SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

SC upholds death for 2
Minor’s rape, murder
New Delhi, February 15
The capital punishment to two “sexually-obsessed” youth for rape and murder of a minor girl has been upheld by the Supreme Court stating that any disproportionate punishment for crimes like these against women would have undesirable and practical consequences.

CPM takes UPA to task for price rise
New Delhi, February 15
The CPM today blamed the UPA government for the rising prices of essential commodities, saying its wrong policies and mismanagement had led to shortage of supply. “The UPA government is squarely responsible for the present state of affairs as the wrong policies of the government and mismanagement have led to shortage of supply and price rise of many commodities”, said CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury.

Farm commodity prices steady
New Delhi, February 15
As inflation jumped to the highest in more than two years at 6.73 per cent for week ended February 3, the government said farm commodity prices remained steady till the middle of last week, with futures prices of wheat across all contracts showing a declining trend.



EARLIER STORIES


A girl takes a dip at the Sangam on the eve of Shivratri in Allahabad
A girl takes a dip at the Sangam on the eve of Shivratri in Allahabad on Thursday. — PTI

BJP questions Narayanan’s revelation in Munich
New Delhi, February 15
The BJP today found an usual ally in National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan when it sought to score some brownie points on his revelation in Munich that the stock exchanges were being manipulated for funding terrorist groups and their activities.

Master plan not vote bank politics: Reddy
New Delhi, February 15
Delhi’s master plan for 2021 gives relief to not only traders, for whom the threat of sealing is off, but also to millions others. And Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy says categorically that he is not “apologetic”, notwithstanding allegations of vote bank politics.

Embarrassed Lalu praises TTE
New Delhi, February 15
Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav today showered praise on the travelling ticket examiner, who had caught his parents-in-law travelling without tickets on a train in Bihar, in a bid to deflect the embarrassment caused to him.

CBI submits report on Taj corridor case
Lucknow, February 15
The CBI today submitted to a designated court here its investigation report on the Rs175-crore Taj Heritage Corridor case involving former UP Chief Minister Mayawati. The court received all material and documents, including the investigation report in the case, from the CBI and directed the investigating agency to seek sanction of prosecution against Maywati and four others.

CSE urges tax corrections to stop oil guzzling
New Delhi, February 15
The Centre for Science and Environment has asked Finance Minister P Chidambaram not to give more tax sops to the auto industry and to craft taxes in a way so that fuel efficiency of vehicles is improved and oil guzzling is avoided.

South Africa-India FTA soon
New Delhi, February 15
A free trade agreement between India and South Africa is likely to be concluded within the next 18 months, said I.M. Sharma, Deputy Director General, Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa, here today.

Top EU diplomat to meet PM
New Delhi, February 15
A top European Union diplomat is arriving here tomorrow on a crucial visit during which she would meet the top Indian leaders and discuss a wide gamut of issues, ranging from counter-terrorism to development.

Mumbai serial killer admits to 21 murders
Mumbai, February 15
Ravindra Kantrole or the ‘Beer Man’ who was arrested following the murders of several vagrants between November and January has admitted to killing 21 persons, the police said.

Air hostess commits suicide
Mumbai, February 15
Marlyn Dustonwa (50) an air hostess with Delta Airlines allegedly committed suicide by hanging at the Taj Mahal Hotel, the police said. Dustonwa, a resident of California, was on a stopover in Mumbai and had asked the hotel to wake her up in the morning.

Curfew lifted in Gorakhpur
Gorakhpur, February 15
The curfew has been fully lifted from the city following an improvement in the situation, officials said here today.





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SC upholds death for 2
Minor’s rape, murder
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 15
The capital punishment to two “sexually-obsessed” youth for rape and murder of a minor girl has been upheld by the Supreme Court stating that any disproportionate punishment for crimes like these against women would have undesirable and practical consequences.

Holding that the punishment for heinous crimes should be in proportion to the act committed by the accused, a Bench comprising Mr Justice Arijit Pasayat and Mr Justice Lokeshwar Singh Panta took note of the fact that the two youth from Badrenahalli village in Karnataka had made several unsuccessful attempts at raping other girls in the village before they laid their hands on less then 18-year-old Shivamma.

After sexually assaulting her on October 15, 2001 when she was working in her field, they brutally murdered her, the court said, taking pains to note that the village panchayat in earlier cases, instead of reporting them to the police, had tried to patch up the matter with the families of those girls on whom the attempts were made by them and then let them of only after admonishment.

The court in its 23-page judgment had clearly recorded that the accused were “sexually obsessed youngsters and had made many attempts to commit rape of other girls in the village but were unsuccessful and not punished by the panchyat.”

