SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Q issue: Govt statement drowned in Oppn din
New Delhi, February 27
An unrelenting Opposition today forced the adjournment of the two Houses of Parliament on the Quattrocchi issue even as minister of state for parliamentary affairs Suresh Pachouri tried to read out a statement which said a fresh warrant of arrest against the Italian businessman was obtained from CMM, Delhi, on February 24.

SC moved again on misinformation on Q
New Delhi, February 27
The Supreme Court was again approached today to apprise it how the CBI had once again kept it in the dark about the release of Bofors case accused Ottavio Quattrocchi on bail by the Argentine authorities and government “misinforming” it about India’s extradition treaty with Buenos Aires during yesterday’s hearing.

PM should quit over Q: BJP
New Delhi, February 27
Emboldened by Assembly election results, the main opposition BJP today rejected the government's statement on Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, insisting it carries no mention of why information regarding detention in Argentina of the Bofors case accused was suppressed.

Argentina impounds  Q's passport
New Delhi, February 27
Argentinian authorities have impounded the passport of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, accused in the Bofors case, as a two-member CBI team is all set to leave for Buenos Aires on Wednesday morning with extradition 

 



 

EARLIER STORIES






Senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi celebrates after the party's victory in Punjab and Uttarakhand assembly elections at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi celebrates after the party's victory in Punjab and Uttarakhand assembly elections at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Cong wins Tehri LS bypoll
Dehradun, February 27
Breaking a long jinx, the Congress today won the Tehri Lok Sabha seat by a margin of over 20,000 votes defeating its BJP rival in the bye-election held on February 21.

Price rise behind poll debacle: Cong
New Delhi, February 26
The Congress today virtually admitted that price rise was one of the reasons for the party’s debacle in the assembly polls in Punjab and Uttarakhand but felt the defeat would have no impact on the Centre.

Psychological blow to Cong
New Delhi, February 27
Though not totally unexpected, the loss of power in Punjab and Uttarakhand has dealt a psychological blow to the Congress since it has come at a time when it is already under pressure from its supporting parties and the Opposition on a variety of issues, ranging from the Quattrocchi affair and inflation to its hamhanded attempts at the imposition of the Central rule in Uttar Pradesh.

Cong should learn lessons from defeat, says CPM
New Delhi, February 27
The electoral debacle of the Congress in Punjab and Uttarakhand added to the ammo of the critical CPM, as it took the opportunity to demand a change in the direction of policies and adoption of pro-people measures.

Time ripe to form third front: SP
Lucknow, February 27
The poll results of Punjab and Uttarakhand underscore that the time is ripe for the formation of a non-Congress, non-BJP secular ‘third front’ in the country to check the return of BJP, this was stated by Samajwadi Party president and chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav today.


Slow progress in social sector, says Survey
New Delhi, February 27
Despite sustained focus on improving quality of life of the poor, India’s progress in moving up on social indices has been slow.

Raj-Rane meeting scares Cong, Shiv Sena
Mumbai, February 27
A secret meeting between rebel Shiv Sena leader Raj Thackeray and Maharashtra’s Revenue Minister Narayan Rane has created a flutter in political circles. There is a sense of panic in both the Congress and Shiv Sena after it transpired that Raj Thackeray was closeted with Rane for nearly two hours last weekend.

Total lunar eclipse on March 4
New Delhi, February 27
A total eclipse of the moon will occur in the early hours of Sunday, March 4 from 0300 to 0642 hours IST. The beginning of the partial phase, the beginning and the ending of the total phase of the eclipse would be visible in all parts of India, an official press note said here today.

Missing children: NHRC notice to chief secy, DGP
New Delhi, February 27
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent notice to the chief secretary and the director general of police, Gujarat, on a recent news report on missing children.

Bihar plunges into darkness, courtesy BSEB strike
Patna, February 27
Bihar plunged into darkness since 6 am today for the next 24-hours following statewide strike by over 14,000 workers, engineers and officers of Bihar State Electricity Board (BSEB) protesting against its restructuring.

SC bonanza for HP daily-wage staff
New Delhi, February 27
In a major relief to thousands of daily-wage workers engaged by the Himachal Pradesh Government in various departments, the Supreme Court today said they were entitled to regularisation on completion of 10 years of service and all benefits from the day they are taken into permanent service.

