SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Uttarakhand BJP lobbies for one crucial seat
Dehra Dun, February 28
Hectic parleys are on to muster necessary outside support by the BJP which fell short of clear majority in the hung Uttarakhand Assembly. The party needs support of just one newly elected MLA to achieve the majority target of 35 to stake a claim to form the government. 

Ibobi may take oath as CM today
Imphal, February 28
Ibobi Singh is likely to be sworn in as Manipur Chief Minister tomorrow after the Congress, which fell just one short of majority in the Assembly, tonight said it would form the government with the support from the RJD and the CPI.

Meghalaya CM defies AICC order
Shillong, February 28
Meghalaya Chief Minister J D Rymbai tonight declined to step down even after the AICC threatening to take “disciplinary action” against him for not complying with the party’s high command directive.



EARLIER STORIES


Garlanded French author Dominique Lapierre gestures to a photograph of Hollywood actress Audrew Hepburn
Garlanded French author Dominique Lapierre gestures to a photograph of Hollywood actress Audrew Hepburn as he attends the dedication ceremony of a school in a village of lakshmikantapur, some 40 km south of Kolkata on Wednesday. Lapierre dedicated the Bodhoday vidya Mandir school to destitute Indian children, which was financed by the money from the auction of Audrew Hepburn's iconic black dress used in the movie 'The Roman Holiday'. — AFP

Kanungo disputes order on ‘Nishabd’
New Delhi, February 28
Film Director Jahar Kanungo of Bengali art film “Nisshabd” today challenged the order of the single Bench seeking directions on the stay of the Friday release of Ram Gopal Varma’s “Nishabd” starring Amitabh Bachchan, on grounds of plagiarism.

Violence in court over killing of schoolteacher by cop
Kolkata, February 28
Violence erupted today inside the CJM Court at Burdwan, about 90 km from here, over the killing of a Congress worker and school teacher Tuhin Samata in police firing. Samanta had allegedly been shot by Debojyoti Saha, Katwan OC. Katwa is union external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s Lok Sabha constituency.

Assault on Nithari accused: 4 more lawyers identified
Ghaziabad, February 28
Four more lawyers who allegedly attacked Moninder Singh Pandher and Surender Koli, suspects in Noida killings, in a local court here have been identified by the police. With this the total number of people identified for attacking the duo on January 25 while they were being produced in the court has risen to 10, superintendent of police (rural) A.K Singh who is inquiring the case said today.

Budget
At $1b, India is major donor
New Delhi, February 28
India has come a long way from the status of a traditional aid-recipient country to a major donor country and its annual development assistance to developing countries has now reached a whopping $ 1 billion.

More funds for rural health
New Delhi, February 28
The government has proposed to increase the allocation for the National Rural Health Mission from Rs 8,207 crore in 2006-2007 to Rs 9,947crore in 2007-2008. In the second year of its implementation, the NRHM is aimed at providing accessible, affordable and reliable primary health care facilities to the poor and vulnerable sections of the population.

Chautala calls Budget disappointing
Chandigarh, February 28
Indian National Lok Dal president and former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala has slammed the Union Budget as being "a directionless and disappointing Budget for all sections of the society". In a press statement issued here, Chautala said people had high hopes from the Budget, but it had disappointed peasantry, traders, employees and young people.

Dog food cheap
‘Pet’ jibes irk Congmen
New Delhi, February 28
UPA ministers and Congress members were driven to despair today when they found themselves at the receiving end of a series of wisecracks about finance minister P.Chidambaram’s decision to cut duty on pet foods as a gesture to cat and dog lovers.

Owning a dog now costly
Jaipur, February 28
Owning a dog will now become an expensive affair for the residents of Jaipur after the registration and renewal fees for pet dogs are hiked by the municipal administration and regulations made stringent.

Elavalagan, Niret get national science awards
New Delhi, February 28
Chennai-based Dr V.A. Elavalagan, film-maker Niret Alva, Bal Bhavan director Madhu Pant and author Rekha Aggarwal have been honoured with the 2006 national awards for Science and technology communication for their outstanding work in the past five years.

Indo-US JWG on terror meets
New Delhi, February 28
The Indo-US joint working group on counter-terrorism met today to discuss cooperative strategies to fight the global menace of terrorism. The US delegation, led by acting coordinator for counter terrorism Frank Urbancic met over a full day with K.C Singh, Additional Secretary for International Organisations at the Ministry of External Affairs.

