SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Religious heads seek public apology from dera chief
New Delhi, May 21
The stand-off between the Sikhs and Dera Sacha Sauda today took a confrontationist posture with Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Avtar Singh Makkar and religious leaders today demanding a public apology from dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. President of the SGPC Jathedar Avtar Singh Makkar (centre) with other religious leaders during a sarva dharma meeting in connection with the Dera Sacha Sauda issue in New Delhi on Monday.
President of the SGPC Jathedar Avtar Singh Makkar (centre) with other religious leaders during a sarva dharma meeting in connection with the Dera Sacha Sauda issue in New Delhi on Monday. — Tribune photo by Manas Ranjan

Dera row: 16 families return to Khalsa Panth

Centre issues fresh advisory to Punjab

USF calls for chakka jam in Dehra Dun

Man thrown from 8th floor
Former DGP questioned

Patna, May 21
Assistant general manager with Tata Motors Suresh Mahato was thrown from an eight-storied building located near Buddha marg here yesterday. He died on the spot.






EARLIER STORIES




Antony: Develop IAF into aerospace power
New Delhi, May 21
Defence Minister A.K. Antony has asked the top commanders of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to develop the force, which protects the country’s air space, into a potent and dominant aerospace power.









Defence Minister A K Antony (left) and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal F H Major arrive to inaugurate the Air Force commander's conference in New Delhi on Monday. — AFP
Defence Minister A K Antony (left) and IAF chief Air Chief Marshal F H Major arrive to inaugurate the Air Force commander's conference in New Delhi on Monday.

London mayor urges India to open financial services sector
New Delhi, May 21
The mayor of London, John Stuttard, today urged India to open up its financial services sector, to take advantage of the transparency, beneficial regulatory environment, and financial skills base, that exist in London.

Russian N-rejig delaying projects
Mumbai, May 21
Delay in supply of crucial equipment by Russia, which is consolidating its nuclear sector, has put off the commissioning of two 1,000 MW atomic power plants in India by over an year, a top Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL) official said today.

CBSE Class XII results tomorrow
New Delhi, May 21
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will declare the Class XII examination results in two phases on May 23 and May 25.

Nurse releases photos
Harassment charges against MLA
Bangalore, May 21
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to be rocked by a sensational scandal with a nurse, who had earlier claimed that BJP legislator Renukacharya was harassing her sexually, today releasing photographs showing both of them kissing each other.

Trehan’s name struck off Escorts’ roster
New Delhi, May 21
The name of Dr Naresh Trehan has been removed from the list of doctors from the computer at the admission counter of the Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre (EHIRC). Patients seeking treatment from Trehan were today told that no new patients would be registered under the cardiologist and that his name had been struck off the hospital rolls.

NDA blames Buddhadeb for Singur
Kolkata, May 21
At a massive rally at Haldia, about 200 kms from here today, the NDA convener, George Fernandes called upon the farmers and other workers to intensify their fight against the CPI(M), which he alleged, had been sold to the corporate houses and big businessmen.

Manipur students block highways over job quota
Guwahati, May 21
The agitation and blockades weary state of Manipur is faced with another spell of students’ blockade choking the flow of vehicles into the state along the two arterial national highways 39 and 53.


Rajiv Gandhi remembered
New Delhi, May 21

Tributes were paid to late Rajiv Gandhi on his 16th death anniversary with vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visiting the Vir Bhumi, the memorial of the late leader, to pay their respect.




Sonia Gandhi and her children at Veer Bhumi in New Delhi on Monday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Sonia Gandhi and her children at Veer Bhumi in New Delhi on Monday.

Speaker extends secy’s tenure
New Delhi, May 21
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today extended the term of P. D. T. Achary as secretary-general of the Lok Sabha and the Lok Sabha secretariat for two years.

Justice Kurup to head wage boards for journalists
New Delhi, May 21
After a prolonged delay, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government today approved the appointment of Dr Justice K Narayana Kurup as Chairperson of the Wage Board for Working Journalists and the Wage Board for Non-Working Journalists.

