SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Mulayam wins trust vote
Lucknow, February 26
In the absence of opposition MLAs the ruling Samajwadi Party today won a trust vote in the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha by a voice vote. They also passed a money Bill giving themselves better pension and emoluments which will cost the exchequer more than Rs 14 crore annually.

Trains soon at 350 kmph
New Delhi, February 26
Trains running at a speed of 350 km per hour will soon be a reality in the country as railway minister Lalu Prasad unveiled the government’s plans in this new arena to take on competition from budget airlines.
Union minister for railways Lalu Prasad comes out of Parliament after presenting the railway budget in New Delhi Union minister for railways Lalu Prasad comes out of Parliament after presenting the railway budget in New Delhi on Monday.
— PTI photo



EARLIER STORIES


Rail budget papers are checked by a dog squad at Parliament House
Rail budget papers are checked by a dog squad at Parliament House on Monday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Railways eyes No. 1 slot in world
New Delhi, February 26
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s highly motivated team of Railway Board members today reiterated his determination to put the vast network of Indian Railways(IR) on the number one position of the railway systems in the world.

Lalu is best, says Rabri
Patna, February 26
On his hometurf, railway minister Lalu Prasad was today defended by his wife and former Chief Minister Rabri Devi against a belligerent Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who dubbed the 2007-08 rail budget as a mere “eyewash” to hoodwink the people.

Lalu takes railway research to IIM
New Delhi, February 26
Keeping in tune with his newly discovered management guru avtaar, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav today announced the setting up of a Chair at IIM Ahmedabad in order “to encourage research in Railway infrastructure and management”.

Rail recipe evokes bittersweet response
New Delhi, February 26
The BJP today slammed the Railway Budget for “neglecting” infrastructure and safety requirements while the Congress and the RJD termed it as “fabulous” and “people-friendly.” The CPM said the budget had good elements but many important regions had been neglected in the introduction of new trains.

Q fails to derail Lalu
A slogan raising Opposition could not derail the Lalu Express. Unperturbed by the vociferous protest by Opposition Benches on the Quattrocchi issue, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, sipping water intermittently, roared through the budget speech with smiling Congress president Sonia Gandhi by his side.

Hirakud Express extended to Amritsar
New Delhi, February 26
The 8507/8508 Vishakhapattnam-Hazrat Nizamuddin Hirakud Express train will be extended to Amritsar from March 16, a Northern Railway press statement today said. The 8507 train scheduled to leave Vishakhapattanam on March 16 will be extended to run up to Amritsar.

No extradition pact with Argentina, clarifies govt
New Delhi, February 26
Against the backdrop of Bofors scam suspect Ottavio Quattrocchhi having been detained and finally let off on bail in Argentina, the Government of India today clarified that it did not have an extradition treaty with Argentina.

Govt lying on Q: Advani
New Delhi, February 26
Rejecting the government's statement that India has no extradition treaty with Argentina, the BJP today said there was such an agreement between the two countries and accused the government of "lying" over the Quattrocchi issue.

Issue rocks Parliament
New Delhi, February 26
The Parliament was rocked by the Quattrocchi issue today with the Opposition stalling proceedings and forcing adjournment in the two Houses.

Unit achieves criticality
Ist atomic plant to use N-chain reaction
Kaiga, February 26
The 220-Mwe third unit of the Kaiga Atomic Power Plant achieved criticality at 10.10 am today, becoming the 17th nuclear power unit in the country and the first to use nuclear chain reaction. Power generated in this unit would be supplied to the Southern grid, covering Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Goa.

Uttarakhand
Race for CM’s post hots up in BJP
Dehra Dun, February 26
The race for the post of Chief Minister has started within the state BJP as the party is hopeful of getting a majority in the Uttarakhand Assembly poll. The counting of votes will take place tomorrow. The Congress camp is, however, keeping its fingers crossed as its state leadership is apprehending a hung Assembly.

Rift in Bengal Cong to fore
Kolkata, February 26
The rift in the Bengal Congress(l), which has been already in shambles, has once again come to the surface over holding of a meeting, called by the Union Information Minister, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, in support of the poor farmers of Singur.