Capital becomes chilly after showers
New Delhi, February 28
With the festival of Holi around the corner, fresh spells of rain and thundershowers in the Capital today brought a slight chill to the weather. Rainfall in early hours of the morning was followed by a heavily overcast sky.



The image of Parliament House is reflected in the puddle created by rains in New Delhi on Wednesday — PTI photo

The image of Parliament House is reflected in the puddle created by rains in New Delhi

Child for Nitish
Patna, February 28
"Aap mukhyamantri bane rahiye", seven-year-old, Class II student of St Joseph School of Patna, Aman, surprised Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, when he touched his feet at the airport. Nitish had then just returned from Madhepura after inaugurating a number of projects there, besides taking part at a programme at Begusarai.

Hunt on for escaped militants
Lucknow, February 28
The Uttar Pradesh Government today announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh each for anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists who had fled from police custody from a district court here, as a massive manhunt continued for them.

PMO imposter arrested
New Delhi, February 28
A man who conned several people by posing as an adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been arrested here. M.V. Rao, a 75-year-old resident of South Delhi, was nabbed on Sunday on the basis of a complaint filed by the Prime Minister's Office.

2 tea estate executives kidnapped
Guwahati, February 28
Two tea estate executives have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in upper Assam's Golaghat district, official sources said here today. The abductors waylaid Shyamraipur garden manager R K Singh and executive R P Sharma, when they were returning from the Golaghat town yesterday, the sources said.

Maoists blow up building
Giridih (Jharkhand), February 28
CPI(Maoist) blasted an under-construction building of the state tourism department on last night at Madhuvan, about 35 km from here. There was no casualty as a group of nearly 35 extremists had dragged out the caretaker and his wife after tying them up, district police superintendent Arun Kumar told newsmen today.





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Uttarakhand BJP lobbies for one crucial seat
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, February 28
Hectic parleys are on to muster necessary outside support by the BJP which fell short of clear majority in the hung Uttarakhand Assembly.

The party needs support of just one newly elected MLA to achieve the majority target of 35 to stake a claim to form the government. The election was held in 69 constituencies in the 70-member Assembly after the election commission countermanded election in the Bazpur constituency due to death of the Congress candidate.

Sources said the BJP was in touch with the independents and the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD). They have three MLAs each. But more than the independents, the BJP leadership will prefer the UKD as a more dependable partner than the independents for the stability of the government.

State vice-president of UKD Shivanand Chamoli confirmed to The Tribune that the BJP was in touch with his party for support. After the declaration of results, national organising secretary of BJP Ram Lal spoke to Chamoli who added that the senior leaders of his party would take the final decision. Probably, sensing the hung situation, the BJP had sent feelers to the UKD leadership even before the counting of votes.

The sources said the state Congress leaders were also trying to cobble together a majority, but the chances seemed remote at this stage. The Congress has 21 MLAs while 8 BSP MLAs and 3 each of the UKD and independents increases the total strength to 35 MLAs required to stake a claim.

State Congress chief Harish Rawat had also hinted before the results that his party could take their support in case of a fractured verdict. "I have been approached by the BJP and the Congress leaders,"said an independent MLA campimg here.

The BJP has called a meeting of its newly elected MLAs in Dehra Dun on March 1.

Its state organising secretary Naresh Bansal informed that the central party observers Gopinath Munde, Om Prakash Mathur and Ravishanker Prasad would be present at the meeting in which modalities for forming the government would be discussed.

Meanwhile, the outgoing Chief Minister Narain Dutt Tiwari of the Congress submitted his resignation to the Uttarakhand Governor Sudarshan Aggarwal. But he has been asked to continue as the caretaker Chief Minister till the formation of the new government.

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Benaam, the most sought-after name

A clear majority in Uttarakhand Assembly election eluded the BJP by just 11 votes. And the man responsible for this is Yashpal Benaam, a Congress rebel and an Independent who defeated his nearest BJP rival in Pauri constituency.

As the BJP needs support of just one MLA to reach the magic figure of 35 to form government in the state, apparently today he is the most sought after person in this hill state. He knows this but his support hinges on the assurance whether the BJP would ensure the development of his constituency where he has cultivated an image of a dedicated and intensely public-spirited leader.

