SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Maoists blow up bridge, attack police station
Sitamarhi (Bihar), March 31
A group of 500 heavily armed Maoist rebels today blew up a bridge and attacked a block office and a police station at Riga in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district but no casualties were reported. Superintendent of Police M R R Nair told PTI that about 500 heavily armed rebels of the banned CPI-Maoist used dynamite to blow up a bridge near Dheng, snapping road links to Riga.

Congress releases manifesto in UP
Targets minorities, guarantees employment
Lucknow, March 31
Dalit budgeting on lines of gender budgeting, a Dalit academy to promote Dalit literature and reservation for the minorities on the lines of Kerala and Karnataka are some of the promises made in the Congress manifesto released across Uttar Pradesh today.

BJP against panels on J&K
New Delhi, March 31
The BJP today opposed the centre's move to set up committees for deliberating on the issue of troop withdrawal from Jammu and Kashmir and demanded immediate disbanding of these committees.



EARLIER STORIES


Dog lovers demand action against municipal officers responsible for the slaughter of dogs in violation of service conduct rules
Right to Life:
Dog lovers demand action against municipal officers responsible for the slaughter of dogs in violation of service conduct rules. The activists called for the boycott of goods from Karnataka as a mark of protest, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Saturday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Outgoing Home Secretary V.K. Duggal (left) congratulates his successor Madhukar Gupta after handing over the charge to him in New Delhi
Outgoing Home Secretary V.K. Duggal (left) congratulates his successor Madhukar Gupta after handing over the charge to him in New Delhi on Saturday. — A Tribune photograph

Allotment of land to son’s firm
CM faces oppn’s ire
Hyderabad, March 31
The Andhra Pradesh cabinet's decision to allot government land to a company in which Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's son Jagan Mohan Reddy is a director has come under sharp attack from the opposition parties.

PM praises Narasimha Rao
New Delhi, March 31
Within a fortnight of scion of the Gandhi family launching a broadside on the Narasimha Rao government on the Babri Masjid issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today lauded Rao as a true sanyasi in politics.

Fali Homi Major takes over as Air chief
New Delhi, March 31
Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major created history by becoming the first helicopter pilot to take over as the Chief of the Air Staff. He succeeds Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, who bowed out of service today after 43 years of accomplished career.

Free coaching for rural students of Punjab
New Delhi, March 31
After starting free coaching to rural students in some towns in Punjab to prepare them for entrance exams in professional colleges, the Gyan Sewa Trust, a body formed by prominent Sikhs of Delhi, has decided to extend the coaching facilities to candidates from villages in the state for civil services exams.

Maharashtra asked to stop acquisition for SEZ
Mumbai, March 31
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, has asked the state government's Revenue Department officials to cease the land acquisition process for Reliance Industries Ltd's, special economic zone in the outskirts of Mumbai.

Pandey, Chawla to get PM's award
New Delhi, March 31
Two senior civil servants - secretary in the steel ministry R.S. Pandey and secretary in the Karnataka government Rajeev Chawla - were today selected for the maiden Prime Minister's award for excellence in public administration for 2005-06.

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Maoists blow up bridge, attack police station

About 500 heavily armed rebels of the banned CPI-Maoist used dynamite to blow up a bridge near Dheng, snapping road links to Riga. The Maoists also looted a bank and several shops in Riga Bazaar, creating panic among people.

Sitamarhi (Bihar), March 31
A group of 500 heavily armed Maoist rebels today blew up a bridge and attacked a block office and a police station at Riga in Bihar’s Sitamarhi district but no casualties were reported.

Superintendent of Police M R R Nair told PTI that about 500 heavily armed rebels of the banned CPI-Maoist used dynamite to blow up a bridge near Dheng, snapping road links to Riga.

They then laid virtual siege to the police station in Riga at 6.15 p.m. and exploded several bombs before exchanging fire with the personnel of the Bihar Military Police (BMP) and Special Auxilliary Police (SAP) for over 45 minutes.

The Maoists also looted a bank and several shops in Riga Bazaar, creating panic among people. It was not clear which bank they had looted, though the Central Bank of India and Bank of Baroda have branches in Riga.

Security forces forced the Naxalites to retreat after the reinforcements arrived from the district headquarters.

Nair claimed that no casualties were reported in the operation by the Maoists who had planned to loot weapons from the policemen posted in Riga.

All entry and exit points of Sitamarhi district were sealed and raids were conducted at several places to apprehend the rebels. — PTI

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Congress releases manifesto in UP
Targets minorities, guarantees employment
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 31
Dalit budgeting on lines of gender budgeting, a Dalit academy to promote Dalit literature and reservation for the minorities on the lines of Kerala and Karnataka are some of the promises made in the Congress manifesto released across Uttar Pradesh today.

Releasing the manifesto in Lucknow, AICC general secretary Ashok Gehlot and UPCC president Salman Khurshid, declared that instead of the demoralising unemployment dole, the Congress would guarantee employment.

The manifesto’s major thrust was towards the minorities, a section presently being wooed by the Congress. Minority character for Aligarh Muslim University, declaring Urdu the second language of the state and special concessions for the weaver communities are some of the promises made.