Mosque blast: None will be spared
Hyderabad, May 21
Andhra Pradesh CM Y S Rajasekhara Reddy today asserted that those found responsible for the Mecca mosque blast and the subsequent police firing would not be spared.

13 injured in Assam blast
Guwahati, May 21
At least 13 persons, including a minor boy, were injured when banned ULFA militants triggered a blast in the heart of Bongaigaon town in western Assam today.


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Religious heads seek public apology from dera chief
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 21
The stand-off between the Sikhs and Dera Sacha Sauda today took a confrontationist posture with Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Avtar Singh Makkar and religious leaders today demanding a public apology from dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.

“We strongly condemn blasphemous acts of the dera chief and demand that he should immediately tender a public apology for attempting to replicate religious practices of Sikhism,” the SGPC chief said.

Makkar, who presided over an all-religion meeting in the Capital today, said the religious leaders passed a unanimous resolution demanding public apology from the dera chief.

The resolution stated that “the religious heads, representatives of various religions are of the view that the feelings of the Sikhs are greatly hurt with the blasphemous acts of the chief of the dera. Not only the Sikhs, in fact, his act has caused hurt to the sentiments of millions of Indians, who have faith in religious and moral values.”

The meeting decided to send a delegation of religious leaders to meet dera chief in Sirsa tomorrow and hold talks with him to find a peaceful solution to the issue.

Makkar told The Tribune that he was not a party to the decision of all religious leaders meeting the dera chief. Asked whether the SGPC would accept the “compromise” worked out by the religious leaders, he said the Akal Takht had to take the decision.

He said the Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh had done a blasphemous act by trying to imitate Guru Gobind Singh. “It is not the dress alone, but the very act of panj pyara, preparation of amrit, and other such acts, which have deeply hurt the sentiments of not only Sikhs but other religious minded people,” Makkar said.

He also rejected the apology tendered by the dera chief stating it as “mere eyewash.”

The religious leaders appealed to the Sikhs to restrain themselves during the Punjab bandh tomorrow. Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh, who is part of the religious delegation, which would visit Sirsa on Tuesday, said, “Any violence against the dera chief and his followers would derail their efforts.”

Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal observed that the dera chief’s act was tantamount to creating communal disturbance and demanded that he should be boycotted by society.

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Dera row: 16 families return to Khalsa Panth

Sriganganagar, May 21
Amid row over the activities of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, as many as 16 families of nearby 3-H Chhoti village, followers of the Dera mission, have returned to the Khalsa panth.

These families were baptised into the Khalsa panth in a brief religious function held in the village gurdwara on Saturday evening.

Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) Member Surjit Singh Kang, Shiromani Akali Dal Rajasthan unit general secretary Tajinderpal Singh Timma and several others were present.

The head of one of these families Amarjit Singh said his family was attached with the Dera mission for the past 15 years but he was unhappy with Dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh's act of appearing in the attire of Guru Gobind Singh an advertisement.

Baghi Singh said his family was associated with the Dera mission for the past seven to eight years and were admirers of the Dera's philosophy of honouring all religions.

However, the Dera chief's above ''misdeed'' rendered shock to large number of Sikhs across the country and he did not like this act.

Speaking on the occasion' SGPC member Kang reiterated that the Sikhs would abide by the edict of five Sikh high priests and would boycott the Dera followers.

Local sarpanch Mohan Singh said some families of nearby Mohanpura were likely to return into the Khalsa panth. — UNI

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Centre issues fresh advisory to Punjab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 21
In the wake of bandh call given by the Akal Takht in Punjab for tomorrow, the centre today issued a fresh advisory to state government to maintain law and order.

The advisory asked the state government to deploy central forces effectively to prevent any untoward incident.

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USF calls for chakka jam in Dehra Dun
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, May 21
No Sikh organisation here has formally announced its support to the call given by Uttarakhand Sikh Federation (USF) to observe complete bandh in Dehra Dun on May 24 as part of the ongoing protests of the Sikh community against alleged blasphemy committed by Sacha Sauda sect. This is the first bandh call given outside Punjab by any Sikh organisation.