And why not ? After all, even as a first timer, he could pip his formidable rivals, Narendera Singh Bhandari of the Congress and Tirath Singh Rawat of the BJP, and all because of commendable work done for the people as chairman of Pauri Municipal Committee. This constituency lacked development despite electing Rawat and Bhandari, both of whom had served as education ministers in the government of their respective parties.

“The people always elect a person who works for them. I am also a poet and have added ‘Benaam’ to my name as I believe my real identity is my work,” he told TNS when asked to name the factors that ensured his victory. A down to earth person, Benaam was actively involved in Pauri Bachao Andolan and sustained struggle of people of Uttarakhand for a separate state. He remained in jail for 57 days during these agitations.

"I voted for him for his contribution in improving civic amenities in Pauri town," said Rajeev Sharma, a small businessman. It was his image as a leader dedicated to the public cause that travelled even to the countryside. A number of Gram Sabhas (village committees) gave him wholehearted support after his party denied him the ticket.

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Ibobi may take oath as CM today

Imphal, February 28
Ibobi Singh is likely to be sworn in as Manipur Chief Minister tomorrow after the Congress, which fell just one short of majority in the Assembly, tonight said it would form the government with the support from the RJD and the CPI.

Singh met Governor S.S. Sidhu late this evening and staked his claim to form the government after the Congress bagged 29 seats in the 60-member House in the Assembly elections.

The RJD has bagged three seats and the CPI four.

Emerging from the half-an-hour meeting, Ibobi Singh told reporters that he would take the support of the RJD, one of whose representatives would be inducted into the ministry, and the CPI.

It was not immediately clear whether the CPI, which had been a part of the outgoing Congress-led government, also headed by Singh, would join the new dispensation.

Indications are that the new ministry would be sworn in tomorrow morning. — PTI

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Meghalaya CM defies AICC order

Shillong, February 28
Meghalaya Chief Minister J D Rymbai tonight declined to step down even after the AICC threatening to take “disciplinary action” against him for not complying with the party’s high command directive.

Two days ago, AICC leaders Oscar Fernandes and Maj (Retd) Ved Prakash verbally conveyed the party high command’s message to Mr Rymbai to quit the office of Chief Minister.

Rymbai’s decision not to quit the office came after holding a closed door meeting with his eleven “loyal” Congress legislators at his official residence here this evening. 
“The Chief Minister is not going to quit as there was complete diversion from normal procedure which was followed by the AICC about eight months ago when D.D Lapang had to step down as a result of CLP voting him out of office,” CLP secretary Charles Pyngrope told reporters here.

Pyngrope said if Rymbai has to relinquish office, a decision should come from the AICC president Sonia Gandhi. — UNI

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Kanungo disputes order on ‘Nishabd’

New Delhi, February 28
Film Director Jahar Kanungo of Bengali art film “Nisshabd” today challenged the order of the single Bench seeking directions on the stay of the Friday release of Ram Gopal Varma’s “Nishabd” starring Amitabh Bachchan, on grounds of plagiarism.

Kanungo’s counsel Kartik Jai Shanker mentioned the matter before a division Bench of Chief Justice M.K. Sharma and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, who posted the matter for hearing tomorrow.

Justice A.K. Sikri on Tuesday dismissed Kanungo’s petition on the grounds that he had approached the court too late to secure the legal reprieve and have the film stopped from being released.

“Injunction of the nature pressed by the plaintiff (Kanungo) cannot be granted at this stage when he approached the court barely 10 days before the proposed release of the film,” Justice Sikri said.

Senior counsel Rajiv Nayar appearing for Varma had argued that there was no violation of the Copyright Act or Trademark Act as both films had different storylines. — UNI

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Thackeray gives clean chit to ‘Black Friday’

Mumbai, February 28
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has given a “clean chit” to controversial Hindi film “Black Friday”, saying that it did not glorify prime accused in the Mumbai serial blasts Dawood Ibrahim.

“Watch ‘Black Friday’ if you want to watch the events of 1992-1993. There is no glorification of Dawood Ibrahim in the film. Therefore, there is no reason to boycott the film,” Thackeray was quoted as saying in the party mouthpiece “Saamna”.

“I was asked during my press conference a week ago about my reaction to the movie, but I had not watched it then. However, I watched the movie in parts over the past few days and I found that there was nothing objectionable in it,” Thackeray said.