The first among the major political parties to release its manifestoes the Congress, however, disappointed the Muslims who were looking for an assurance for issuing of fresh notification in the Babri Masjid case. All it promised today was to respect the Supreme Court verdict in this regard.

Sharing the poll programme of senior Congress leaders Khurshid, said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, would join the campaign trail after the first phase on April 7. Congress President Sonia Gandhi would be touring Urai and Jhansi on April 4 and Etawah and Kanpur on April 5.

Rahul Gandhi, who has also made an impact in the western districts, is to hit the road once again. He would extensively tour Bundlekhand and districts of central UP from April 2 to 4. He is slated to address a public meeting at Bharthana in Etawah on April 4, which is the constituency of Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Senior Congress leaders and central ministers at seven divisional headquarters simultaneously released the manifesto today. Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh released it at Jhansi, minister for water resources Saifuddin Soz, at Varansai, minister for science and technology Kapil Sibal, at Agra, minister for food processing Subodh Kant Sahai, at Allahabad, minister of steel Akhilesh Das, at Ghaziabad and minister for women and child welfare Renuka Chaudhury, at Gorakhpur.

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BJP against panels on J&K
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 31
The BJP today opposed the centre's move to set up committees for deliberating on the issue of troop withdrawal from Jammu and Kashmir and demanded immediate disbanding of these committees.

Addressing newspersons at the party headquarters here, senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said the UPA government had set up these committees under the PDP pressure and it had been done to save the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir.

Former Chief Minister and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's proposal to withdraw troops from the state was "dangerous" and was "against national interests", Naidu said, adding that such a proposal should have been rejected immediately.

The centre should move in accordance with the advice of the security forces and intelligence outfits of the country, he said and pointed out to the massacre of five labourers in Thiriat village in Rajouri district yesterday when they were first separated on the basis of their religion and then shot dead.

Naidu, who is in charge of the party's election campaign in Uttar Pradesh, expressed confidence of a good performance by the party in the coming Assembly elections.

Stating that the issue with Gorakhpur Lok Sabha MP Yogi Adityanath had been resolved to the satisfaction of both the MP as well as the BJP, Naidu claimed that the Yogi had not asked for any tickets for his followers.

Immediately after the press conference, the party announced that five BJP candidates in Eastern UP, where Yogi's writ runs, had been changed.

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Allotment of land to son’s firm
CM faces oppn’s ire
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 31
The Andhra Pradesh cabinet's decision to allot government land to a company in which Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's son Jagan Mohan Reddy is a director has come under sharp attack from the opposition parties.

The cabinet approved the alienation of 487 acre at the rate of Rs 1 lakh per acre for establishing Raghuram Cements in the Chief Minister's native district of Kadapa.

"This is nothing but day-light plunder. This Chief Minister has a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to nepotism and land grabbing. We will revoke all these illegal allotments the moment we returned to power," thundered TDP chief and former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

Raghuram Cements had already been leased out 2037 acres of land for mining purposes for a period of 30 years. This land was taken back from Gujarat Ambuja Cements by the state government, apparently after the latter failed to take up the project in the stipulated timeframe.

The opposition parties had alleged that the original lease was cancelled only to facilitate the transfer of the mines to Jagan, the Chief Minister's son, for his new cement company.

Reddy, however, refuted the criticism, saying that it showed the “bankruptcy” of the opposition parties. "We want entrepreneurs to come to the backward areas like Kadapa and establish industries. In fact, the price was fixed at a rate higher than the real value, because my son happens to be a director on the board of this company," he clarified.

While allotting 487 acres, the cabinet members reportedly felt that Rs 1 lakh per acre was too high a price and would be discouraging to young entrepreneurs. The senior ministers, however, pointed out that the rate was pegged a little high so that the farmers in the area would get a better price for their lands in future. Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy excused himself from the meeting during the discussion on the subject on Wednesday last.

The opposition, however, was not impressed. Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader Nayani Narasimha Reddy said it was clear to the people that the Chief Minister was unduly promoting his family. BJP floor leader G. Kishan Reddy dubbed the allotment as a blatant misuse of power.

The Chief Minister justified the allotment saying that the government was prepared to provide land to anyone who came forward to establish industries in backward areas. "Let Naidu's Heritage Industries come forward to establish a cement factory in Kadapa and I will ensure he gets land for the same," Reddy said.

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PM praises Narasimha Rao
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 31
Within a fortnight of scion of the Gandhi family launching a broadside on the Narasimha Rao government on the Babri Masjid issue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today lauded Rao as a true sanyasi in politics.

“As I saw him (Rao) from close quarters, he was truly a sanyasi (ascetic) in politics. He was a moderniser who was steeped in our tradition and ethos. He was a rare scholar, a statesman who gave a new sense of direction not only to our economic but also foreign policies,” Manmohan Singh said.

The tribute to the former Prime Minister, who made Manmohan Singh the finance minister in the early 1991, came at a function on 'Human Values, Spirituality, Integration and Peace' organised by Manohar Rao, late Narasimha Rao's brother.

