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UP for grabs 2007
46% turnout in 2nd phase

Lucknow, April 13
Polling for the 58 assembly constituencies in 10 districts of western Uttar Pradesh passed off peacefully with no violence being reported from anywhere. The second phase recorded an overall 46 per cent polling today, slightly better than the 45 per cent polled in the first phase.

Women voters on their way to a polling booth in Horola during the second phase of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh on Friday
Women voters on their way to a polling booth in Horola during the second phase of the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh on Friday. —PTI photo
In video (56k)

Names missing; voters cry foul
Dadri (Noida), April 13
Despite Election Commission’s promise to bonafide citizens to get them their right to vote, many possessing photo identity cards were prevented from voting here today as their names were deleted from the voters list.
In video: Amar Singh asked for identity proof. (56k)


EARLIER STORIES




Move to counter private players
Nafed to procure wheat
New Delhi, April 13
To counter aggressive buying of wheat by private players in Indian markets, for the first time the centre has asked the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) to step in and procure wheat on the behalf of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

Khushwant, Milkha get Bhushan award
New Delhi, April 13
Ace police officer Kiran Bedi, athlete Milkha Singh and writer Gopi Chand Narang were among 20 people conferred the first-ever Punjabi Bhushan Award.

6-month jail for hit-and-run accused
Mumbai, April 13
A fast-track court here sentenced Alister Pereira, 21, the son of a city businessman to six months’ imprisonment after he was found guilty of rash driving when he ran his car over seven people sleeping on a footpath in suburban Bandra last year. Pereira was also fined Rs 500,000.

Kalam, PM greet people
New Delhi, April 13
President A.P.J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today greeted people on the occasion of Baisakhi, which would be celebrated tomorrow.

Agni-III being seen as India’s ICBM
New Delhi, April 13
The successful launch of the Agni-III missile is being seen in the strategic circles here as India’s unannounced inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM).

5,000 km is not far off: DRDO chief
New Delhi, April 13
India today said that after the successful testing of the intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) Agni-III yesterday it had now got the capability to work on developing an inter-continental range missile (ICBM).

Quota: Centre delays filing of petition
New Delhi, April 13
In spite of making a mention in the Supreme Court today that the government will file a petition for vacating the stay on implementation of the OBC quota in central institutions of higher learning, it failed to do so paving the way for a guessing game that there were some sharp differences between the HRD and Law ministries on the issue.

SLSA to be headed by sitting HC judge: SC
New Delhi, April 13
In an important ruling that could streamline the functioning of State Legal Service Authority (SLSA) set up with the aim of providing free legal aid to poor people, the Supreme Court today ruled that the body should be headed only by the sitting judge of the high court.

Dharna against Nandigram killings
Kolkata, April 13
The Congress (l) and Trinamool Congress shared the same dharna manch at Esplanade today, which was organised by the Krishi Bachaoo Committee, for observing the ‘condemnation day’ against the mass killing at Nandigram and held CPI (M) resonsible for it.

Chawla case hearing on May 8
New Delhi, April 13
The Supreme Court today put off hearing on the contentious petition of the BJP on Election Commissioner Navin Chawla’s appointment issue for May 8 even as the government made a request for referring it to a five-judge constitution Bench on the ground that it involved a substantial question of law.

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UP for grabs 2007
46% turnout in 2nd phase
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, April 13
Polling for the 58 assembly constituencies in 10 districts of western Uttar Pradesh passed off peacefully with no violence being reported from anywhere. The second phase recorded an overall 46 per cent polling today, slightly better than the 45 per cent polled in the first phase.

The highest polling of 61 per cent was reported from Nakur in Saharanpur district while Ghaziabad recorded the lowest 33.7 per cent. The districts that went to the polls today were Mathura, Hathras, Aligarh, Gautam Buddha Nagar, Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Baghpat, Muzaffarnagar and Saharanpur.

The polling picked up only in the later half of the day. In certain polling stations in Meerut, only 16 per cent of voters had cast their vote till noon.

Meerut district magistrate Mukul Meshram gave a piece of his mind to BSF personnel posted at one of the polling stations for stopping voters and asking them to identify themselves.

In Rashid Nagar polling station in Meerut, voters protested when they did not find their names on the voters’ list despite possessing photo identity cards.

The heavy presence of 663 companies of central paramilitary forces ensured a violence-free election. Old timers like MLC Om Prakash Sharma do not recall a single election in this area since Independence when booth capturing and violence had not been reported.

Besides central observers, 100 micro-observers were also keeping an eye on the election process for this phase, officials confirmed.

Former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh, who cast his vote at Atrauli in Aligarh, also expressed satisfaction at the peaceful manner in which votes were being cast. His daughter-in-law is the BJP candidate from this constituency.