Announcing this, state president of USF Gurdeep Singh Tony said they would ensure closure of all business establishments, private and government offices. There would be a complete 'chakka jam' (movement of vehicular traffic) during the bandh, which would remain peaceful. The decision to observe bandh has been taken by the USF at its own level as a follow up of Punjab bandh call given by Sri Akal Takht Sahib, he added.

Interestingly, the USF, apart from Shiv Sena (Thackeray) and a couple of local student organisations, also claimed support of Dehra Dun city unit of Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD), the coalition partner of the BJP government. But the state president of the UKD, B.D. Raturi, when asked, expressed ignorance about any such decision at the party level. "Our city unit may have decided on its own but I will speak to the office bearers about this," he told The Tribune adding that his party however had no reason to oppose Sacha Sauda.

About support of other Sikh organisations, Tony said his organisation conveyed its decision to them. Most likely they would make a formal announcement, as there was still two days time to do so, he added. The USF has also approached Dehra Dun Beopar Mandal for its support to make the bandh successful but no decision has yet been taken by the trade organisation. Notably, the USF was the only Sikh organisation to organise a demonstration recently on the issue in the capital city.

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Man thrown from 8th floor
Former DGP questioned
Tribune News Service

Patna, May 21
Assistant general manager with Tata Motors Suresh Mahato was thrown from an eight-storied building located near Buddha marg here yesterday. He died on the spot.

He had come to meet Sadhna Srivastava, member (judicial) of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), at her “White House”-based residence under the Kotwali police station where the incident took place.

The police said Mahato’s death was a result of a scuffle between him and criminals, who had barged into the apartment, reportedly posing as CBI officials.

Prima facie, the police was investigating the incident as a case of robbery and blackmail.

The mystery behind the gruesome murder of the executive, however, took an interesting turn with CAT judge Srivastava reportedly telling the police that the killers had expressed their displeasure over an adverse judgement passed by her against the suspended former Bihar DGP (homeguards) Narayan Mishra.

Mishra was suspended from service earlier this year after a disproportionate assets case was registered against him by the vigilance department. He had moved the CAT against his suspension.

On being quizzed by the police, Mishra denied his involvement in the crime and demanded a CBI inquiry into the case.

The judge has also told the investigators that the two intruders looted jewellery, cash and an ATM card from her flat.

The police arrested an injured person, Pawan, who was hiding in a damaged car parked on the rear side of the building. His associate, however, escaped.

The police, quoting the servant and other members of her family, said the armed criminals pushed Mahato on the terrace where he lost balance and fell from the eighth floor.

Director-general of Bihar police Ashish Ranjan Sinha told mediapersons here that the assailants had been recognised.

Srivastava’s domestic help reportedly told the police that the culprits took off Mahato’s clothes and tried to force him to pose with the woman judge for an obscene photograph. “We are investigating whether it was attempt to blackmail the CAT judge”, a senior police official said.

Meanwhile, the police was also probing the role of the “peshkar” of judge, C.V.Singh, into the case.

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Antony: Develop IAF into aerospace power
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 21
Defence Minister A.K. Antony has asked the top commanders of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to develop the force, which protects the country’s air space, into a potent and dominant aerospace power.

Inaugurating the three-day Air Force commander’s conference, which began here today, the Defence Minister said with IAF currently in the process of transformation and modernisation, several important projects were in various stages of implementation.

He pointed out that the government was aware of the challenges, issues and requirements of the IAF. "Our attempts should be to enhance the strategic reach of the IAF and integrate potent capabilities in Air Defence surveillance, space based assets and advanced weapon systems to develop it into a dominant aerospace power," he said.

The minister said the IAF had an ambitious action plan for acquisition of new systems and upgradation of the existing ones over the next three years. "Given the substantial amount of public money being used for these efforts, it is imperative that these financial resources are utilised honestly, efficiently and optimally."