This had emboldened them, which ultimately resulted in the rape and murder of poor Shivamma by 20 year-old Shivu and his 22-year-old friend, from the same village.

The court said in crimes like this against women, if the punishment was given less than the penalty of “greater severity” as prescribed by law would be unjustifiable.

The Karnataka High Court had confirmed the death sentence to the convicts after it came for reference on confirmation from the Sessions Court before it, as was the requirement in all cases of capital punishment, awarded by the trial judge.

Shivu and his friend had challenged the High Court order in an appeal in the Supreme Court, which was rejected as it found that the case fit in the “rarest of the rare category” by all standards and guidelines laid down by the apex court in various judgments in the past.

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CPM takes UPA to task for price rise
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
The CPM today blamed the UPA government for the rising prices of essential commodities, saying its wrong policies and mismanagement had led to shortage of supply.

“The UPA government is squarely responsible for the present state of affairs as the wrong policies of the government and mismanagement have led to shortage of supply and price rise of many commodities”, said CPM politburo member Sitaram Yechury.

Taking exception to the coalition’s claim of about 9 per cent GDP growth, he said the government was now facing the anger and discontent of the people due to price rise.

The issue of price rise was going to have an adverse effect on the fortunes of the Congress in the Punjab and Uttarakhand elections, Mr Yechury said.

The CPM leader said the government should immediately put curbs on the futures trading of essential commodities, reduce the prices of petrol and diesel further and revise the ad valorem duty structure on petroleum products.

“It must take measures to boost foodgrain production and ensure adequate procurement, take urgent steps to strengthen and expand the public distribution system, tighten up the Essential Commodities Act and crack down on hoarding with a firm hand”, he said.

He said in the middle of last year, the government had claimed that the price rise was seasonal and later, the Finance Minister began putting out the argument that inflation was a natural consequence of rapid economic growth. In the recent period, the government and its economic advisers had been pointing to supply constraints as the main cause for inflation.

He said the government had announced cuts in import duties on cement, capital goods, project imports, metals and chemicals, which was a wrong step. Such drastic cuts in import duty on manufactured items would have an adverse impact on domestic producers, leading to deflation and unemployment, he stated.

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Farm commodity prices steady
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
As inflation jumped to the highest in more than two years at 6.73 per cent for week ended February 3, the government said farm commodity prices remained steady till the middle of last week, with futures prices of wheat across all contracts showing a declining trend.

Farm commodity prices monitored by the Department of Consumer Affairs generally remained steady across the country in the week.

Wheat prices remained steady at 16 monitoring centres, declined at Mumbai and increased at Jaipur.

The futures prices of wheat across all contracts showed a declining trend.

In order to augment the domestic availability of wheat, the government contracted for import of 55 lakh tonnes of wheat, out of which 49.93 lakh tonnes had arrived by Tuesday.

Sugar prices remained steady across most of the centres and decreased at Bhopal, Jaipur, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata and Chennai.

Spot and futures prices of sugar during the week registered a declining trend.

Prices of gram dal remained steady at most of the centres, declined at Bhopal, Mumbai and Agartala and increased at Shimla, Bangalore and Chennai.

Prices of tur dal generally remained steady.

Out of the 30000 tonnes of urad and moong (urad 25000, moong 5000), for which import contracts had been executed by NAFED, 10675 tonnes had already been shipped to India and 3864 tonnes of pulses had arrived at Indian ports and was being disposed of.

At Delhi, gram and tur dal, groundnut oil, milk and tea were holding steady for a week; prices of rice, wheat/atta, sugar and vanaspati for a month; and price of salt for one year. Prices of mustard oil and potato declined during the week while that of onion increased.

However, the inflation data released by the Commerce Ministry said the annual rate of inflation, calculated on point to point basis, stood at 6.73 per cent for the week ended February 3 as compared to 6.58 per cent for the previous week. The annual rate of inflation stood at 3.98 per cent an year ago.

The index for ‘Food Articles’ group rose by 0.5 per cent to 217.1 from 216.1 for the previous week due to higher prices of pork (26%), eggs (7%), mutton (4%) and urad, masur, moong, condiments and spices, fruits and vegetables and bajra (1% each).

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BJP questions Narayanan’s revelation in Munich
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
The BJP today found an usual ally in National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan when it sought to score some brownie points on his revelation in Munich that the stock exchanges were being manipulated for funding terrorist groups and their activities.

