After receiving articles and documents today, Additional Sessions Judge Srihari P. Daware adjourned the matter till February 23 when the date for trial proceedings would be decided.

Immediately after the chargesheet was filed against him on July 14 last year, Pravin had moved for bail, which was rejected on the ground that there was prima facie evidence against him.

Pravin is lodged in the high-security cell of Arthur Road Jail ever since his arrest by the Worli police on April 22. — UNI

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Briton raped in Central Delhi hotel

New Delhi, February 12
A British tourist, staying at a hotel in Central Delhi, has been allegedly raped by a Polish national.
The Polish citizen, identified as Dominique Rafel, has been arrested after the incident which happened earlier last week, the police said.

The victim was known to the accused as they were staying at nearby hotels in Paharganj area, a favourite among tourists because of the availability of a string of budget hotels.

The two had gone to a nightclub on February 7 and had drinks together after which Rafel allegedly raped the 28-year-old after taking her to his room.

She filed a complaint against him the next day and he was soon arrested. He was produced before Tis Hazari court, which remanded him to judicial custody.

The police said it had informed the Polish Embassy and British High Commission here about the incident. — PTI 

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Seven BJP workers killed in accident

Dehra Dun, February 12
Seven BJP party workers were killed and four injured today when the jeep they were travelling in fell into a 300-feet gorge in Tehri district of Uttarakhand.
The accident occurred as the driver was unable to negotiate a sharp turn and the jeep fell into the gorge at Peepal Mor, the police said, adding five persons, including the driver, died on the spot, while two succumbed to their injuries at a nearby hospital.

The injured have been admitted to the Mussoorie government hospital where they are said to be out of danger.

Mr B.C. Khanduri, Chairman, BJP Uttarakhand Election Campaign Committee expressed grief over the mishap.

State party president B.S. Koshiyari, who was on his way to Jaspur in Udham Singh Nagar district to address a joint election rally with former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, reached the spot and assured the injured activists that the party will bear the expenses of their treatment. — PTI

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