“It is a good movie to watch, to learn about how conspiracies are made. It depicts how Dawood and Tiger Memon conspired to blow up Mumbai and the sequence of events that transpired.” — PTI

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Violence in court over killing of schoolteacher by cop
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News service

Kolkata, February 28
Violence erupted today inside the CJM Court at Burdwan, about 90 km from here, over the killing of a Congress worker and school teacher Tuhin Samata in police firing. Samanta had allegedly been shot by Debojyoti Saha, Katwan OC. Katwa is union external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s Lok Sabha constituency.

Saha, who was arrested yesterday at the instance of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was brought to the court today but he could not be produced following violent demonstration and agitation by the Congress (l).

The protesters demanded that the “killer OC” should be handed over to them instead of being produced before the court since they suspected the OC would be granted bail easily.

At one stage, the angry demonstrators even tried to take away the OC from police custody but the attempt was foiled by the police which resorted to the bursting of tear gas shells and lathi charge.

A pitched battle took place inside the court between the police and angry demonstrators which disturbed the usual proceedings and other normal activities of the court. Samanta was killed during a clash between the Congress (l) and the CPM over the election of the governing body of the Chanduli higher secondary school on Monday. It was alleged during the clash the OC, reported to be a CPM supporter who was then in plain clothes, fired from his service revolver killing Samata on the spot.

The CPM, which ultimately won the election and took over the control of the school management from the Congress(l), however, pleaded that the firing was accidental and hence the OC should not be punished.

Following Samata’s killing, a bandh was observed in Katwa yesterday and the Trinamool Congress, BJP, SUCI, CPI(M-L) participated in it. Congress (l) working president Pradip Bhattacharyya, Somen Mitra, Manash Buiya and other leaders visited Katwa today and went to the deceased’s house. They also urged the chief minister to ensure that strong action was taken against the OC.

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Assault on Nithari accused: 4 more lawyers identified

Ghaziabad, February 28
Four more lawyers who allegedly attacked Moninder Singh Pandher and Surender Koli, suspects in Noida killings, in a local court here have been identified by the police.

With this the total number of people identified for attacking the duo on January 25 while they were being produced in the court has risen to 10, superintendent of police (rural) A.K Singh who is inquiring the case said today.

SP, however, refused to divulge the names of those identified. He said investigation was in the final stages and would be completed by this weekend.

Earlier, a case against several persons, including six lawyers, had been registered by the Kavi Nagar police following an incident where a mob of angry lawyers and locals thrashed Pandher and Koli as they were being taken to the court lock-up room.

The mob had unleashed anger against Pandher and Koli facing charges of murdering 20 women and children after sexually assaulting them. — PTI

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Koli wants to confess

New Delhi, February 28
Surender Koli, one of the two accused in the Nithari serial killings, has virtually admitted his guilt before a Delhi court saying he had been indulging in sex and killing of minor girls and women.

This came to light when the CBI placed before a court here a hand written statement by Koli about his indulgence in the crime while moving an application for recording his confessional statement.

Koli who was produced amid tight security by the CBI before additional chief metropolitan magistrate Kamini Lau was sent to a day’s judicial custody to Tihar jail so that he cannot be pressurised or influenced by anyone before recording his statement. — PTI

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Budget
At $1b, India is major donor
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
India has come a long way from the status of a traditional aid-recipient country to a major donor country and its annual development assistance to developing countries has now reached a whopping $ 1 billion.

For those having a penchant for stories of how India is shining globally, Finance Minister P Chidambaram gave yet another cause for celebration in his union Budget 2007-08 speech in Parliament today. In view of the growing stature of India in international affairs and Indian external aid touching the $ 1 billion mark, the government proposes to establish a separate outfit to bring all activities relating to development cooperation under one umbrella.

Chidambaram even named the new body -- India International Development Cooperation Agency (IIDCA). The Ministries of External Affairs, Finance and Commerce and other stakeholders will be represented on the IIDCA.

Of the $1 billion annual Indian assistance, the lion’s share goes to Afghanistan. India is running four consulates in Afghanistan -- Kandahar, Herat, Majar-e-Sharif and Jalalabad -- apart from its embassy in Kabul.