Jade Goody meets slum kids
New Delhi, February 27
British reality TV star Jade Goody, who hit the headlines in both countries after she was accused of racist behaviour against Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, is on an expiatory visit and in her itinerary was a trip to a sprawling shantytown.


British reality television star Jade Goody leaves her hotel in New Delhi on Tuesday — PTI photo

British reality television star Jade Goody leaves her hotel in New Delhi on Tuesday

TN fails to protect fishermen: Jaya
Chennai, February 27
The All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Jayaram Jayalalithaa today said the Centre and the state governments were adopting a lethargic attitude towards the sufferings of Tamil Nadu fishermen, who were regularly attacked by the Sri Lankan navy.

Bishop detained for cheating
Chennai, February 27
Self-styled bishop Anandraj, who allegedly cheated several contractors to the tune of several crores of rupees, was today detained under the Goondas Act.

Judge stoned by convict
Barmer, February 27
An accused, sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, today stoned the judge in a court who passed the verdict.

Blasts damage railway tracks at Malda
Kolkata, February 27
Twin blasts took place between Kajra-Uren and Uren-Dhanauri stations early today. The blasts resulted in the formation of 1-1.5 m deep craters on the ground at both places.

4 cops killed in Maoists attack
Patna, February 27
In what appeared to be an open challenge to the Nitish government’s claim to have contained the Maoist menace, four jawans were killed when scores of Naxalites attacked a military police camp in Khera village in Lakhisarai district at around 1 am last night.

Godhra victims remembered
Ahmedabad, February 27
Prayer meetings and other programmes were organised across Gujarat today to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sabarmati Express train carnage at the Godhra railway station in 2002.

Police to record Chappell’s statement
Alappuzha (Kerala), February 27
The Kerala police will record the statement from the Indian cricket coach Greg Chappell in connection with the case registered against a houseboat owner here for holding back information on the Australian's visit here last week.

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Q issue: Govt statement drowned in Oppn din
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
An unrelenting Opposition today forced the adjournment of the two Houses of Parliament on the Quattrocchi issue even as minister of state for parliamentary affairs Suresh Pachouri tried to read out a statement which said a fresh warrant of arrest against the Italian businessman was obtained from CMM, Delhi, on February 24.

The Lok Sabha, which was adjourned for an hour in the morning, re-assembled at noon when the Opposition allowed some business, including the laying of the economic survey on the table of the House. But after the name of Pachouri was announced to read a statement, members of NDA and Samajwadi Party rushed to the well of the House demanding that only Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should make a statement.

Alleging suppression of information and cover-up by the government, they wanted to know how Ottavio Quattrocchi, a key accused in the Bofors kickbacks case, was released on bail in Argentina. Amidst the din, the Speaker asked the minister to lay his statement on the table and adjourned the House for the day.

In the Rajya Sabha, Opposition members resorted to an unusual way of protest by tearing the government statement on the Quattrocchi issue when the House met at 12.30 pm after being adjourned in the morning. The opposition members came to the well as Pachouri placed his statement. After some members tore the statement and threw it in the air, the Chair adjourned the House.

In his statement, Pachouri said the government was processing the request of extradition with utmost urgency and was fully committed to the autonomy of CBI.

He said non-bailable warrant against Quattrocchi was issued on February 6,1997 by the Court of Special Judge, Delhi, under the provisions of law, including the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, in view of orders of February 2, 2004 and May 31, 2005, passed by the Delhi High Court, the proceedings against public servants and certain other accused had been quashed. "To effect the extradition of Quattrocchi and to fulfill the fresh requirements of Argentinian Extradition Law, it was felt necessary to seek a fresh warrant of arrest against him which was obtained from CMM, Delhi on February 24," Pachouri said. 
The minister said government had been informed on February 26 at 7.43 pm that Quattrocchi had been released on bail from preventive detention by a court in Argentina. The bail was given with the condition that he would not leave Argentina.

"This will have no bearing on the extradition proceedings being initiated by our government," he said.
Coming to the defence of the CBI, Pachouri said the investigating agency had been diligently preparing the extradition request. This was being done in accordance with the provisions of Argentinian law and within the stipulated time of 30 days. He said under the Argentinian law, the extradition request and accompanying documents have to be in Spanish and for this purpose the translators were pooled.