Meghalaya CM seeks time
Shillong, February 26
Meghalaya Chief Minister J.D. Rymbai tonight sought three days’ time from the AICC after being directed by the Congress high command to quit his post.

Change rape definition: NCW
Varca (Goa), February 26
The National Commission for Women has recommended changes in the definition of rape in the proposed Sexual Assault Bill to include assaults other than penetration. "We have submitted the Sexual Assault Bill to the government. In that we have changed the definition of rape.

SC stays reversion of promoted women police officials
New Delhi, February 26
The Supreme Court today stayed the Haryana government’s order reverting the promotion of over a hundred women police officials. The female officials were promoted to different levels, including to the rank of inspector, sub-inspector, assistant sub-inspector and head constable following the order of the Haryana DGP in January 2003 to set up “Mahila Desks” in every police station in the state, under the National Commission for Women recommendations.

Terror threats in coast
Mumbai, February 26
A warning by Central Intelligence agencies that terror groups could be planning major attacks on important installations along the country's Western Coast has left enforcement agencies on edge.

Unicef kudos for ‘queen bee’
Patna, February 26
She can well be the "role model" in Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar`s vision for gender equality in society. It is the story of a village girl from rural Bihar who has made her way to become an entrepreneur at the age of 17.

Video
Women in Jharkhand run self-help bank.
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Mulayam wins trust vote
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, February 26
In the absence of opposition MLAs the ruling Samajwadi Party today won a trust vote in the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha by a voice vote. They also passed a money Bill giving themselves better pension and emoluments which will cost the exchequer more than Rs 14 crore annually.

BJP, the only opposition party which had participated in today’s proceedings, continued to display a love hate relationship with the ruling party and finally decided to stage a walkout when chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav stood up to read out the one line trust motion.

As soon as the House met this morning BJP members drew the attention of the Speaker by raising slogans and staging a sit out in the well of the House demanding immediate disqualification of the BJP MLAs who had recently cross voted and were today sitting in the treasury benches. They also urged the Speaker to clarify about the latest party positions in view of the February 14 Supreme Court judgement.

Leader of the Opposition Lalji Tandon as well as senior leader Hukum Singh cast aspersions on the impartiality of the Chair in deciding the matter of disqualification of 10 BJP MLAs.

Singh categorically mentioned that it was difficult not to doubt the impartiality of the Speaker as the matter of disqualification of SP MLAs was taken up and decided in no time while that of the BJP MLAs had been kept hanging.

However, despite repeatedly pointing out the “unconstitutional manner” in which the government was conducting itself, the senior BJP MLAs quietly walked out twice during the three-hour-long session to discuss the agenda with the same Speaker in business advisory meetings.

Following their cooperation in amending the agenda the government not only tabled and passed the pension Bill for legislators but also pushed through two other Bills without any discussion.

While Leader of the House Mulayam Singh Yadav had asked for a lobby division, the Speaker decided to pass the vote of confidence by a voice vote.

Later, revenue minister Ambika Chaudhury claimed that at least 215 MLAs had supported the motion. Suggesting of a virtual crisis of confidence, this was the 22nd time that the present government had sought a vote of confidence during the past three and a half years! Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey announcing the SP winning the trust vote also clarified that after the disqualification of the 13 MLAs mentioned in the apex court verdict there were no more changes in respective party positions. He pointed out that he would take action in the case of the 24 remaining MLAs only if he received a petition in this regard.

Disclosing that his office till date had not received the resignations of the BSP MLAs, the Speaker said as long as the resignation letters were not submitted in his office in the manner prescribed the mere announcement held no meaning.

Meanwhile, Congress MLAs tendered their resignations to party President Sonia Gandhi. The decision was taken at the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting this morning. A decision to boycott the Assembly proceedings to protest against the ''illegal government'' seeking a trust vote was also taken.

Besides the 15 Congress MLAs former BJP MLA Puran Singh Bundel, who had earlier resigned from his party and joined the Congress, also handed over his resignation to UPCC president Salman Khurshid in line with other Congress MLAs.

Later, Jan Morcha chief former Prime Minister V.P Singh and convener Raj Babbar took out a march from Parivartan chowk to Vidhan Sabha along with hundreds of supporters where they addressed a public rally demanding the dismissal of the government.