He pointed out that the country had been relying on outside suppliers to meet the requirement of the Defence Forces for quite some time. He reiterated what he had told the top managers of the ordnance factories last week that a country like India could not indefinitely continue to rely on outside suppliers. “Self-reliance and indigenisation must be our top priority," he said.

Complimenting the IAF for its "excellent flight-safety record" during the last financial year, the minister further called upon all Aviation related organisations to ensure that loss of human and financial resources through accidents remained minimal and, if possible, eliminated altogether.

In this context, he stressed upon the need to train and strictly adhere to standard operating procedures relating to flight safety.

Referring to the problem of service ability, the Minister said though long term business agreements had been signed, "A lot more remains to be done". Emphasising the need to plan meticulously with regard to procurement of spares, he asked the Chief of Air Staff to chalk out a concrete action plan in this regard.

Deliberating on India's friendly and cordial relations with all nations, especially country's in the immediate neighbourhood, the Defence Minister said our relations with Pakistan showed signs of improvement.

"However, Pakistan needs to match its words with actions on dismantling the terrorists and Jehadi infrastructure."

Expressing concern over the deteriorating situation in Sri Lanka, the Minister said the air offensive launched by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was a cause for concern. "On our part we have to be vigilant and continue to safeguard our security concerns", he added.

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London mayor urges India to open financial services sector
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 21
The mayor of London, John Stuttard, today urged India to open up its financial services sector, to take advantage of the transparency, beneficial regulatory environment, and financial skills base, that exist in London.

“India and the United Kingdom have natural comparative advantages. While India is strong in ICT and manufacturing sectors, the UK is a leader in the area of international financial services. These needed to be synergised to create a win-win situation for both the countries,” Stuttard, who is on a visit to India, said.

He was speaking at a seminar on ‘Relevance of London’s global financial experience for India’, organised by the FICCI in association with UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).

“For Mumbai to develop as an international financial centre, the adoption and use of such skills will be crucial. India currently has 1,50,000 accountants. These are too few for an economy of India’s size and growth. The skills deficit needed to be addressed by opening up the financial services sector to professionals such as accountants and lawyers,” Stuttard said.

He said India should take advantage of the business environment of the city of London, which has been acclaimed as open, transparent, principled and risk-based, one that was very conducive for doing business. The skills base in terms of accountants, lawyers, fund managers, shipbrokers, etc, he added, was world-class because of the emphasis on high education levels in the area of financial services.

Onkar S.Kanwar, former president, FICCI and chairman and MD, Apollo Tyres Ltd. said India’s engagement with the UK was at a new high. In the first half of 2006, Indian investment into the UK overtook Japan, making India the second largest investor in the UK.

India, Kanwar said, was going through an epochal transformation to become one of the fastest growing emerging economies.

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Russian N-rejig delaying projects

Mumbai, May 21
Delay in supply of crucial equipment by Russia, which is consolidating its nuclear sector, has put off the commissioning of two 1,000 MW atomic power plants in India by over an year, a top Nuclear Power Corporation (NPCIL) official said today.

The two Russian-made nuclear power plants were scheduled to be commissioned by December at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu but it may now happen only by early 2009 due to delay in delivery of equipment by Russia, NPCIL Director S K Agarwal told PTI.

He said the NPCIL will push the Russian industry to speed up the delivery of equipment.

Agarwal attributed the delay to the reorganisation and consolidation of Russian nuclear industry as part of the global nuclear renaissance to control nuclear supply chain.

The pressure vessel of one the reactors has already been installed early this year but other crucial equipment were yet to be delivered by Russia. "We are hoping to commission both the reactors in 2009," Agarwal said.

The large-scale nuclear sector reform in Russia led to the establishment of 'Atomenergyoprom', a state-owned holding set up under a presidential decree. It will take over all civilian nuclear programmes and integrate its assets.

"If the Russians had begun their reform three years back, we would not have had this problem of delay in delivery of equipment and even drawings in some of the cases," he said.