The fact that the extradition request prepared by the CBI in accordance with the procedure and substantive provisions of Argentinian extradition, comprising about 300 pages, itself indicates that this voluminous documentation has been prepared within the quickest possible time-frame, Pachouri said.

Talking to reporters later, science and technology minister Kapil Sibal said government started acting on the information on Quattrocchi's detention from the outset. He said it is not incumbent on the government to convey every bit of information it receives but it had to act on it. Seeking to turn the tables on the BJP, he alleged that NDA government had delayed making an extradition request to Malaysia when Quattrocchi was detained there in 1999. 

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Argentina impounds Q's passport

New Delhi, February 27
Argentinian authorities have impounded the passport of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, accused in the Bofors case, as a two-member CBI team is all set to leave for Buenos Aires on Wednesday morning with extradition papers.

Sources in CBI said the Argentinian Foreign Ministry informed the Indian government on Tuesday that they had impounded the passport of 69-year-old Quattrocchi who has been barred by Argentinian authorities from leaving the country.

New Delhi was also informed that Argentinian authorities will take at least 15 days to examine the extradition papers which will be submitted by the CBI team on March one, they said.

"We have also asked our Ambassador in Argentina to fix a meeting with the Foreign Office to discuss the case and request for its speedy processing," a senior CBI official spoke on condition of anonymity. — PTI

 

SC moved again on misinformation on Q
S.S Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 27
The Supreme Court was again approached today to apprise it how the CBI had once again kept it in the dark about the release of Bofors case accused Ottavio Quattrocchi on bail by the Argentine authorities and government “misinforming” it about India’s extradition treaty with Buenos Aires during yesterday’s hearing.

The Argentine authorities had communicated to the CBI on February 16 that Quattrocchi might be released on bail, yet no action was taken by the agency and the government to put a request to Buenos Aires that his extradition was required to face trial in the case in India.

A fresh application moved by advocate Ajay Agrawal, who had been taking up every aspect of the Rs 64 crore Bofors pay off case in the apex court since CBI had failed to file an appeal against the Delhi High Court judgement discharging Hinduja brothers, said though Quattrocchi was released on bail on February 23, the information was not placed on record during yesterday’s hearing.

The court had yesterday directed the CBI to submit a report on Quattrocchi’s arrest on February 6 and steps being taken to extradite him. The information of his arrest was also not revealed to the court during the February 12 hearing.

The Argentine authorities had communicated to the CBI on February 16 that Quattrocchi might be released on bail, yet no action was taken by the agency and the government to put a request to Buenos Aires that his extradition was required to face trial in the case in India. The application also questioned the government’s stand that India does not have extradition treaty with Argentina, placing on record voluminous documents, including the 1889 treaty of British India with the Latin American nation, 1962 Extradition Act and late Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s 1956 statement in Parliament of its existence.

To bring home his point, Agrawal also placed on record the CBI’s 1981 document giving names of countries recognised by India on international cooperation relating to the criminal policing on the basis of the pre-Independence treaties and showing that the name of Argentina figured at number 2 in it.

All these documents proved that the 1889 British India treaty with Argentina was very much in existence and recognised by both the countries for exchange of “fugitive” criminals, the application said.

“Therefore, it is clear that there is a Interpol radio network which is existing and immediate formal request through this network should have been made by the CBI,” it said, urging the court to issue immediate direction for extradition of Quattrocchi. 

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PM should quit over Q: BJP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
Emboldened by Assembly election results, the main opposition BJP today rejected the government's statement on Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, insisting it carries no mention of why information regarding detention in Argentina of the Bofors case accused was suppressed.

Going a step further, the BJP decided to ask for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation on the Quattrocchi issue.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K Advani said statement has not even made a mention of the alleged visit of Quattrocchi's son to India recently.

“This only shows what position Quattrocchi and his family have in this setup”, Advani observed.

The BJP leader alleged that the Congress-led government wanted the Bofors suspect to be off the hook.

In his comments, NDA convener George Fernandes said yes, when asked whether the NDA too would seek the Prime Minister's resignation.

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Cong wins Tehri LS bypoll

Dehradun, February 27
Breaking a long jinx, the Congress today won the Tehri Lok Sabha seat by a margin of over 20,000 votes defeating its BJP rival in the bye-election held on February 21.