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Babloo Srivastava in poll fray
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, February 26
Underworld don Babloo Srivastava today confirmed his intention to enter the Vidhan Sabha by contesting as an Independent candidate from Lucknow Central.

Speaking to the media at the Lucknow court premises, Srivastava declared that “on the advise of friends” he has decided to enter the poll fray from Lucknow instead of Sitapur as announced by his lawyer a few days ago.

Srivastava had tried his luck in the Parliamentary election in 2004 by contesting from Sitapur constituency. He had polled a mere 31,972 votes and failed to even retain his security deposit.

Last week he was acquitted in the Lalit Suneja murder case. The don has got acquittal in two of the four significant cases referred by the CBI to Singaporean authorities during his extradition in 1995.

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Trains soon at 350 kmph
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
Trains running at a speed of 350 km per hour will soon be a reality in the country as railway minister Lalu Prasad unveiled the government’s plans in this new arena to take on competition from budget airlines.

One need not go to Europe or Japan to experience the pleasure of travelling in such high-speed trains.

“We have decided to conduct pre-feasibility studies for construction of high-speed passenger corridors, equipped with state-of-the-art signalling and train-control system, for running high-speed trains at speeds of 300 to 350 km per hour,” Lalu said.

He said one each such high-speed train would run in the northern, western, southern and eastern regions of the country.

“These trains will cover distances up to 600 km in two to three hours,” he said, adding that all alternatives, including private-public partnership, would be considered for implementation of these corridors.

Bombardier Transportation officials had recently met railway ministry officials and presented their expertise in designing such high-speed trains.

Internationally, Bombardier has designed and run 20 such inter-city and high-speed transit systems. With different names, the company has manufactured six high-speed projects worldwide, including those in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, China and the US.

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Railways eyes No. 1 slot in world
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
Railway Minister Lalu Prasad’s highly motivated team of Railway Board members today reiterated his determination to put the vast network of Indian Railways(IR) on the number one position of the railway systems in the world.

The 153-year-old Indian Railways is the world’s largest government railway.

Chairman Railway Board J.P Batra told mediapersons at Rail Bhawan here today that Indian Railways is likely to record the best possible operating ratio at 78.7 per cent in 2007-2008. In 2005-2006, the operating ratio of IR was 82.3 per cent. He said the operating ratio of 78.7 per cent is even better than the internationally reputed US-based Union Pacific which is known for its efficient freight operations.” They run only freight trains and therefore their investment is less.Their operating ratio is between 81 and 82 per cent. We run both freight and passenger trains”.

Drawing further international comparisons, the Railway Board chairman said,”Our Railways is often compared to the Chinese Railways. They add 1000 km railway line every year. We will add 2000 km new lines this year and 3000 km railway lines next year”.

Batra said the Indian Railways carry the maximum number of passenger traffic (624 crore in 2006- 2007)in the world followed by the Chinese Railways.

He said the Chinese Railways is behind the Indian Railways by 30 per cent in this regard.

He added that the IR is the fifth railway network in the world to start double stack container trains. “If we succeed in starting triple stack container trains on diesel routes, we will be the first in the world to do so”.

Sources in Railway Board said the objective of introducing triple stack container trains from the next financial year is to transport cars and white goods.

Asked how the IR had achieved success in reducing the operating ratio of trains, the Railway Board chairman said, “By bringing down the unit cost of trains. That came about by the hard work of 14.2 lakh railwaymen throughout the country. They have produced the kind of loading that we are seeing now”.

He said the Indian Railways has the largest security force in the world with a Railway Protection Force strength of 67,000.Briefing mediapersons on security arrangements, he said security is being beefed up at stations and on trains.

“The area around platform number 18 at the Old Delhi Railway station from where the Delhi-Attari link Express starts, has been cordoned off. Same measure has been adopted at the Jodhpur station for the Thar Express that connects Munnabao in Rajasthan with Khokrapar in Pakistan. We will increase the number of dog squads to ensure that every important station from which the trains originate has dog squads.It is also proposed to have integrated security solutions for suburban services in metropolitan cities for which consultants have been hired. At present,Railway Protection Force and Government Railway Police are escorting passengers on 3,700 trains. Besides, 190 dogs at79 stations. At present,41 stations have CCTVS.More than 150 stations will have Close Circuit Television Cameras (CCTVs) during this fiscal year. We also plan to ensure hand held metal detectors at all important stations”.

