SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI




THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Ludhiana City Centre Scam
Amarinder’s letter to Sonia placed on record in SC

New Delhi, June 7
Giving a new twist to the Ludhiana City Centre scam case against former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the Punjab government today placed before the Supreme Court his letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the controversy, which makes unusual forebode about the apex court verdict in the Parkash Singh Badal’s case even when the judgement was reserved.

Cong loses its general in Uttarakhand
TPS Rawat resigns to make way for Khanduri
Dehra Dun, June 7
Causing a major embarrassment to the Congress in Uttarakhand, its former minister Lt-Gen T.P.S. Rawat today resigned from Dhumakot seat in Pauri Garhwal to pave way for Chief Minister Major-Gen B.C. Khanduri of the BJP to enter the state Assembly.

Presidential Election
Congress keeping eye on new front’s moves
New Delhi, June 7
Even as it remained overtly indifferent to the meeting of leaders of eight parties, who floated a front in Hyderabad yesterday, the Congress is watching their moves on the Presidential election which will have a bearing on the vote arithmatic.






EARLIER STORIES


Shilpa Shetty removes a rose petal from the shoulder of Amitabh Bachchan during an International Indian Film Academy news conference in Leeds, England
Shilpa Shetty removes a rose petal from the shoulder of Amitabh Bachchan during an International Indian Film Academy news conference in Leeds, England, on Thursday.
— Reuters

Cong, NCP undecided on Goa CM
Mumbai, June 7
The newly elected coalition in Goa led by the Congress and the NCP are unable to decide on who will be the chief minister, two days after the results were out. The Congress Legislature Party has had three meetings so far but has been unable to decide on who will head the government.

Unrest in TN
Protests over move to disqualify Jaya
Chennai, June 7
Tamil Nadu today witnessed protests by opposition AIADMK workers against the ruling DMK decision to move the Election Commission seeking disqualification of Jayalalithaa for failing to declare all assets.

Quota politics dividing society: RSS
New Delhi, June 7
As Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje's pre-election reservation promise to Gujjars backfired on the BJP, the RSS has flayed the quota system for Dalits, calling it a technique to divide society for power.

Berlin Diary
PM remains inaccessible
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who arrived here yesterday afternoon, confined himself to his suite in the hotel, nursing a sore throat. He has a hectic schedule over the next two days with India and four other Outreach countries participating in the G-8 summit on Friday.

India-China Border Row
No headway expected this year
New Delhi, June 7
An intense power struggle is already on in China and as a result no forward movement is expected on the Sino-Indian boundary dispute this year, a key source and sinologist told The Tribune today.

Ban on mercury not in sight in India
EU to phase out mercury use by 2012
New Delhi, June 7
After the European Union’s June 5 move signaling the end of traditional barometers and thermometers through a ban on sale of products containing mercury, India is now the only major country that continues indulging in its free and unregulated trade and use.

Uranium mining generates heat in Meghalaya
Guwahati, June 7
After a series of agitations against the mining of Uranium, the precious strategic mineral, has hit Meghalaya, in the run-up to the proposed public hearing on the issue on June 12 next.

Transferring of Enclaves
India, B’desh to set up committee
Kolkata, June 7
India and Bangladesh agreed to set up a joint action committee for transferring of the enclaves between the two countries at the earliest, which was agreed as per Indira-Mujib pack of 1974.

Dawood’s associate Ejaz gets 10-year jail
Mumbai, June 7
The special TADA court here today sentenced gangster Ejaz Pathan and conspirator Shaikh Ali Shaikh Umar to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and life imprisonment, respectively, for their roles in the 1993 serial blasts in the city.

No breakthrough in Bachchan’s land case
Lucknow, June 7
Cinestar Amitabh Bachchan’s status as a farmer still hangs in balance as the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court today reserved its order on the maintainability of Amitabh Bachchan’s petition.

Militants abduct schoolboy
Guwahati, June 7
Unidentified insurgents abducted a 12-year-old school boy, Rajat Agarwalla, from Sonari in Sivasagar district of eastern Assam while he was on his way to school around 8 am today.

Criminal liability on unqualified doc for MTP
SC refers query to larger Bench
New Delhi, June 7
A case involving an important question pertaining to the fixation of criminal liability on a doctor for medical termination of pregnancy was today referred to a larger Bench by the Supreme Court to decide whether a legally unqualified doctor could be prosecuted for causing the death of the child or the mother.

Big project runs into rough weather in AP
Hyderabad, June 7
Another big ticket project in Andhra Pradesh has run into rough weather over environmental and livelihood issues. The ambitious Aluminium Project, being planned by the Jindal Group in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, has turned controversial with locals opposing it on the ground that it would spell disaster for the tribal-dominated region.

Pesticide Row
Nooyi admits to mistakes
New Delhi, June 7
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has blamed herself for not handling the pesticides-in-cola controversy properly, saying she should have been in India to propagate the safety of the company's soft drinks.

Uttarakhand, UP employees can now swap places
Dehra Dun, June 7
The contentious issue of mutually agreeable transfers of employees of Uttarakhand and its mother state Uttar Pradesh, which has been hanging fire since formation of the former, finally got the nod yesterday.

A night of rare celestial treat
New Delhi, June 7
Astronomers and star-gazers witnessed a rare celestial spectacle tonight as seven planets made an appearance in a single night, giving the sky-watchers a rare opportunity. At sundown, the elusive Mercury, nearest to the sun, put up a brief appearance on the western horizon.