However, one incident was reported during the day that principal secretary, home, K. Chandramauli claimed “was sorted out”. It was a minor clash between the supporters of Bharatiya Kisan Union leader Mahendra Singh Tikait with security personnel at Sisauli in Khatauli.

According to unconfirmed reports, in another incident at Kharkhaunda in Meerut, a discrepancy of 10 votes was discovered for which the presiding officer and a polling agent were reportedly arrested. While the manual record showed 228 votes, the EVM had registered 238 votes.

Addressing the media, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha charged the EC with resorting to unprecedented strictness that had drastically brought down the polling percentage. “Alertness is fine, but it should not rob the voters of their democratic rights,” he said.

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Names missing; voters cry foul
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

Dadri (Noida), April 13
Despite Election Commission’s promise to bonafide citizens to get them their right to vote, many possessing photo identity cards were prevented from voting here today as their names were deleted from the voters list.

When this correspondent along with his wife went to cast their votes at booth number 63 in Noida's sector 34 Community Centre, officials manning the booth informed that “you cannot vote as your names have been deleted in the voters list”.

Conscious and proud of the right to vote, this correspondent has been voting regularly in every General Election and Assembly election since 1985.

We had got our new photo identity cards having numbers FJF3528122 and FJF4442695 made in the month of December last year as we had shifted to our new residence in November. Since, the district authorities were advertising for photo cards, we thought that it would be correct to get our addressed changed both in the voters list and in the identity cards as our old cards carried our old residential addresses.

We knew that Assembly election were going to be held soon and that is why we were keen to get the new cards. We received out cards with new photographs and new addresses. Cards carried both the booth number 63 and also numbers 1586 and 1587 on the voters list.

The voter identity card of this correspondent shows the issue date of December 22, 2006 while my wife’s card shows the issue date of December 31, 2006 as we had gone on two different dates to get our cards updated.

Two officials present at the booth 63 said that your names have been deleted because you may have not been present at the time of checking. My wife being a housewife did not go out between January and March this year. 

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Move to counter private players
Nafed to procure wheat
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 13
To counter aggressive buying of wheat by private players in Indian markets, for the first time the centre has asked the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) to step in and procure wheat on the behalf of the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

As per directions of the ministry of food and public distribution, Nafed, the central agency for procurement of pulses, oilseed and other products, will now help the FCI procure wheat from new areas like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, besides one of the major contributors to the FCI godowns - Uttar Pradesh.

Officials say the step has been taken following a 10-year low in domestic procurement of wheat during the last rabi season which forced the government to import foodgrains from outside, including Pakistan. The government now wants to maximise wheat procurement from the local markets and has roped in Nafed to help the FCI with domestic purchases.

During 2006-07, the government managed to procure 9.2 million tonnes (mt) of wheat against the previous year’s 14.8 mt. The government is expecting a good crop of at least 72.5 mt wheat this year and has set the wheat procurement target at 15 mt.

Every year, the FCI procures roughly 15 to 20 per cent of India’s wheat from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. This year while Nafed will buy wheat from Rajasthan, MP, UP, Bihar and Uttarakhand, the FCI will concentrate on Punjab and Haryana from where it has already purchased significant quantities. From Haryana, it has procured more than 4 lakh tonnes and from Punjab around 2.5 lakh tonnes.

The problem, however, has been the presence of private wheat traders in the market who are offering farmers significantly better returns than the government MSP of Rs 850 per quintal and slowly nudging out state procurement agencies from states like MP and Rajasthan.

While the government increased the MSP for wheat from Rs 650 a quintal last year to Rs 750 this year, it also declared a bonus of Rs 100 per quintal, thereby increasing the purchase price to Rs 850. However, even with these prices, farmers are finding it difficult to sustain and make profits and whereever it is possible are preferring to do business with non-governmental procurement agencies.

Nafed officials say that the procurement will be as per FCI rules and regulations at the MSP of Rs 850 per quintal of fair average quality (FAV). Nafed, which is now working on storage and arrangement of gunny bags, will begin the buying soon.

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Khushwant, Milkha get Bhushan award

New Delhi, April 13
Ace police officer Kiran Bedi, athlete Milkha Singh and writer Gopi Chand Narang were among 20 people conferred the first-ever Punjabi Bhushan Award.

The function, organised by the Punjabi Kala Sangam last evening, also saw TV commentator Jasdev Singh, renowned heart surgeon Dr Naresh Trehan, singer Pushpa Hans, litterateur Kartar Singh Duggal and educator Vinay Pasricha were others who received the awards from ICCR President Karan Singh.

Relatives of litterateur Khushwant Singh, film producer B.R. Chopra, actor Pran and CMD of MH One TV Network Mahinder Bathla received the awards of their behalf, while General Manager of Bharti Enterprises Sunil ‘Bharti’ Mittal was personally present to receive his award.