The result in the bye-election was not officially declared and the Chief Electoral Officer N. Ravishanker said it would take sometime due to some technicalities.

But, according to unofficial figures, Congress nominee Vijay Bahuguna defeated his BJP rival Manujendra Shah by a margin of 20,000 votes.

Claiming victory, Bahuguna vowed to work to strengthen the Congress.

The bypoll was necessitated by the death of sitting BJP MP Manavendra Shah, father of Manujendra.Bahuguna has won the seat after losing four previous Lok Sabha polls. In 1996, Bahuguna lost to his cousin and BJP leader B.C. Khanduri from the Pauri Lok Sabha seat, while he was defeated from Tehri seat by late Shah thrice in 1998, 1999 and 2004.— PTI

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Price rise behind poll debacle: Cong

New Delhi, February 26
The Congress today virtually admitted that price rise was one of the reasons for the party’s debacle in the assembly polls in Punjab and Uttarakhand but felt the defeat would have no impact on the Centre.

“Price rise is a seasonal factor and the spurt in prices coincided with the campaign of the polls,” party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters adding that it was possible that prices had an adverse impact.

Asked whether responsibility would be fixed for the defeat, he said the Congress was not in the exercise of fault finding and pointing fingers.

He, however, said that the Congress would draw appropriate lessons by analysing the poll outcome minutely.

Like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Congress spokesman also said that the poll outcome would have no bearing on the Centre. “The myth that assembly elections impact on the Centre has been exploded long ago,” he said.

Singhvi made light of suspended party leader Natwar Singh’s remarks that the defeat showed that party chief Sonia Gandhi no longer an electoral asset.

He said the party bowed before the will of the people as “we go out of power in some states, we get ready for the battle of the future”. He said the Congress would play the role of a strong, responsible and sincere opposition. — PTI

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Psychological blow to Cong
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
Though not totally unexpected, the loss of power in Punjab and Uttarakhand has dealt a psychological blow to the Congress since it has come at a time when it is already under pressure from its supporting parties and the Opposition on a variety of issues, ranging from the Quattrocchi affair and inflation to its hamhanded attempts at the imposition of the Central rule in Uttar Pradesh.

The results will not have any immediate impact on the stability of the UPA government at the Centre but a weakened Congress will be rendered more vulnerable to the demands of its allies who will become increasingly aggressive in the coming days.

The Congress perception is that it will face greater difficulties in implementing its economic agenda in the face of greater opposition from the Left parties.

More immediately, today’s results will have a direct bearing on the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll as the BJP’s resurgence could lead to a Muslim consolidation in favour of the Samajwadi Party further marginalising the Congress.

Above all, the Congress defeat has altered the electoral college for the July Presidential election which will further change after the UP Assembly poll. If the present trend persists, the Congress is unlikely to have the requisite numbers to instal its own candidate in Rashtrapati Bhavan and will have to bow to the wishes of its partners, with the Left set to play a crucial role in this election.

Congress leaders were clearly in a reflective mood today as they admitted that they had paid the price for anti-incumbency in both states.

“We were unable to override this trend,” remarked Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi,adding that the party would take a lesson from this result to prepare for the next electoral battle.

However, the blame game was on in full swing as party insiders said Punjab was lost primarily because of Captain Amarinder Singh’s style of functioning, his “infamous coterie” and his insistence on retaining some old faces who were perceived to be losers. The party is, however, drawing solace from the fact that it has not been routed completely,that its vote share has increased and that the Congress has succeeded in eroding the Akali Dal’s support base among the Sikh peasantry.

The party, however, is also worried as its gains in the rural areas have been offset by its huge losses in the urban belt, which has always been the Congress’s traditional stronghold.

Punjab leaders attributed the BJP’s rise to Captain Amarinder Singh’s tendency to play the Sikh card which, they said, had alienated the Hindus. The Centre’s economic policies were also on target as senior leaders like Union tourism minister Ambika Soni went on record to say that price rise had worked against the Congress.

This was, however, disputed by Janardan Dwivedi, AICC general secretary and in charge of Punjab, who said if these elections were a referendum on the Centre’s policies, the Congress would not have won the Tehri Lok Sabha seat in Uttarakhand.