Bhutan is the next biggest Indian aid-receiving country. Assistance to Bhutan in 2007-08 is proposed to be hiked to Rs 770.91 crore, up from last year’s budgetary figure of Rs 619.51 crore. The case of Bangladesh is illustrative of how bilateral relations influence economic ties. The proposed assistance to Bangladesh for 2007-08 is just Rs 15 crore. Last year’s budgetary figure for Bangladesh was Rs 50 crore, but in the revised estimates it was brought to Rs 20 crore.

Chidambaram’s budget proposals for 2007-08 pegs the aid figure for the developing world as follows: Nepal (Rs 138 crore), Sri Lanka (Rs 28 crore), Maldives (Rs 15 crore), Myanmar (Rs 80.45 crore, Africa (Rs 50 crore) and Central Asia (Rs 20 crore).

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More funds for rural health
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
The government has proposed to increase the allocation for the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) from Rs 8,207 crore in 2006-2007 to Rs 9,947crore in 2007-2008.

In the second year of its implementation, the NRHM is aimed at providing accessible, affordable and reliable primary health care facilities to the poor and vulnerable sections of the population.

In his Budget speech, finance minister P. Chidambaram set

next month as a deadline to all districts to complete preparation of the district health action plans. He said major emphasis would be on mother and child care and prevention and treatment of communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria.

The government also proposes to step up the provision for the AIDS Control Programme to Rs 969 crore. Chidambaram promised more hospitals for providing treatment to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. He said bold and determined efforts would be made to achieve a zero-level growth of HIV/AIDS. The minister said the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP-III) starting in 2007-2008, will target persons with high risk behaviour in all states.

Chidambaram also announced revision in the polio eradication strategy. He proposed provision of Rs 1,290 crore in 2007-'08 to achieve the goal of eliminating polio.

He also promised an increase in the number of polio rounds and introduction of monovalent vaccine.

Referring to the polio outbreak in Western Uttar Pradesh in early 2006, the finance minister said there would be intensive coverage in the 20 high-risk districts of Uttar Pradesh and 10 districts of Bihar. He said the programme had been integrated into the NRHM and apart from this, the government would serve to mainstream ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, sidha and homoepathy.

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Chautala calls Budget disappointing
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 28
Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) president and former Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala has slammed the Union Budget as being "a directionless and disappointing Budget for all sections of the society". In a press statement issued here, Chautala said people had high hopes from the Budget, but it had disappointed peasantry, traders, employees and young people.

No meaningful step has been taken to give relief to the debt-trapped farmers. All sections of the society are suffering because of rising prices, but not much has been done to contain rising prices, says the statement.

He said the finance minister had simply shown jugglery of figures while trying to mislead the public. Hopes of employees were dashed as they had expected that the Income Tax limit would be raised to at least Rs 1.5 lakh. Education cess had also been increased by 1 pc.

For direct subsidy, the government had chosen only one district in every state, which was quite unfair, asserted Chautala. At least in Punjab and Haryana all districts should have been chosen as most of the population was directly associated with agriculture in these states.

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Dog food cheap
‘Pet’ jibes irk Congmen

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
UPA ministers and Congress members were driven to despair today when they found themselves at the receiving end of a series of wisecracks about finance minister P.Chidambaram’s decision to cut duty on pet foods as a gesture to cat and dog lovers.

Opposition members were heard saying that the finance minister was obviously inspired by Marie Antionette’s famous words “ If you don’t have bread, then eat cake,” as his underlying message appears to be “If you can’t have dal roti, eat dog food.”

Furious with the finance minister for rendering them vulnerable to such jokes, Congressmen wondered how they would explain this triviality to their electorate. “We have not been able to bring down the price of wheat and dal but we have reduced the price of pet foods,” remarked an angry Congress leader, adding sarcastically, “Obviously, the minister believes that dogs and cats are now going to vote for us.” 

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Owning a dog now costly

Jaipur, February 28
Owning a dog will now become an expensive affair for the residents of Jaipur after the registration and renewal fees for pet dogs are hiked by the municipal administration and regulations made stringent.

The Jaipur Municipal Corporation's (JMC's) animal control and protection committee had proposed a hefty hike in the annual registration and renewal fee per pet dog, which was approved by the corporation, JMC officials told IANS.

Presently a dog owner pays Rs. 5 as application fee and Rs. 10 as registration and renewal fee per year. The latter will now go up to Rs 200.