'Atomenergyoprom', which is to run the country's nuclear power industry, is a consolidation of 85 small nuclear companies in Russia.

The Atomenergyoprom charter is being drafted, and a list of assets to be incorporated into it is being compiled.

The first phase of consolidation will see Atomenergyoprom taking over the state-owned shares of about 30 companies, the largest of them being TVEL, Techsnabexport (Tenex) and Atomenergomash. The second phase would involve the takeover of the remaining 55 companies. — PTI

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CBSE Class XII results tomorrow

New Delhi, May 21
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will declare the Class XII examination results in two phases on May 23 and May 25.

While Class XII results of the Ajmer and Chennai regions would be declared May 23, the results of the other four regions of Delhi, Allahabad, Guwahati and Panchkula will be announced May 25, CBSE Controller of Examinations M.C. Sharma said today.

The board has made elaborate arrangements to disseminate results through the Internet, mobile phones, landline phones and an interactive voice response system.

Mobile service providers MTNL (2001), Hutch (12310), Airtel (64601), Idea (456), Reliance (1234) and Tata Indicom (8282) would deliver results to individual candidates through SMS. — IANS

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Nurse releases photos
Harassment charges against MLA
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, May 21
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to be rocked by a sensational scandal with a nurse, who had earlier claimed that BJP legislator Renukacharya was harassing her sexually, today releasing photographs showing both of them kissing each other.

The case had come to light a fortnight ago when Jayalakshmi had to be rushed to a hospital after being found in an unconscious state on a road in the Seshadripuram locality. She subsequently claimed that she had tried to commit suicide as she could not stand the “unwelcome attention” of Renukacharya.

The nurse, who owns a nursing college, claimed today that she was forced to release photographs to prove her association with the legislator, who is also the chairman of the Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation, because she felt she would not get justice at the hands of either the police or the State Women Commission. “The police was not registering my complaint earlier also due to which I was forced to attempt suicide while the Women Commission chairperson is a senior BJP leader. I am in consultation with some women organisations who have assured me that they will take my case to the National Women Commission to ensure justice is done to me”, she added.

Jayalakshmi, who had earlier accused the legislator of sexual harassment besides forcing her to marry him against her wishes, today said she was a “victim” in the case. “I will release a CD soon to corroborate this claim as well as establish my relationship with Renukacharya”, she added.

Jayalakshmi also claimed that no action had been taken on the complaint filed by her against the legislator with the women commission. “I continued to receive threatening calls even after filing the complaint and such threats are continuing to this date”. She said despite such a situation, her demand for being provided with security had not been met.

Renukacharya, when contacted by TNS, said all the allegations were false. “The police investigation being done into the case will prove this”, he said adding the Women Commission would also be coming out with its report on the issue soon. “I have kept silent due to these concurrent investigations which are taking place”, he said adding he was contemplating filing a defamation suit against Jayalakshmi.

The city police had filed a case against Renukacharya after the nurse took her complaint to the Women Commission under Sections 387 (extortion), 504 (breach of peace) and 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman).

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Trehan’s name struck off Escorts’ roster
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 21
The name of Dr Naresh Trehan has been removed from the list of doctors from the computer at the admission counter of the Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre (EHIRC). Patients seeking treatment from Trehan were today told that no new patients would be registered under the cardiologist and that his name had been struck off the hospital rolls.

Trouble between the cardiologist and the new management had been brewing ever since the hospital’s takeover by the Fortis and has its roots in much deeper conflict. A court case is also pending over the takeover.

While confusion reigned at the hospital with most of the patients being unaware of the exact status of Trehan.

Following the showdown between the cardiologist and the EHIRC’s new management -Fortis Healthcare- acting on a petition by Anil Nanda the High Court permitted him to treat his patients and unrestricted entry into the institute.

As per Dr Trehan, patients having prior letters for appointment of surgery were turned away. “This is inhuman behaviour...who will be responsible if someone dies of a heart attack,” he said.