Batra said although the number of railway accidents had reduced from 473 in 2001-02 to 234 in 2005-2006 to 181 till now, the Railways is not satisfied. He said accidents at unmanned level crossings are on the rise.

He said General Managers have been empowered to construct road under bridges at unmanned level crossings by spending up to Rs 50 lakh.

Asked if entry of public would be restricted to stations, Batra replied, “That would be very difficult. However, we will have to gradually start moving in that direction and keep plugging loopholes so that entry of unauthorised persons is prevented”.

While talking about the proposal to introduce cushioned seats instead of the existing wooden seats for trains in unreserved second class coaches, Batra said, “Ninety per cent of my passengers travel by second class and this is a message that we care for them”.

Talking about other passenger amenities, Batra mentioned plans to start 6,000 automatic ticket vending machines to reduce queues. He said,” The passenger carrying capacity of sleeper coaches has been increased from 72 to 84, AC Chair Car from 67 to 102, AC three tier from 64 to 81, AC two tier from 46 to 48 and AC one from 18 to 22”.

Sources in the Railway Board said the Railways will share with the passengers the benefit of extra income from this move by reducing the fare.

Member (Traffic) R.K Rao told TNS that reduction in freight rates for diesel and petrol by five per cent should have a visible impact on their prices. “The impact should be there but it is a complex thing. The cost of transportation will certainly come down but it is up to the petroleum companies to pass on the benefit to the consumers”.

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Lalu is best, says Rabri
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 26
On his hometurf, railway minister Lalu Prasad was today defended by his wife and former Chief Minister Rabri Devi against a belligerent Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who dubbed the 2007-08 rail budget as a mere “eyewash” to hoodwink the people.

While Rabri praised Lalu as the best-ever railway minister for protecting the interests of all segments of society, Nitish charged him with "jugglery of statistics" behind his claim of a whopping Rs 20,000 crore profit in 2006-07.

Talking to the media here today, Nitish said contrary to Lalu’s claim, the railways was never in a loss. "But in the name of earning profit through freight revenues, Lalu was encouraging overloading of goods trains which in turn was damaging the rail tracks," he alleged.

Nitish apprehended that with the “complete negligence of proper maintenance of rail tracks and bridges by Lalu”, the day was not far when people might witness some major rail mishaps.

"Whatever repairs of rail tracks and bridges were undertaken was during my tenure only," the former railway minister said.

However, Rabri was understandably in total disagreement with Nitish by claiming that Laluji declared a slew of measures for improving the services and safety of passengers.

"The NDA is anti-poor and that is why it is finding it difficult to digest such a pro-people rail budget," she asserted.

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Lalu takes railway research to IIM
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
Keeping in tune with his newly discovered management guru avtaar, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav today announced the setting up of a Chair at IIM Ahmedabad in order “to encourage research in Railway infrastructure and management”.

Besides this, his next management funda will be to strengthen the institutions of GMs, DRMs and CAO (construction) and develop them as profit centre, business unit and project unit, respectively, by empowering them suitably. A decision in this regard will be announced by the year-end.

The new-age management guru also plans to develop Railways into a strong management team in which “players play, not for themselves but for the success of the team to tackle complex situations of competitive market and fulfil the growing expectations of its customers”.

The minister, all praise for the large workforce of 14 lakh Railway employees in his Budget speech, enlisted some sops, including organisational and human resource development benefits for them. For one, he proposes to increase the Railway’s contribution to Staff Benefit Fund from Rs 30 to Rs 35 per person.

Out of this, an additional contribution of Rs 3 will be utilised to give immediate relief in times of crisis arising out of natural calamities and Rs 2 to provide training for developing occupational skills of physically challenged children, especially girls, of Railway employees.

To improve promotional prospects of Group ‘D’ employees, a committee has been constituted to make an in-depth study of all matters related to the subject. The committee will submit its report in six months.

And keeping in line with the customer-is-the-king approach, he also plans “to develop market and ensure customer-friendly attitude among frontline staff” through extensive training programme at selected stations.