The Congress leaders admitted that they lost the hill state because of bitter infighting between Chief Minister N.D.Tiwari and UPCC chief Harish Rawat. Tiwari was always seen as a “reluctant Chief Minister” and his election-eve declaration that he was not a CM candidate was being likened to a “desertion by a general on the eve of a battle.” 

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Cong should learn lessons from defeat, says CPM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
The electoral debacle of the Congress in Punjab and Uttarakhand added to the ammo of the critical CPM, as it took the opportunity to demand a change in the direction of policies and adoption of pro-people measures.

The Congress leadership and the UPA government should heed the message from this verdict, the party’s politburo said.

These electoral setbacks have relevance for the UPA government at the Centre. The Congress leadership and the UPA government should draw the proper lessons from this defeat. The policies pursued have failed to curb the price rise, tackle the agrarian crisis or provide relief to the people.

The loss in these states can be attributed to the policies and performance of the Congress governments in the states, which have alienated people. The policies pursued by these governments have not benefited the rural poor and the common people. In both states, the rise in the prices of essential commodities was a major issue.

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Time ripe to form third front: SP
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, February 27
The poll results of Punjab and Uttarakhand underscore that the time is ripe for the formation of a non-Congress, non-BJP secular ‘third front’ in the country to check the return of BJP, this was stated by Samajwadi Party president and chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav today.

Speaking to mediapersons he charged the Congress of failing miserably in stopping the return of the BJP in these two states. Reiteration of his long-cherished wish to set up a non-Congress ‘third front’ comes days after his party withdrew support to the UPA Government in the Centre.

Ironically, while withdrawing support from the UPA on February 21 Yadav had asserted that the main reason for his decision was the Congress reportedly being “hand-in-glove” with communal forces like the BJP.

He had declared that the Samajwadi Party had supported the UPA to weaken these very forces and now with both the Congress and BJP ganging up against his government he could no longer continue lending support to the alliance.

However, responding to the Punjab and Uttarakhand results, Yadav said it was high time for all secular forces to unite against these two parties.

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Slow progress in social sector, says Survey
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
Despite sustained focus on improving quality of life of the poor, India’s progress in moving up on social indices has been slow.

Pointing to the need of making rapid strides in living standards, health, education, welfare and development of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other Backward Classes, the 2006-07 Economic Survey said the availability of resources alone would not guarantee faster social sector development as efficacy of the programmes would depend on how the states implemented them. It laid stress on greater accountability and transparency through public representative institutions.

The survey said while employment had grown faster than before, the rate of unemployment had also went up marginally from 2.8 per cent to 3.1 per cent during 1999-2000 to 2004-05. The share of agriculture in total employment had come down from 61.67 per cent in 1993-94 to 54.19 per cent in per cent in 2004-05.

While construction and services, particularly transport, storage and communication, contributed to maintaining employment growth in the economy, employment growth in employment sector fell short of its potential.

Expressing concern over marginal decline in employment in the organised sector between 1994 and 2004, the survey said annual employment growth in the sector decelerated from 1.3 per cent in 1983-94 to -.38 per cent during 1994-2004.

Welcoming rightsizing of public sector, it called for stepping up employment in the organised private sector. The survey said the country’s population would continue to grow before stabilising around 2045.

It said the country would miss the target for providing basic education to all by 2007 and asked the government to expedite efforts to achieve the objective by 2010.

The survey said 70.5 lakh children in the 6-14 age group were still out of school by March, 2006, despite the government raising by 41 per cent the budgetary allocation for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), one of the flagship programmes of the UPA coalition. The survey also pointed to the need to improve the quality of education under the SSA.

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Raj-Rane meeting scares Cong, Shiv Sena
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 27
A secret meeting between rebel Shiv Sena leader Raj Thackeray and Maharashtra’s Revenue Minister Narayan Rane has created a flutter in political circles. There is a sense of panic in both the Congress and Shiv Sena after it transpired that Raj Thackeray was closeted with Rane for nearly two hours last weekend.

Though both leaders remained tightlipped as to what transpired in the meeting, political circles were abuzz with rumours that the two were taking stock of the results to the Maharashtra civic bodies.

The Shiv Sena’s good showing in Mumbai and Thane has come as a shock to both leaders, who were banking on the civic body elections to marginalise the Shiv Sena. Instead, Raj managed a handful of seats while most of the 40 candidates Rane fielded in Mumbai civic poll bit the dust.