“Today they removed my name which is a contempt of court. But I am doing my work and will continue to do so,” he said. Trehan said he was still open to a normal dialogue process with Fortis. “Patients are suffering, but the way Fortis was continuing, is not the way for any normal talk to take place,” he added.

Fortis Healthcare spokesperson Deep Ghatak, however, told The Tribune that there was no confusion in the hospital and “all registered patients of Dr Trehan who have been treated or were waiting to be treated are being given access to him. However, in the wake of the high court order, no new patient appointments are being registered,” he added. “The atmosphere today was peaceful,” he asserted.

Dr Trehan, who now has time till August 6 to conclude duties with the existing patients at EHIRC, also holds 10 per cent stock in the EHIRC. Fortis Medicare Managing Director Shivinder Mohan Singh, however, continues to maintain he was not interested in Trehan’s share.

On the day when Fortis Healthcare shares touched an inter-day low of Rs 89.50, clearing showing investor’s panic over developments at the EHIRC, Shivinder Mohan Singh told a business channel that things would be sorted out within next 48 hours. Trehan, who helped set up the Escorts Hospital in 1988, terms the whole thing as conflict of interest and charges against him as “nonsense”, saying that the hospital has no right to remove him as his contract was till 2010. “They would not have felt any conflict of interest had their attempt to forge a partnership with Medicity been successful,” he says.

Incidentally, till the filing of the story, Trehan’s name was still posted on the hospital’s website www.ehirc.com, along with his message and a detailed profile and his medical achievements.

In the continuing tussle between Fortis Healthcare and Trehan, his personal staff-executive assistants E. Sehgal and Jugal Sharma- who were also removed on May 18, said they were not allowed entry by security guards. Hospital’s business head Sriram Khattar and General Manager Pharma B. Kaul have quit in protest.

Sharma said after Dr Trehan told the authorities today that he would not be able to function without their help, they were allowed to enter the premises. He also confirmed that today no other transfers or removals had taken place at Escorts.

As per the management the duo ‘s public admission of helping, planning and working for Trehan’s Medicity project despite being employees of Escorts cost them their job. Director Anaesthesia Yatin Mehta and Nursing Head Vijay Laxmi have been transferred due to their alleged proximity to Trehan. Sharma also added that Dr Mehta had resigned Saturday’s High Court ruling came after the high drama at EHIRC, where Trehan and the Fortis Managing Director were engaged publicly in hurling charges and counter charges. A day before Fortis sacked Trehan on the ground that he was too preoccupied with his Medicity project at Gurgaon. Fortis Healthcare, which acquired 90 per cent stake in the EHRIC in 2005 for Rs 5.85 billion, and announced that Trehan had relinquished office as Executive Director.

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NDA blames Buddhadeb for Singur
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, May 21
At a massive rally at Haldia, about 200 kms from here today, the NDA convener, George Fernandes called upon the farmers and other workers to intensify their fight against the CPI(M), which he alleged, had been sold to the corporate houses and big businessmen.

Fernandes was addressing poor farmers and others evicted from Singur and Nandigram and other places, from their farm lands which have been transferred to Tata, Indonesia’s Salim industries and other big industrialists.

The meeting was organised by the Krishi Bachaoo Committee which was also attended by Digvijay Singh, former union minister in the Vajpayee government and Mamata Banerjee.

Both Fernandes and Singh accused the chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and held him responsible for the Singur and Nandigram debacles. They demanded his resignation, owning the entire responsibility of the mass killing of the March 14 incident at Nandigram. 

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Manipur students block highways over job quota
Bijay Sankar Bora/ Tribune News Service

Guwahati, May 21
The agitation and blockades weary state of Manipur is faced with another spell of students’ blockade choking the flow of vehicles into the state along the two arterial national highways 39 and 53.

The All Tribal Students’ Union (ATSU) of Manipur has resorted to ‘economic blockades’ along the two lifelines of the state blocking the flow of supplies to the state via Nagaland through the NH 39 and via Assam through the NH 53.