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Rail recipe evokes bittersweet response
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
The BJP today slammed the Railway Budget for “neglecting” infrastructure and safety requirements while the Congress and the RJD termed it as “fabulous” and “people-friendly.” The CPM said the budget had good elements but many important regions had been neglected in the introduction of new trains.

Senior BJP leader V.K Malhotra said there was “complete neglect” of rail infrastructure in the budget and the existing infrastructure had been exposed to greater risks by allowing higher volumes of freight.

He said there was no credible move to ensure passenger safety in trains from terror strikes such as in Samjhauta Express. Malhotra said conversion of express trains to other categories would lead to passengers paying more.

Terming the Railway Budget as “fabulous”, minister for science and technology Kapil Sibal said it was growth-oriented. He said railway minister Lalu Prasad had used economies of scale to not let fares escalate. Sibal said Railways was taking steps to improve security and the number of train accidents had come down in recent years. Minister of state for finance P.K Bansal welcomed the extention of Allahabad-Ambala Cantt. Unchahar Express to Chandigarh. He said the decision would benefit a large number of people in Chandigarh. Bansal said he was confident that plans to modernise Chandigarh Railway Station would be expedited. He said several steps had been taken by Lalu to improve connectivity of Chandigarh with other parts of country.

The CPM said no further burden had been put on the people in the Railway Budget. However, it said many important regions had been neglected in the introduction of new trains. "The need for adequate allocation leading to consolidation of the network which should result in visible improvement of punctuality and safety has also not been addressed," the party said.

Expressing concern over proposals about public-private partnership in the Railways, it said passenger reservation systems, parcels, catering services, retiring rooms and some other amenities were already being outsourced. “A disquieting feature is that in the safety areas also

privatisation is being resorted to through outsourcing”, the party said. It said more emphasis must be laid on improving the safety aspect.

The Samajwadi Party said the Railway Budget had paid more attention to the comfort of people travelling in AC class and concerns of common man had been overlooked.

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Q fails to derail Lalu

A slogan raising Opposition could not derail the Lalu Express. Unperturbed by the vociferous protest by Opposition Benches on the Quattrocchi issue, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, sipping water intermittently, roared through the budget speech with smiling Congress president Sonia Gandhi by his side.

Unrelenting steam of the Lalu Express, in the face of noisy protest by Opposition over Ottavio Quattrocchi won him a pat from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

The Congress president was smiling and giggling as the Opposition continued to raise the Bofors scam and linking her name. However, this irritated the Congress MPs in the Treasury benches who tried to shout the Opposition down.

As the din in the House continued throughout the one-hour-long budget speech, Lalu Prasad thought it prudent to simply touch upon several important points of the budget and finish his speech. — TNS

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Hirakud Express extended to Amritsar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
The 8507/8508 Vishakhapattnam-Hazrat Nizamuddin Hirakud Express train will be extended to Amritsar from March 16, a Northern Railway press statement today said.

The 8507 train scheduled to leave Vishakhapattanam on March 16 will be extended to run up to Amritsar. It will depart from Hazrat Nizamuddin at 2.15 pm to arrive at Amritsar at 8.10 pm on the same day.

The 8508 will originate from Amritsar instead of Hazrat Nizamuddin from March 18 at 11.55 pm and reach Hazrat Nizamuddin at 8.25 am the next day. On its extended portion the 8507/8508 will stop at New Delhi, Panipat, Ambala Cantt., Ludhiana, Phagwara, Jalandhar City and Beas.

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No extradition pact with Argentina, clarifies govt
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
Against the backdrop of Bofors scam suspect Ottavio Quattrocchhi having been detained and finally let off on bail in Argentina, the Government of India today clarified that it did not have an extradition treaty with Argentina.

The ministry of external affairs issued a terse statement tonight in an effort to set the record straight after BJP leaders L.K. Advani and Jaswant Singh sought to put the government on the mat on the Quattrocchi issue.

Advani and Jaswant Singh put the government in the witness box when they said that during the British Raj India had signed up an extradition treaty with Argentina and that the treaty was still alive. In support of their argument the Advani-Singh duo also quoted from a purported speech of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru from one of his Parliament speeches wherein Nehru had cited the India-Argentine extradition treaty.