However, there is a talk that Rane may get the Congress to reach an understanding with Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena for the forthcoming Zilla Parishad and Zilla Panchayat elections.

The Shiv Sena has strong roots in the coastal districts of the Konkan and in Vidarbha. Both Rane and Raj hope to tap into their old Shiv Sena networks to build their own bases at the expense of their old party.

Rane is said to be looking for fresh allies after the Nationalist Congress Party openly announced a campaign to expand its base in the Konkan region, so far a pocketborough of Rane. Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader R.R. Patil recently said the Konkan was nobody’s private party and his outfit planned to put down roots there.

The Congress minus Rane is not significant in the region.

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Total lunar eclipse on March 4
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
A total eclipse of the moon will occur in the early hours of Sunday, March 4 from 0300 to 0642 hours IST. The beginning of the partial phase, the beginning and the ending of the total phase of the eclipse would be visible in all parts of India, an official press note said here today.

The ending of the partial phase of the eclipse will be visible only from the north, north-west and western parts of India. In the remaining parts of India, the moon will set before eclipse will end.

In the rest of the world the eclipse will be visible from the Arctic, Asia except the eastern part, Europe.

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Missing children: NHRC notice to chief secy, DGP
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 27
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent notice to the chief secretary and the director general of police, Gujarat, on a recent news report on missing children.

The report carried by a national English daily on February 5 said that 1054 children in the age group of six months to 18 years were reported missing between 2001 and 2005. It said the figures for 2006 were being compiled. The report further alleged that the police has been discouraging parents from filing complaints about missing children.

Terming this as a serious violation of human rights of children, the commission has given the two government officers four weeks to provide factual report on missing children in all districts of Gujarat.

The news report had drawn attention to the absence of any system or mechanism in the state by which the missing complaint filed at one police station is relayed to

another station in the same city. It said the missing persons’ cell in various cities in not adequately staffed and tracing missing persons is low on its priority. According to the report, the police manual does not give much importance to handling cases of missing persons or unidentified bodies.

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Bihar plunges into darkness, courtesy BSEB strike
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 27
Bihar plunged into darkness since 6 am today for the next 24-hours following statewide strike by over 14,000 workers, engineers and officers of Bihar State Electricity Board (BSEB) protesting against its restructuring.

The restructuring of the BSEB was based on the guidelines by union power ministry asking for large-scale power sector reforms across the country.

State energy minister Bijendra Yadav said the government had approached the Power Grid Corporation, National Thermal Power Corporation and the Army to help restore and maintain electricity and water supply. “I hope power and water supply would be restored in the next few hours,” he said.

However, till the filing of this report there was sign of resolving the crisis, except the people depending on generators in some pockets to tide over the problem.

The strike was called by the BSEB’s Coordination Committee of Electricity Employees and Engineers.

Convener of the committee B.L. Yadav said the strike was total as there was absolutely no electricity or public water supply across the state.

He said all generation and distribution units of the BSEB were closed down as a precautionary measure to avoid any accidental fire during the absence of personnel.

Going by the restructuring plan, the BSEB would be divided into three units for better generation, distribution and transmission of power.

The employees on their part apprehended large-scale retrenchment after the restructuring, which aimed at restoring the ailing health of the loss-making BSEB.

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SC bonanza for HP daily-wage staff
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 27
In a major relief to thousands of daily-wage workers engaged by the Himachal Pradesh Government in various departments, the Supreme Court today said they were entitled to regularisation on completion of 10 years of service and all benefits from the day they are taken into permanent service.

With the ruling, the court upheld its earlier judgement of 1993 in the Mool Raj Upadhaya case pertaining to the issue and struck down HP Government’s re-modelled regularisation policy of 2000.

A Bench of Mr Justice A.R Lakshmanan and Mr Justice Altamas Kabir, rejected the appeal of HP Government against the state high court order, directing the state to regularise the daily paid workers automatically on completing 10 years of service and provide them all benefits of regular employees from the date of regularisation.

In case the regularisation orders were issued after the lapse of 10 years of service, the employees would be entitled to the prospective benefits.

Under the 1993 judgement, a daily-wage worker who had put in 240 days of uninterrupted service in a year and had completed 10 years, was entitled to regularisation.