In his maiden press briefing after his appointment as one of the three spokespersons of the party, Mr Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Mr Narayanan’s address at the 43rd Conference on Security Policy in Munich, in which he revealed the manipulation of stock exchanges in India to fund terrorist activities and also admitted that official agencies in Pakistan were pumping millions of dollars for sustaining militancy, was only a confirmation of BJP’s charge that the UPA government had been soft-pedalling terrorism from day one.

Recalling Mr Narayanan’s earlier statements about Indian atomic energy installations being threatened by the terrorists and Al-Qaida and LeT infiltrating the Indian armed forces, Mr Rudy did not hesitate to hide his sadistic pleasure when he said the “NSA is in habit of springing surprises.... but the recent disclosure in Munich is far too serious”.

Highlighting contradictions in Mr Narayanan’s role, the BJP spokesman said the assumed role of the NSA “is not only to theorise but also to assist the government to act, but the NSA yet being aware of the threat to the national security has failed to ensure any government action”.

“Unfortunately, it seems that the NSA is not accountable to the nation or the Prime Minister and is seemingly acting more as a personal family adviser to 10 Janpath,” Mr Rudy said and asked Mr Narayanan “to explain what prompted him to speak so liberally on the precarious security situation on the international platform while failing to alert and advise the government on the home front”.

Asking the Prime Minister to clarify whether the NSA had shared the contents of his Munich address with him and if so what actions were taken in this regard, the spokesman said the people of the country had every right to know what the government had been doing in the past three years while the NSA was privy to such vital national security information.

Earlier, another BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi heaped ridicule on Mr Narayanan saying, “The BJP believes that he has reduced his role to that of a meteorologist who can only predict weather but can do nothing to stop unwelcome conditions”.

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Master plan not vote bank politics: Reddy
Faraz Ahmad

New Delhi, February 15
Delhi’s master plan for 2021 gives relief to not only traders, for whom the threat of sealing is off, but also to millions others. And Urban Development Minister S. Jaipal Reddy says categorically that he is not “apologetic”, notwithstanding allegations of vote bank politics.

Strongly defending the much discussed master plan for Delhi (MPD) that lays out guidelines for the Indian Capital over the next 14 years, the minister said: “I am not apologetic about this large-scale relief to the people. I can’t ignore ground reality and the Indian democratic state cannot be so tyrannical as to demolish or close down or tamper with 90 per cent dwelling units”.

The document, notified by Mr Reddy on February 7, regularises 1,543 unauthorised colonies and also makes major concessions for commercial establishments in residential areas, the focal point of the sealing operations that led to several traders’ strikes last year.

“Traders were not the only people agitated about the situation in Delhi. Residents have also been given relief. Many residents in the walled city special enclaves, pre-1962 colonies and small colonies have been helped in much larger numbers than traders,” Mr Reddy said.

He said all traders were not rich. “It is important to note that of the more than six lakh shopkeepers (affected by the new master plan), only about 50,000 can be categorised as upper middle class. The rest are those who use their small houses as shops. These include people like dhobi, tailor or cycle repairer... all come in this category”.

The minister denied that the government’s exercise of amending the master plan was aimed at circumventing the Supreme Court’s directive to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to demolish or seal unauthorised premises.

“There is no basis for such criticism. This (the master plan) has been in the offing for long. If that were to be my motive I would have done this six months ago when people were on the streets against the sealing drive. In fact, the sealing drive continued without being halted by me or anyone”.

Mr Reddy also insisted that his government was not guided by impending elections to the MCD in amending the master plan.

“I can honestly say there was no vote bank politics in the MPD. We dealt with each group based on harmonious mix of ground realities and town planning norms. A master plan for 15 years is not prepared to win one MCD election. This was not the consideration at all”. — IANS

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Embarrassed Lalu praises TTE
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav today showered praise on the travelling ticket examiner (TTE), who had caught his parents-in-law travelling without tickets on a train in Bihar, in a bid to deflect the embarrassment caused to him.

“The prompt action taken by the TTE with regard to my parents-in-law is a matter of pride for the Railways,” Mr Prasad said here today. “His (the TTE’s) bold step to charge money from them is commendable and it should be lesson for everyone travelling without tickets,” he told mediapersons on the sidelines of a function when the Railways signed an MoU with the ICICI Bank.

Mr Yadav acknowledged that it was a mistake on the part of his parents-in-law to have travelled without proper tickets in the first instance. He was quick to add the problem was rectified as they paid money for their AC class travel ticket.

He had a dig at the media contending what they wrote was in bad taste.

The ticket-less travel incident involving his parents-in-law was splashed all over when Mr Prasad was with Congress president Sonia Gandhi in her constituency of Rae Bareli where she inaugurated a railway factory.