Jaipur has lately emerged as one of the biggest centres for dog lovers, with a business of over Rs. 10 million per year.

According to the new proposal, pups cannot be separated from their mother for the first three months.

Also, JMC officials will now undertake door-to-door surprise checks on the registration of dogs. Defaulters will be penalised and their dogs seized, officials said.

Awareness campaigns will be launched and registration camps organized.

"The basic objective of making registration mandatory is to know the exact population of dogs in the city so that a detailed plan can be made about their vaccinations. There are about 25,000 pet dogs in the city while the total number of registered dogs is only 4,000," officials said. — IANS

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Elavalagan, Niret get national science awards

New Delhi, February 28
Chennai-based Dr V.A. Elavalagan, film-maker Niret Alva, Bal Bhavan director Madhu Pant and author Rekha Aggarwal have been honoured with the 2006 national awards for Science and technology communication for their outstanding work in the past five years.

Other awardees selected on the National Science Day today are, Kochi-based NGO Swadeshi Science Movement, writers Kuldeep Sharma and S. Ananthanarayanan and programmers Dinesh S. Sharma, H.B. Muralidhara and Seema Muralidhara.

They will receive the awards, announced by the National Council for science and technology communication, from science and technology minister Kapil Sibal tomorrow.

No award was given in the category of Science translation in Indian languages this year.

Dr Elavalagan has been selected for Rs two lakh award for promoting science through dramas, columns in newspapers and articles in popular magazines. He has given popular science talks and quiz programmes through Tiruchirapalli, Chennai and New Delhi stations of All India Radio.

A similar award will be given to Swadeshi Science Movement which has relentlessly worked for communicating science by organising conferences, workshops and competitions. The organisation has initiated a project at Kannur for empowerment and development of scientific attitude among rural women.

Alva will receive Rs 1 lakh award for promoting science through the electronic media. A similar award will be given to the Muralidhara couple from Mumbai who have developed a series of video programmes for increasing awareness about health and environment among women as well as science concepts among middle school students.

Aggarwal will receive the Rs 1 lakh award for popularising science through books, magazines and internet. She works as an editor with the NCERT, and has authored and co-authored 14 books on science, with special emphasis on child health, community medicine, environmental science and preventive health.

Pant will receive Rs 1 lakh award for popularising science among children through stories, poems, riddles and posters on science and environment. A similar award will be given to Kuldeep Sharma of Delhi who has written 30 books for children.

Ananthanarayan of Mumbai will be given Rs 1 lakh award for promoting science through the print media. Sharma of Delhi will receive a similar award. — UNI

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Indo-US JWG on terror meets
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
The Indo-US joint working group on counter-terrorism met today to discuss cooperative strategies to fight the global menace of terrorism.

The US delegation, led by acting coordinator for counter terrorism Frank Urbancic met over a full day with K.C Singh, Additional Secretary for International Organisations at the Ministry of External Affairs. They discussed regional counter-terrorism efforts, threat assessments in South Asia and the Middle East, bioterrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the ongoing Anti-terrorism Assistance Training Programme. The two parties also discussed terrorist finance and money laundering, the ideological dimensions of terrorism, information sharing and widened cooperation for preventing terrorist acts.

They also agreed to find new ways to forge institutional linkages to foster closer interaction and cooperation.

They concurred that no country today is safe from terrorism and the cooperation between India and the USA not only strengthens the fight against the scourge of terrorism, but is also a symbol of the way in which like-minded democracies can work together as partners in countering the global menace of terrorism. The next meeting of the counter-terrorism joint working group will take place in Washington in the Fall.

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Capital becomes chilly after showers

New Delhi, February 28
With the festival of Holi around the corner, fresh spells of rain and thundershowers in the Capital today brought a slight chill to the weather.

Rainfall in early hours of the morning was followed by a heavily overcast sky. Strong thundershowers since last evening also plummeted the mercury level in the Capital.

Although the rise in minimum temperature in Delhi was at 16.2°C, four degrees above normal, rain and thundershowers led to a drop in maximum temperature by several degrees, from 28 °C recorded yesterday.

A total of 12 mm of rainfall was recorded till 2.30 pm.

Weathermen attributed the fresh spell of rainfall in Delhi to the influence of a fresh Western disturbance.

The coming days could witness more rain and thundershowers with weathermen forecasting some heavy spells of rain in Delhi and other parts of northwest India during the next 24 hours under the influence of a Western disturbance.