Other recipients of the award included management guru Shiv Khera, fashion designer Harmeet Bajaj and singer Ashok Masti.

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6-month jail for hit-and-run accused
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, April 13
A fast-track court here sentenced Alister Pereira, 21, the son of a city businessman to six months’ imprisonment after he was found guilty of rash driving when he ran his car over seven people sleeping on a footpath in suburban Bandra last year. Pereira was also fined Rs 500,000.

The incident happened on November 12 last year when Pereira and his friends were returning from a party. Just a short distance from his house, Pereira lost control of his vehicle, which mounted the footpath and crushed the sleeping homeless people underneath.

Police subsequently charged Periera under sections 304 (A) (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 337 (causing injury) of Indian Penal Code. However, the court acquitted Periera under the first provision even as he was found guilty of rash driving.

The court also criticised the police for its shoddy investigations. Periera was alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol when he ran over the pavement-dwellers. But the police botched up investigations and could not produce results of the blood and urine tests conducted on him because of which he was acquitted of the more serious charges.

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Kalam, PM greet people
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 13
President A.P.J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today greeted people on the occasion of Baisakhi, which would be celebrated tomorrow.

The President in his message said, “ On the occasion of Baisakhi, I extend my greetings and good wishes to all people, particularly to those engaged in cultivation and agriculture.”

The PM in his message said, “May Baisakhi, Vishu and Mesadi this year usher in peace, prosperity and happiness for all.”

He said these harvest festivals symbolise hope and celebration of hard work put in by farmers. “These also give us an occasion to express our thanks and gratitude towards the farmers who form the backbone of our society and economy,” he added. 

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Agni-III being seen as India’s ICBM
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 13
The successful launch of the Agni-III missile is being seen in the strategic circles here as India’s unannounced inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM).

Pakistan, which was notified well before the Agni-III launch, is not the target of this latest technology demonstrator.

The reaction of the international community, particularly the US and China, on the Agni-III launch will be interesting to watch. It is an open secret that Washington is not disposed well towards the Indian missile programme, particularly Surya, which is supposed to be India’s first ICBM.

There are murmurs here that Agni-III is nothing but Surya. Besides, there is a feeling that the government has chosen to understate key parameters of Agni-III. The impression gains ground in view of two “ambivalent” announcements by the government.

One, defence minister A.K. Antony stated that the country had matured in missile technology and was “today on a par with many other developed countries”. Second, a release issued by the ministry of defence said the missile had a range of “more than 3,000 km” and capable of carrying a payload of 1.5 tonnes.

Ever since its 1998 Pokhran-II nuclear weapon tests and its suo motu moratorium on further such tests, India is in a piquant situation. It has no option now but to develop a heavier missile system, on which it can field its heavier proven warheads. To put it in another manner, Indian defence scientists have been working on the ICBM (be it Surya or any other name) not for its range but for its payload capability.

Thus, it would not be a surprise if the Agni-III’s range is more than 5,000 km with a payload capacity of 1.5 tonnes. Indian defence scientists have been working on not just Surya I, but Surya II as well which may have a range of 12,000 km and a payload capacity of 450 kg.

Whatever the truth, India has come a long way in its 35-year-old missile programme. If Agni-I was launched years ago as “technology demonstrator”, Agni-III would be seen as having achieved ICBM technology, albeit in an unannounced fashion.

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5,000 km is not far off: DRDO chief
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 13
India today said that after the successful testing of the intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) Agni-III yesterday it had now got the capability to work on developing an inter-continental range missile (ICBM).

Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) chief and the scientific adviser to defence minister M. Natarajan said here that India had achieved the capability to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile which could strike at targets more than 5,000 km away. This, he said, could be developed within the next two to three years.

He, however, added that the proposal to develop an ICBM was still to be taken by the political leadership and the work on it would only start after clearance from the political leadership. He proudly added that India now had the capability to make missiles with the range of 3,500 km.

Natarajan said the DRDO scientists were working on miniaturising the system of Agni-III so that a third stage could be squeezed into the 16-m-long missile to enable it to stretch its range to over 5,500 km with the same 1.5 tonne payload. Indian scientists were also working on putting multiple warheads on the missile.

They were also working on converting it into a submarine-launched ballistic missile to open more second-strike options for the country, the DRDO scientists said.

Although the missile was tested to its full range capacity yesterday but it would still take at least two to three more years for it to be fully operational.

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Quota: Centre delays filing of petition
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 13
In spite of making a mention in the Supreme Court today that the government will file a petition for vacating the stay on implementation of the OBC quota in central institutions of higher learning, it failed to do so paving the way for a guessing game that there were some sharp differences between the HRD and Law ministries on the issue.