But in the re-modified policy of 2000, the state government though had reduced the period for entitlement to claim regularisation from 10 years to eight years, but made it subject to the availability of a post in the department in which the worker was engaged.

Second important change made in the policy was that the worker would be regularised only when the vacancy occurred in the department and he would be entitled to only prospective benefits of the regular
service.

The issue had arisen with hundreds of daily paid workers of Public Works and Irrigation departments moving the Administrative Tribunal for the retrospective service benefits from the day of their regularisation and getting a favourable order.

The high court had upheld the Tribunal’s order, which the HP Government challenged in the apex court on the ground that it had changed the policy in 2000 and, therefore, the earlier verdict was superseded.

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Jade Goody meets slum kids

New Delhi, February 27
British reality TV star Jade Goody, who hit the headlines in both countries after she was accused of racist behaviour against Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, is on an expiatory visit and in her itinerary was a trip to a sprawling shantytown.

Goody went to meet children living in slums and an orphanage at around 12 noon. She was accompanied by members of the British media and spent more than two hours with underprivileged children. Very few Indian journalists were present, said a source with access to the delegation.

Her publicist Jazz Barton and Sally Andrews were also with her.

Goody, whose alleged racial slur against actress Shilpa on the "Celebrity Big Brother" show saw her popularity plummet, has checked in at the Le Meridien.

She reached Delhi Monday and went on a tour of the city. Though media persons have parked themselves at the hotel, Goody is keeping them at an arm's length.

She has refused to talk to the press saying she is on a very private visit.

But she seems to be enjoying Indian cuisine, the sources said.

Goody, who is leaving Thursday, is reportedly expected to make a public apology for her behaviour towards Shilpa on the show. Shilpa, currently working to complete Anurag Basu's "Metro", said she was not aware of Goody's India visit.

"Shilpa has not been contacted by her. India is full of very tolerant and cultured people and everyone is welcome. Shilpa doesn't hold grudges or animosity towards anyone," Shilpa's publicist Dale Bhagwagar said in a press release.

"After 'Big Brother', Shilpa has moved on in life and is not aware of the impending visit. Also, she doesn't want to be used as a PR tool by Jade," he added.

Goody has kept her plans in India under wraps. It is not clear whether she has come on her own or she responded to an advertisement in the British media from the India Tourist Office inviting her to see the "real" India for herself.

Her racist comments had caused outrage in India and Britain, with the issue figuring in the House of Commons and even two Indian ministers demanding corrective action. — IANS

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TN fails to protect fishermen: Jaya
Tribune News Service

Chennai, February 27
The All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) general secretary Jayaram Jayalalithaa today said the Centre and the state governments were adopting a lethargic attitude towards the sufferings of Tamil Nadu fishermen, who were regularly attacked by the Sri Lankan navy. She said, “The DMK government had failed in its duty in taking up the matter with the Centre.”

Jayalalithaa alleged that several fishermen from Tamil Nadu were attacked or kidnapped by the Sri Lankan navy and the Central and state governments were adopting a lethargic attitude towards their sufferings.

The former Chief Minister said a fisherman, who had set sail for fishing with four others from Nagapattinam district, 350 kms from here, was shot dead in the mid-seas by the Lankan navy on February 25.

This was the second such attack in a month, she added.

She said two sons of a fisherman, Kaliyaperumal, died in a Lankan navy firing previously.

She announced that her party would give Rs 25,000 to Kaliyaperumal’s family.

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Bishop detained for cheating

Chennai, February 27
Self-styled bishop Anandraj, who allegedly cheated several contractors to the tune of several crores of rupees, was today detained under the Goondas Act.

Acting on complaints from the contractors, the bishop, who runs a church near Porur, was arrested and questioned by the police.

Investigations revealed that he had cheated the contractors of the southern states by promising to build houses for the poor.

After the police interrogation, he was lodged in the Puzhal prison. The bishop had collected more than Rs 10 crore from the contractors.

Following complaints from the contractors in Chennai, Mamallapuram and Ramanathapuram, several cases had been registered against Anandraj. — UNI

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Judge stoned by convict

Barmer, February 27
An accused, sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, today stoned the judge in a court who passed the verdict.