The ATSU has resorted to four-day blockade of highways demanding amendments to Bill for reservation of jobs for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes brought about by the Okram Ibobi Singh government.

Although the state government promised to provide police escort, not a single vehicle, including essentials laden trucks, tried to defy the economic blockade that started on Sunday.

According to an official source in Imphal, so far there was no shortage of any commodity in the state because of the blockade.

The tribal students rejected the Manipur Reservation of Vacancies in Posts and Services of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes (Second Amendment) Bill, 2007, on the ground that amendments it had sought were ignored by the government.

A spokesman for the ATSU informed that it was planning for a statewide general strike on Thursday next if the government in Imphal remained indifferent to the union’s demand for changes in the amended Bill, which was cleared by the Manipur Assembly on Saturday.

The ATSU is not happy with the penalty clause or provision for action against persons violating the legislation and termed it vague. It also objected to a new clause that seeks to protect officials if they happen to violate the Act without mala fide intent.

The ATSU alleged that these clauses exposed the government’s intention to violate the provisions of the Act and protect such violators.

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Rajiv Gandhi remembered

New Delhi, May 21
Tributes were paid to late Rajiv Gandhi on his 16th death anniversary with vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visiting the Vir Bhumi, the memorial of the late leader, to pay their respect.

Congress leaders, including Shivraj Patil, A.K. Antony and Ajay Maken and Delhi CM Shiela Dikshit, also visited the memorial. Floral tributes were also paid to the late leader at the AICC office. Youth Congress activists took out a march to remember the departed leader. — TNS

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Speaker extends secy’s tenure
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 21
Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee today extended the term of P. D. T. Achary as secretary-general of the Lok Sabha and the Lok Sabha secretariat for two years.

Achary will be in the rank and status of cabinet secretary. His tenure will be up to June 16, 2009.

Achary has served for 37 years in the secretariat. He is the author of books like “Law of Elections”, “Speaker Rules” and “Law and Practice relating to the Office of Profit”. 

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Justice Kurup to head wage boards for journalists
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 21
After a prolonged delay, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government today approved the appointment of Dr Justice K Narayana Kurup as Chairperson of the Wage Board for Working Journalists and the Wage Board for Non-Working Journalists.

A formal notification to this effect would be issued shortly, an official statement here mentioned.

Justice Kurup is a former judge of Kerala High Court and has also served as the acting chief justice of Madras High Court.

The Government has appointed former labour secretary K M Sahni as Member Secretary to operationalise the Boards.

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Mosque blast: None will be spared

Hyderabad, May 21
Andhra Pradesh CM Y S Rajasekhara Reddy today asserted that those found responsible for the Mecca mosque blast and the subsequent police firing would not be spared.

Flagging off the ‘’Rajiv Sadbhavana Yatra,’’ Dr Reddy said his government would certainly identify the person or persons responsible for the blast.

If there were any lapses, big or small, with regard to the subsequent police firing, those responsible would be punished.

Demanding a CBI inquiry into the Mecca masjid blast, father of Shahed Bilal, the suspected mastermind behind the blast, today claimed that his son was innocent and alleged that the police were dragging his name in every incident. — UNI

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13 injured in Assam blast
Bijay Sankar Bora/Tribune News Service

Guwahati, May 21
At least 13 persons, including a minor boy, were injured when banned ULFA militants triggered a blast in the heart of Bongaigaon town in western Assam today.

The police said a programmable timer device, planted by suspected ULFA militants on a bicycle parked near the traffic point at Paglasthan crossing in the town, exploded at around 9:20 am.

Condition of three of the injured, including the minor, was stated to be critical.

The office of the district police superintendent is not far from the spot where the blast took place. Bongaigaon SP Dipak Kumar stated that the blast was a handiwork of the banned ULFA.

Rattled by the continuing explosions carried out by ULFA and growing public ire against the government over it, the police has launched a poster campaign seeking information about culprits. 

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