In the morning, Additional Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam told a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan that the government is coming up with an application but by the evening sources close to the government law officers involved in the case, stated that it was not possible today.

Subramaniam’s submission came when two organisations of the OBCs made a special mention of their applications for also making them parties to the case.

The two organisations - Akhil Bhartya Gurjar Parishad (ABGP) and All India Yadav Mahasabha (AIYM) - sought to oppose the pending PILs against the new OBC reservation Act on which the apex court had granted an interim stay.

It is understood that there were certain differences between HRD Ministry and the Law Ministry over some aspects of the case and draft of the petition the government is intending to file has been shuttling between the two ministries. The main contention is reportedly on the issue of “creamy layer” regarding which, the court had said that it “is a constitutional requirement”.

Since the government has accepted the principle of “creamy layer” as laid down by the court in the Mandal Commission case, the Law Ministry’s view is that it may not withstand the judicial scrutiny if the Centre still persisted with it, but the HRD Minister is not in favour of diluting it, sources indicated.

The ministries concerned have had several rounds of legal consultations with the government law officers to find out an amicable solution and put its case before the Court in a manner that they got the desired relief.

The HRD Ministry is under tremendous pressure from the IIMs and IITs as entrance exams for them had already been conducted and they have to declare their results as per the drawn up schedule.

But in doing so they could not violate the apex court’s stay order whereas HRD Minister Arjun Singh and some other ministers in the UPA Government have been coming up with statements that the OBC quota will be implemented from this academic session.

The ABGP and AIYM in their impleadment applications supported the new OBC Reservation Act on the ground that social condition of backwards in the country is such that such an affirmative action was required and justified.

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SLSA to be headed by sitting HC judge: SC
S S Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 13
In an important ruling that could streamline the functioning of State Legal Service Authority (SLSA) set up with the aim of providing free legal aid to poor people, the Supreme Court today ruled that the body should be headed only by the sitting judge of the high court.

The apex court disapproved the practice of several state appointing retired high court judges as chairmen of the SLSA, holding that “there is ample scope for favouritism in appointment of a retired judge.”

In affirming the necessity of appointment of the sitting judge as chief of the body, a Bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and D K Jain, also took into consideration the affidavit filed by National Legal Service Authority, directly functioning under the Chief Justice of India (CJI), which stated that where the retired judges had been appointed as chairmen, SLSA’s functioning “is not satisfactory”.

Allowing the petition of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), which had challenged the states’ practice of appointing retired judges to the post of SLSA chairmen, the apex court said under Section 6 (2) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 it had been clearly laid that the High Court Chief Justice will be the Patron-in-Chief of the body.

It has been further laid that the judge of the High Court would nominate by the Governor for the post in consultation with the Chief Justice. “We could not find any reason as to why there is a departure from the long standing practice of appointing a sitting judge as chairman of the SLSA,” Justice Pasayat, writing the judgement for the Bench observed.

The apex court also disapproved the new practice evolved by some states of seeking a panel of judges for appointment as the chairman of the body.

“Calling for such a panel in essence results in substitution of objectivity with subjectivity. This is to be avoided,” The Court ruled.

The Court made it amply clear that “the normal rule is that the sitting judge should be appointed as the chairman and only when unusual difficulties exist, a retired judge may be appointed but that has to be an exception and not the rule.”

The SCBA had challenged the appointment of retired judges on the ground that it amounted to violation of the law.

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Dharna against Nandigram killings

Kolkata, April 13
The Congress (l) and Trinamool Congress shared the same dharna manch at Esplanade today, which was organised by the Krishi Bachaoo Committee, for observing the ‘condemnation day’ against the mass killing at Nandigram and held CPI (M) resonsible for it. Siddhikhula Chowdhury’s Jamet-el-Ulema, CPI(M-L) and eight other anti-left parties, supporting the farmers’ movement, also took part in the rally. But BJP, a major part of the NDA and TMC were not present.

At a little distance, several prominent intellectuals, professionals, literary persons, poets, writers and other dignitaries were together and condemned Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. — TNS

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Chawla case hearing on May 8
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 13
The Supreme Court today put off hearing on the contentious petition of the BJP on Election Commissioner Navin Chawla’s appointment issue for May 8 even as the government made a request for referring it to a five-judge constitution Bench on the ground that it involved a substantial question of law.

Senior advocate Soli J Sorabjee appearing for BJP leader Jaswant Singh, who had filed the petition on behalf of the party, sought expeditious hearing in the case stating that the issue raised was of great constitutional importance.

The BJP has challenged the appointment of Chawla on the ground that he was close to Congress and had received funds from MPLAD scheme of five of its MPs for his two family trusts. Besides, the party had raised the issue of Chawla allegedly deposing in favour of Congress before Shah Commission, that had probed the 1975 Emergency excesses.

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