The additional district and sessions judge Chandra Shekar Sharma sentenced accused Gajaram, charged with double murder, for life imprisonment.

On hearing the verdict, agitated Gajaram, who was hiding a stone with him threw it on the judge. The stone hit the judge on his shoulder and injured him.

The incident took the police and security personnel by surprise.

They immediately rushed to the help of the judge. The convict stabbed to death two labouers following a quarrel in 2004. 

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Blasts damage railway tracks at Malda

Kolkata, February 27
Twin blasts took place between Kajra-Uren and Uren-Dhanauri stations early today. The blasts resulted in the formation of 1-1.5 m deep craters on the ground at both places.

Train services on the Jamalpur-Kiul section of the Eastern Railways at Malda were disrupted following the blasts. However, no cases of casualty or damage to the coaches were reported, railway sources said here.

Malda divisional railway manager Anup Sahu and other senior officials had rushed to the site to monitor the situation. Repair work also was started after the police clearance. Train services were resumed soon after the tracks were repaired.

About eight trains, including 3242 Dn Rajendranagar-Banka Express, 3484 Dn Farakka Express via Sultanpur, 3413 Up Farakka Express via Faizabad and 3023 Up Howrah-Gaya Express, were detained at different stations en-route for about six hours. — UNI

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4 cops killed in Maoists attack
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 27
In what appeared to be an open challenge to the Nitish government’s claim to have contained the Maoist menace, four jawans were killed when scores of Naxalites attacked a military police camp in Khera village in Lakhisarai district at around 1 am last night.

Three Jawans of the Bihar Military Police (BMP) were also injured in the attack. The policemen returned the fire but Maoists escaped taking advantage of darkness.

The police said the ultras also looted one carbine, three self-loading rifles and ammunition before retreating.

Besides, the Maoist guerrillas blew up railway track near the eastern cabin of Dhanauri station, about 20 km from Lakhihisarai, on Kiul-Jamalpur section of Eastern Railways, disrupting train services till wee hours today.

DIG (Railways police) Ajay Verma said, “They fired and exploded bombs to scare away the Railways staff before blasting the track in a stretch of about two metres. They also uprooted the track at Urain station in a stretch of about 10 metres”.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar already asked senior police officials to step up combing operations to apprehend the militants.

This was the second attack by the Maoists on the police in less than one month. The sudden spurt was believed to be a part of the Maoists’ renewed strategy after lying low for some time.

Meanwhile, intelligence reports have warned the government about a possible Jehanabad-like attack by Maoists to free Ajay Kanu, who masterminded the Jehanabad jailbreak.

Kanu, who was arrested on February 2 from Gaya district, was currently lodged at the Beur jail.

Sources in the home department said the government was now mulling to set up a special cell to monitor intelligence inputs in a coordinated manner regarding the Maoist movement in the state.

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Godhra victims remembered

Ahmedabad, February 27
Prayer meetings and other programmes were organised across Gujarat today to mark the fifth anniversary of the Sabarmati Express train carnage at the Godhra railway station in 2002.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) held special prayers at Godhra and also at the CTM cross roads here in the presence of kin of victims.

"Prayers are being held in memory of the train carnage victims. Kin of victims are also present on the occassion and we hope they gather strength to live life without their loved ones," a senior VHP leader said.

In Godhra town, the VHP conducted ‘Ram dhun’ and prayers to mark the incident.

Messages of communal harmony were being spread by various NGO and Muslim organisations like the Jamat-e-Islam.

In its bid to acquaint non-Muslims with Islam, the Jamat-e-Islam distributed copies of Gujarati translation of the Quran across the state.

Christened 'Quran parichay abhiyan', the organisations are distributing the copies in the presence of noted social activists and educatonists as part of the campaign.

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Police to record Chappell’s statement

Alappuzha (Kerala), February 27
The Kerala police will record the statement from the Indian cricket coach Greg Chappell in connection with the case registered against a houseboat owner here for holding back information on the Australian's visit here last week.

The investigating officer will soon meet Chappell and record his statement in the case against the resort owner for alleged violation of the Foreigners Act, which makes it mandatory for hotels and resorts to keep the local police informed about stay of foreign nationals, the top police sources said here. Chappell and his wife arrived here on February 21 for a holiday and they stayed in the houseboat owned by Rainbow Curises for two days. — PTI

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