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CBI submits report on Taj corridor case

Lucknow, February 15
The CBI today submitted to a designated court here its investigation report on the Rs175-crore Taj Heritage Corridor case involving former UP Chief Minister Mayawati.

The court received all material and documents, including the investigation report in the case, from the CBI and directed the investigating agency to seek sanction of prosecution against Maywati and four others.

Complying with Supreme Court directions, the CBI submitted the material, including the report of its SP under whose supervision the case was investigated before the Lucknow court. Among others named by the CBI report as accused are former Environment Minister Nassemuddin Siddqi, former state Environment Secretary R K Sharma, an Under Secretary Rajendra Prasad, Additional General Manager of NBCC Mahendra Sharma and owner of Ishrako Construction company Kamal Radu.

The court fixed May 15 as the next date of hearing and directed the CBI to seek sanction for prosecution so that cognizance of its report could be taken.

The court had earlier quashed CBI’s closure report against Mayawati her in the case and the investigating agency had come in for severe criticism from the court on Nov 27 last year for taking legal opinion in the case despite the fact that the entire investigating team favoured Mayawati’s prosecution. — PTI

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CSE urges tax corrections to stop oil guzzling
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has asked Finance Minister P Chidambaram not to give more tax sops to the auto industry and to craft taxes in a way so that fuel efficiency of vehicles is improved and oil guzzling is avoided. In a study, the CSE has found that “India is in the grip of an impending energy crisis”.

“We are consuming more oil than ever before, and the growing transport sector is guzzling a lot of this oil. The 2007-08 Union Budget must address this linkage between vehicles and energy insecurity,” the CSE study on fuel economy in the transport sector said.

Based on the findings of the study, the CSE has proposed a set of immediate tax corrections to deal with the challenges of motorisation, pollution and energy insecurity.

“It is unfortunate that the oil price shock of last year has receded so fast from public memory. There is no policy urgency to address deepening of energy insecurity due to rising number of cars supported by tax incentives,” CSE Associate Director Anumita Roychoudhury, who pioneered the study, said.

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South Africa-India FTA soon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
A free trade agreement between India and South Africa is likely to be concluded within the next 18 months, said I.M. Sharma, Deputy Director General, Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa, here today.

He said the FTA would benefit New Delhi immensely as India’s manufacturing industries needed energy and his country possessed the best and most varied sources of energy.

Addressing the South Africa-India International Trade Initiative meeting, organised by FICCI and the Department of Trade and Industry of South Africa, Mr Sharma said closer economic and trade relations between South Africa and India would help Indian businesses as South Africa had duty free access markets in the EU and the USA.

South Africa’s business environment, he said, was liberal, the average industrial tariff rate being less than 5 per cent and there is no restriction on foreign ownerships.

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Top EU diplomat to meet PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 15
A top European Union diplomat is arriving here tomorrow on a crucial visit during which she would meet the top Indian leaders and discuss a wide gamut of issues, ranging from counter-terrorism to development.

During her first bilateral visit to India, Ms Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow.

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Mumbai serial killer admits to 21 murders
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 15
Ravindra Kantrole or the ‘Beer Man’ who was arrested following the murders of several vagrants between November and January has admitted to killing 21 persons, the police said.

The police has so far claimed that seven persons were killed in the past few months.

During the narco-analysis test conducted on him, Kantrole admitted to having committed the murders because he was thrilled by the sight of blood.

In his confession Kantrole said he committed the murders over two years. He chose his victims carefully. The killer felt that the vagrants living on the footpaths of Mumbai would not be missed and chose his victims taking shelter at isolated places in the dead of night.

Kantrole’s modus operandi was to stun his victims by hitting them on the head with a stick. He would then stab them with a chopper. He also left behind handwritten notes besides his victims.

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Air hostess commits suicide
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 15
Marlyn Dustonwa (50) an air hostess with Delta Airlines allegedly committed suicide by hanging at the Taj Mahal Hotel, the police said.

Dustonwa, a resident of California, was on a stopover in Mumbai and had asked the hotel to wake her up in the morning. When the hotel staff did not find any response from her room, officials got inside using a master key.

The woman was found hanging from a shower curtain in the bathroom. A suicide note was also found addressed to the victim’s mother. However, the police probing the presence of some blood stains on the bed.

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Curfew lifted in Gorakhpur

Gorakhpur, February 15
The curfew has been fully lifted from the city following an improvement in the situation, officials said here today.

After reviewing the situation in the area last night, the district administration decided to lift the night curfew which had been continuing in the area as a precautionary measure, city Additional District Magistrate P.K Agarwal said today. — PTI

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