The MEA issued a categoric statement in the wake of this development. In response to a question regarding the existence of an extradition treaty between India and Argentina, ministry of external affairs spokesman Navtej Sarna said: “A question has been raised about the existence of an extradition treaty between India and Argentina.

“An extradition treaty of 1889 between the UK and the Argentine Republic was applicable to British India. However, post-Indian Independence and following the enactment of the Extradition Act 1962 by Indian Parliament, the treaty of 1889 is not operative since it was not notified in accordance with Section 3, clause (3) of the Act, after having obtained the consent of the Government of the Argentine Republic. Thus India does not have any currently operative extradition treaty with Argentina.”

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Govt lying on Q: Advani

New Delhi, February 26
Rejecting the government's statement that India has no extradition treaty with Argentina, the BJP today said there was such an agreement between the two countries and accused the government of "lying" over the Quattrocchi issue.

"An extradition treaty was signed by the British government (before India's Independence) with Argentina, which still survives," former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani told a news conference here.

His comments came in the wake of external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee's remarks that India would hold talks with Argentina for extradition of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi because both countries had no extradition pact.

"The government avers that there is no extradition treaty with Argentina. Not correct. There is an extradition treaty," leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Jaswant Singh, also a former external affairs minister, said.

Both BJP leaders also came out with a joint statement, accusing the government of lying over Quattrocchi's detention in Argentina. — PTI

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Issue rocks Parliament
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 26
The Parliament was rocked by the Quattrocchi issue today with the Opposition stalling proceedings and forcing adjournment in the two Houses.

As soon as the normal business commenced for the budget session in the Lok Sabha, the Opposition raised the Quattrocchi issue with some members trooping into the well of the House shouting slogans and seeking extradition of the Italian businessman for his alleged role in the Bofors kickback case.

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee repeatedly told the members to go back to their seats but the din continued and he adjourned the House till noon. When the House reassembled, BJP and Samajwadi Party members again raised the Quattrocchi issue.

Railway minister Lalu Prasad read the rail budget speech amid din and slogan-shouting by the Opposition.

Uproarious scenes were also witnessed in the Rajya Sabha with the BJP and Samajwadi Party members raising slogans on the Quattrocchi issue.

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Unit achieves criticality
Ist atomic plant to use N-chain reaction

Kaiga, February 26
The 220-Mwe third unit of the Kaiga Atomic Power Plant achieved criticality at 10.10 am today, becoming the 17th nuclear power unit in the country and the first to use nuclear chain reaction.

Power generated in this unit would be supplied to the Southern grid, covering Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Goa.

The third unit was completed in a record period of four years and 11 months. Kaiga's unit two achieved criticality on September 24, 1999. After the completion of the fourth unit at Kaiga, the authorities would think of establishing the fifth and sixth units in the same site.

The Kaiga Atomic Power plant, situated in Uttara Kannada district, comprised two pressurised Heavy Water Reactors, each with an installed capacity of 220 MWe. — UNI

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Uttarakhand
Race for CM’s post hots up in BJP
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, February 26
The race for the post of Chief Minister has started within the state BJP as the party is hopeful of getting a majority in the Uttarakhand Assembly poll. The counting of votes will take place tomorrow. The Congress camp is, however, keeping its fingers crossed as its state leadership is apprehending a hung Assembly.

The main contenders for the top post in the BJP are former Chief Minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari and former Union Minister and sitting BJP MP from Pauri Garhwal B.C Khanduri. While the latter is considered close to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Koshiyari, a RSS pracharak, is backed by the Sangh Parivar. At present, he is the chief of Uttarakhand unit of the BJP and is contesting from Kapkot Assembly constituency in Kumaon region.

According to sources both contenders have met the top BJP leaders, including Vajpayee, national BJP president Rajnath Singh and L.K Advani yesterday in Delhi to stake claim to the top post. Koshiyari is believed to have been assured by the BJP top brass that his claim would be considered. Koshiyari, however, declined to comment but added that the decision of the party high command would be final. Sources said before leaving for Delhi, Koshiyari told his close aides that he was very much in race for the CM’s post.