''The Western disturbance and its induced upper air cyclonic circulation is still affecting northwest India. The current meteorological analysis suggests that ongoing widespread rainfall and snow is likely to continue over the Western Himalayan region during the next 24 hours.

Fairly widespread rain is also likely over the plains of northwest India till tomorrow.

The Met office has forecast a generally cloudy sky in Delhi during the next 24 hours with possibility of rain and thundershowers. Rains could also be accompanied by hailstorms and thunder squalls. — UNI

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Child for Nitish
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 28
"Aap mukhyamantri bane rahiye", seven-year-old, Class II student of St Joseph School of Patna, Aman, surprised Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, when he touched his feet at the airport.

Nitish had then just returned from Madhepura after inaugurating a number of projects there, besides taking part at a programme at Begusarai.

When asked from Aman, why he wished so. Pat came the reply: "We are no longer afraid of kidnappers. We can go to school with a free mind now. We know after studies we will return home safely."

Aman`s anxiety was not without any basis. Just a week before the Patna High Court had directed the police to constitute a monitoring cell and furnish a status report on Bihar’s missing women and children by April 2.

IG (CID) AK Gupta informed the court that around 205 children and 587 women had been missing for over five years since 2000. The abduction of Golu, a school student of Patna, during the President’s rule was still fresh in Aman’s mind.

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Hunt on for escaped militants

Lucknow, February 28
The Uttar Pradesh Government today announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh each for anyone providing information leading to the arrest of the two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists who had fled from police custody from a district court here, as a massive manhunt continued for them.

Several teams have been formed and despatched to different locations and the photographs of the two have also been circulated and pasted at various places, the police said.

The two LeT militants, Maksood Ahmed and Sayed, who were arrested in March, 2002, on the charges of conspiring to attack the disputed site at Ayodhya, were lodged in the district jail and were brought to the court yesterday in connection with hearing of the matter. Maksood had already been sentenced to death by a Delhi court for attacking a CRPF camp in 2001.

An AK-47 rifle, three magazines, some cartridges, explosives and timer devices were recovered from the duo at the time of their arrest. — PTI

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PMO imposter arrested

New Delhi, February 28
A man who conned several people by posing as an adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been arrested here.

M.V. Rao, a 75-year-old resident of South Delhi, was nabbed on Sunday on the basis of a complaint filed by the Prime Minister's Office.

It has come to light that he has duped several people by flaunting his "clout" in the PMO and his latest victim is said to be a defence dealer.

Rao made the contractor believe that he could arrange a deal for supply of military equipment and "fleeced" Rs 2 crore as commission from him.

The money was recovered during a raid at his Green Park residence. He also has an office in East Delhi.

A case of impersonation has been registered against Rao at the Parliament Street police station here and he has been released on bail, a senior police official said.

The police describe Rao as an educated man who spoke fluent English.

"We are checking his mobile phone records to find out his acquaintances and possible victims," the official added.

The PMO had last week issued a statement warning people against the imposter, who has circulated visiting cards and greeting cards describing himself as an adviser to the PM. Later, a complaint was lodged in this regard by the Prime Minister's Office. — PTI

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2 tea estate executives kidnapped

Guwahati, February 28
Two tea estate executives have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in upper Assam's Golaghat district, official sources said here today.

The abductors waylaid Shyamraipur garden manager R K Singh and executive R P Sharma, when they were returning from the Golaghat town yesterday, the sources said. A massive search operation has been launched to rescue the two, they said.

In another incident, a suspected ULFA ultra was nabbed by the army at Chanderpara in Kokrajhar district and a 7.65 mm Italian make pistol was recovered from him, said the sources.

The troops, during operations, also busted a militant camp inside a reserve forest near Khunring village in Chirang district and recovered a country-made rifle, rations, plastic tarpaulin sheets and two bicycles, the sources said. — PTI

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Maoists blow up building

Giridih (Jharkhand), February 28
CPI(Maoist) blasted an under-construction building of the state tourism department on last night at Madhuvan, about 35 km from here.

There was no casualty as a group of nearly 35 extremists had dragged out the caretaker and his wife after tying them up, district police superintendent Arun Kumar told newsmen today.

The interior of the building was damaged in the blast.

The building was scheduled to be completed in the next few weeks. — PTI

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