The Prime Minister's remarks comes 10 days after the Congress MP from Amethi, Rahul Gandhi, created a stir by his statement saying had anyone of the Gandhi family been active in politics, the Babri Masjid would not have fallen.

Rao was the Prime Minister during the fateful period when the disputed structure was demolished in 1992.

Manmohan Singh said he was happy the conference paid tribute to Narasimha Rao, whom he described as a great son of India.

The Prime Minister also gave lifetime achievement awards to Congress leader Karan Singh, former election commissioner G.V.G. Krishna Murthy and Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande.

Observing that Gandhiji gave the people a liberal framework to view the complexities of social and political existence, he said, of all the great men of the 19th and 20th century, with their names we associate an 'ism'. Gandhiji is among the few who continued to remain relevant for all humanity in the troubled 21st century.

Gandhiji's greatest legacy for mankind was his commitment to the resolution of conflict through dialogue, he said.

Power in a civilized world does not flow from the bajrel of gun, it flows from our ability to talk and hear. Such are the human values that we must celebrate.

Noting that information revolution and communication explosion have made the planet a global village, the Prime Minister said, this village is not yet a community of good neighbours.

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Fali Homi Major takes over as Air chief
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 31
Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major created history by becoming the first helicopter pilot to take over as the Chief of the Air Staff.

He succeeds Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, who bowed out of service today after 43 years of accomplished career.

After taking over the reins at the Air Headquarters, here Air Chief Marshal Major said that his thrust would be on shoring up the falling fighter strength of the country and pushing up the pace of modernisation in the force. In this context, he said that the international tenders for purchase of 126 medium range combat aircraft would be out soon.

In his opening message to air warriors Air Chief Marshal Major asked them to work towards transforming the IAF into an Aerospace Force. It is only through the employment of space based application that we can be more effective beyond our shores, he said in his ‘order of the day’.

A chopper pilot of great repute and with the distinction of having logged 7,765 flying hours, Air Chief Marshal Major has commanded helicopter units both in world's highest battlefield Siachen and IPKF Operations in Sri Lanka for which he won a Vayu Seva Medal (gallantry). However, there was skepticism in the IAF, especially from the fighter pilots lobby that his elevation to the top post in the force may not be the right move as the IAF should always be commanded by a fighter pilot who understands the requirements of a fighting force.

These issues were however overlooked by the government, which also did not want any controversy be raked up with a case of superceding in the force and gave the honour to the chopper pilot to lead the strategically important fighting force of the country. He was the senior most Air Marshal and a course ahead of three other Air Marshals bidding for the post.

Among the major feats of Air Chief Marshal Major, was the glorious effort which he undertook on October 14, 1992. He carried out the dare-devil rescue act by winching up 11 tourists stranded in a disabled cable car at tourist resort of timber trail near Parwa in Himachal Pradesh.

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Free coaching for rural students of Punjab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 31
After starting free coaching to rural students in some towns in Punjab to prepare them for entrance exams in professional colleges, the Gyan Sewa Trust (GST), a body formed by prominent Sikhs of Delhi, has decided to extend the coaching facilities to candidates from villages in the state for civil services exams.

In coordination with the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, the GST would make arrangements for coaching of Punjab’s rural students and Sikh students from other parts of the country for civil services exams with the reputed institutions in the national capital, trust chairman H.S. Phoolka said here today.

The students from economically weaker sections would be provided with the lodging facilities in Delhi. Efforts were being made to establish a permanent coaching centre with a hostel, which is expected to be ready this year.

The students who wished to avail themselves of the coaching facility for civil service exam should contact the GST at its office at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj Sahib, near Parliament house, he said.

He said the trust had taken the decision as it found that during the past few years there had been a considerable drop in the number of students appearing in civil service exams from rural areas in Punjab, particularly those from Sikh community.

The main reason for this was non-availability of educational resources for them, Phooka said, adding that the GST also planed to give suitable scholarships to economically weaker sections.

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Maharashtra asked to stop acquisition for SEZ
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 31
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, has asked the state government's Revenue Department officials to cease the land acquisition process for Reliance Industries Ltd's, special economic zone (SEZ) in the outskirts of Mumbai.

Deshmukh, told reporters today evening that no final award will be passed for acquisition of land for the project. The decision after a three-member team set up by the Congress party found officials still working on the land acquisition process despite an earlier assurance by the Chief Minister.

The team led by MPCC president Prabha Rau, found that there was a high degree of discontentment among the farmers and protests could easily degenerate into violence like it happened in West Bengal's Nandigram.

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Pandey, Chawla to get PM's award

New Delhi, March 31
Two senior civil servants - secretary in the steel ministry R.S. Pandey and secretary in the Karnataka government Rajeev Chawla - were today selected for the maiden Prime Minister's award for excellence in public administration for 2005-06.

Chawla has been chosen for the award for computerising the land records system in the southern state to facilitate delivery, updating and safe storing. Pandey won the award for showing initiative in encouraging the participation of the user community in the management of public institutions and services. — TNS

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