As regards the chances of Khanduri, the BJP leadership has been giving broad hints about giving him the responsibility since the meeting of the party's national executive held at Nainital in September 2006. Even at the recent election rally at Srinagar Garhwal during the campaign, Vajpayee showered a lot of praise on him. The message was not lost on anyone. The partymen believe that Vajpayee only stopped short of declaring him as the chief ministerial candidate. Khanduri was also made in charge of the election campaign committee.

As for the Congress, according to sources, its game plan is very simple as for its leadership the first priority is to cobble together majority in case of hung Assembly. It is not for nothing that former Chief Minister Narain Dutt Tiwari, on the eve of counting, commented in the media that hung situation would not be in the larger interest of the hill state created only six years ago.

Though the Congress has been claiming to get majority yet the statements of its leaders so far have indicated that they are not so confident about the second successive term. The state Congress unit president Harish Rawat has already commented that they may take support of the BSP, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) and other smaller outfits, including Independents. The Congress is banking on the BSP support as its tie up with the BJP in case of hung situation is unlikely. As such, the atmosphere within the Congress camp is cool, at this stage, as far as the inner party competition on the issue of CM's post is concerned.

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Rift in Bengal Cong to fore
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, February 26
The rift in the Bengal Congress(l), which has been already in shambles, has once again come to the surface over holding of a meeting, called by the Union Information Minister, Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, in support of the poor farmers of Singur.

The meeting, held at the east area of Esplande on Sunday, was attended by DasMunshi's followers but his arch rival, Somen Mitra, a former WBPCC(l) president and his supporters including Pradip Bhattacharyya, the present WBPCC(l) working president and Manash Bhuiya, the party leader in the Assembly were not present.

Though so far, Mukherjee's successor has not been decided, DasMunshi's followers have claimed that he would be soon declared as the new WBPCC(l) chief and Monday’s rally had been organised with the concurrence and the clearance of Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister.

The two separate groups had already launched the separate agitations on the Singur and Nandigram issues vis-à-vis the state government's present land use policy for industries by organising protest rallyies and demonstrations in the city and the districts.

Initially, the two groups decided to organise the movement jointly with

Mamata Banerjee on the Singur issue but they later backed out following Banerjee's reluctance to severing of the relations with the NDA and the BJP.

But some of DasMunshi's followers, including Subrata Mukherjee and Abdul Mannan are still participating in the TMC's protest rally against the forcible land acquiring and transferring to Tata Motors and Indonesia's Salim group of industries.

DasMunshi's followers said their meeting was organised after his talks with Sonia Gandhi and the AICC(l) general secretary, Margaret Alva (in- charge of West Bengal unit of the party) in which Somen Mitra, Pradip Bhattacharyya and others had also been invited.

But Mitra's supporters said since the meeting had not been called by the WBPCC(l) they did not attend, adding that they had no knowledge that the AICC president could ask DasMunshi to organise a rally on his own by-passing the WBPCC(l).

The Union Minister, however, claimed that in the rally they all, naming Somen Mitra, Pradip Bhattacharyya, Subrata Mukherjee and himself stood united in their fight against the CPI(M) and the government's anti-farmers' policy at the cost of the livelihood of the poor farmers.

DasMunshi declared that their movement is in support of the affected framers of Singur and it would be strengthened. If necessary, they would organise mass fasting at Singur itself demanding return of the lands to the farmers.

He said they would compel the Chief Minister to persuade Ratan Tata to choose an alternative plot in the vicinity, equally suitable, for the motor plant instead of sticking to Singur as the plant site.

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Meghalaya CM seeks time

Shillong, February 26
Meghalaya Chief Minister J.D. Rymbai tonight sought three days’ time from the AICC after being directed by the Congress high command to quit his post.

“I have sought two or three days’ time to decide on the party high command directive,” Rymbai told reporters after holding a closed-door meeting with the visiting AICC leaders — Oscar Fernandes and Maj (Retd) Ved Prakash — here this evening.

Fernandes and Maj (Retd), Prakash who arrived here this morning, conveyed the AICC’s directive to Rymbai to put in his papers.

“My (Congress) MLAs have requested me not to quit the office, as they wanted to discuss the matter thoroughly,” he said. — UNI

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Change rape definition: NCW

Varca (Goa), February 26
The National Commission for Women has recommended changes in the definition of rape in the proposed Sexual Assault Bill to include assaults other than penetration. "We have submitted the Sexual Assault Bill to the government. In that we have changed the definition of rape.

We call it sexual assault," NCW chairperson Girija Vyas said on the sidelines of a seminar here.

"It means not only penetration but other kind of assault also comes under the definition," said Vyas, who was talking to PTI alongside the regional conference on "Integrated Plan of Action to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking with Special Focus on Children and Women".

The NCW is optimistic that the Sexual Assault Bill and Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill will come through.

"Last year we gave 22 Bills, of which seven-eight were passed by Parliament," Vyas said. — PTI

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SC stays reversion of promoted women police officials
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 26
The Supreme Court today stayed the Haryana government’s order reverting the promotion of over a hundred women police officials.

The female officials were promoted to different levels, including to the rank of inspector, sub-inspector, assistant sub-inspector and head constable following the order of the Haryana DGP in January 2003 to set up “Mahila Desks” in every police station in the state, under the National Commission for Women (NCW) recommendations.

But after they had served in their respective posts for more than one-and-half year, the DGP again issued an order on January 10, 2006, withdrawing the order, advocate D.K. Sharma, appearing on behalf of the affected officials told a bench comprising of justice C.K. Thakker and justice V.S. Sirpurkar.

Taking note of their petition, the court issued notices to the Haryana government and DGP, while ordering the “status quo” on their postings and appointments. The matter was then brought to the Supreme Court, after the Punjab and Haryana High Court rejected their petitions.

Describing the Haryana government’s order as “arbitrary”, Sharma told the court that the promotion of the women police officials was withdrawn without serving them any notice, which amounted to not complying with natural justice.

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Terror threats in coast
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 26
A warning by Central Intelligence agencies that terror groups could be planning major attacks on important installations along the country's Western Coast has left enforcement agencies on edge.

The past month has seen the Coast Guard intercept scores of fishing vessels and question fishermen along the Western coast. "Fishermen are known to stray into Pakistan's waters and up to Sir Creek so there is a threat perception regarding their activities," a Coast Guard official told The Tribune.

The authorities are paranoid about the ISI recruiting fishermen as it would make it easier for the neighbouring country to carry out subversive activities on coastal installations.

A number of false alarms have already unnerved officials from the security agencies. On Sunday an alarm was raised when two persons carrying large pieces of luggage were found loitering in BARC's residential colony. They turned out to be visiting relatives of an officer. However, there was panic after media flashed that some terrorists were caught with RDX in the complex.

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Unicef kudos for ‘queen bee’
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 26
She can well be the "role model" in Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar`s vision for gender equality in society.

It is the story of a village girl from rural Bihar who has made her way to become an entrepreneur at the age of 17.

Her extraordinary journey has earned her kudos from Unicef.

Lovingly called as "queen bee" by people of Patatiyasa village of Muzzafarpur district, Anita Khuswaha had started her unique honey-selling business by rearing honeybees at the age of 14.

The role model of Unicef in woman entrepreneurship, Anita was the youngest among three selected from all over India last year as shining examples of people who overcome gender bias to carve a niche for themselves with extraordinary determination.

Her moment of glory came when she met President Kalam.

Anita says that she wanted to prove if men can do it, so can she or any other girl like her. For this poor girl, her fight for independence began at the age of seven.

Anita still remembers the day when her parents wanted her to get married and settle down with the domestic chores at the age of 14. She was then studying in Class IX.

But fighting against all odds, the little girl refused to tie the nuptial knot and instead took up tuitions to save some money on her own. She had to fight many odds to complete her education.

After that she had the challenge to convince her parents that she could handle the honey-making business. Those who mocked her then are now full of praises for her.

An official of the district administration said that no girl did even step out of this remote village ever. "But it is Anita who has set an example for others".

The poor homely girl began with seed money of Rs 5,000, which she invested in buying bee rearing cages and honey extractors. Today she reaps a cool annual profit more than Rs 1 lakh.

The money now she makes out of honey business also provides for the education for her brothers. She herself goes to college and the sky is her limit now.

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