Pay Rs 5000 to kids who fell ill at function: NHRC
New Delhi, June 7
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended a payment of Rs 5,000 each to all 49 children who fell ill during Gandhi Jayanti celebrations in Kanpur two years back.

Rs 22 lakh hawala money seized
Hoshiarpur, June 7
The police arrested a person while he allegedly was ferrying hawala money of Rs 22.06 lakh. The money was found in a black colour bag which Chetan Kumar, alias Baboo, of local Bhawani Nagar was carrying on his scooter.

Elephant kills 3 children
Dehra Dun, June 7
An elephant turned violent in the forest area near a Hardwar village and killed three children on the spot, besides injuring four others, two of them critically. In the past five years, wild elephants have killed 34 persons in and around the Rajaji Park area.

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Ludhiana City Centre Scam
Amarinder’s letter to Sonia placed on record in SC
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, June 7
Giving a new twist to the Ludhiana City Centre scam case against former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, the Punjab government today placed before the Supreme Court his letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the controversy, which makes unusual forebode about the apex court verdict in the Parkash Singh Badal’s case even when the judgement was reserved.

Amarinder Singh’s letter of September 20, 2006, to Sonia Gandhi has been placed on record by the Punjab government in a special leave petition (SLP) challenging the April 5 order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, granting anticipatory bail to the former Chief Minister and his wife Preneet Kaur.

The Punjab government in a separate SLP also challenged High Court’s June 1 order granting a “blanket protection” against arrest to Amarinder Singh’s former media adviser B.I.S. Chahal, an accused in the case. The government termed such a protection as “most unjust and arbitrary use of powers and in palpable disregard of the law laid down by the apex court”.

The SLP against Amarinder gave graphic details about the deposits of Rs 20.12 crore in eight instalments between April 25, 2005, and March 20, 2006, in an account of “Tikku”, which the Vigilance Bureau says was none else but former Chief Minister’s son Raninder Singh.

It also said the details of the accounts of former Foreign Minister K. Natwar Singh (brother-in-law of Amarinder Singh), his son Jagat Singh, Natwar Singh’s former private secretary Subodh Aggrawal and some other close relatives of Amarinder Singh, had also been placed in the case file for scrutiny.

Referring to Amarinder’s letter to Sonia Gandhi, the Punjab government said on the one hand he told her that there was no irregularity in the City Centre project worth Rs 1,200 crore, on the other hand he said he had ordered an inquiry into it.

“This issue has been trumped up by the Opposition solely because Badal and his son’s corruption case is in the Supreme Court and is likely to be sent back for trial - the judgement in the Supreme Court has been reserved today (September 20, 2006). The trial will start soon. There will be day-to-day hearing. “Its adverse publicity will go very much against them in the run-up to the election and for this reason, they wanted something on us, which is this clumsy counter attack,” the letter says.

The SAD-BJP coalition attempted to make the letter a crucial document to show how the court cases were made instruments of attack on Badal by the Amarinder Singh government. It questioned how Amarinder Singh could predict about the possible verdict of the Supreme Court in Badal’s case on the very day when the judgement was reserved.

The judgement in the Badal case was pronounced by the apex court three months later on December 6, 2006, rejecting his SLP on the issue of sanction for prosecution in the corruption and disproportionate assets cases.

Amarinder in his letter tells Sonia Gandhi “I got a call from general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi, asking me to send you a report on the City Centre project, which has been trumped up by the Opposition.”

“This matter was raised… at the behest of the Badals, wherein they pointed out certain procedural irregularities on the part of the Improvement Trust, Ludhiana. I have, therefore, dissolved the Trust and have appointed an Administrator to look after its affairs. I have also set up an inquiry by the Inspector General, Vigilance. The inquiry shall establish the truth,” the letter concludes.

The SLP said the closing balance in the account of “Tikku” on March 31, 2005, was only Rs 83.25 lakh but suddenly there was a flow of money to it between April 25, 2005, and March 20, 2006, when it contained a deposit of Rs 20.12 crore.

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Cong loses its general in Uttarakhand
TPS Rawat resigns to make way for Khanduri
Tribune News Sevice

Dehra Dun, June 7
Causing a major embarrassment to the Congress in Uttarakhand, its former minister Lt-Gen T.P.S. Rawat today resigned from Dhumakot seat in Pauri Garhwal to pave way for Chief Minister Major-Gen B.C. Khanduri of the BJP to enter the state Assembly. Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker has accepted Rawat’s resignation.

Khanduri representing the Pauri Garhwal seat in the Lok Sabha was elected as the Chief Minister after the formation of BJP-led government in the state Assembly election held in February 2007. He had to enter the Assembly within six months. The development had left the state Congress leadership red-faced as Rawat was a strong contender for the post of the Opposition leader. A former director general of Assam Rifles, Rawat had twice won from the Dhumakot assembly segment of the Pauri Garhwal seat represented by Khanduri.

Political observers strongly believe that the coup of sorts must have been clinched with an understanding that Khanduri would contest from the Dhumakot assembly segment while Rawat after his formal entry into the BJP would contest the Pauri Garhwal Lok Sabha seat to be vacated by Khanduri. Both leaders went to the National Capital in the afternoon to meet senior BJP leaders.

Rawat, a long time political opponent of Khanduri, enjoys a clean image. He was miffed over the way the Congress high command ignored his claim to become the leader of the Congress legislature party (CLP) despite promising him the same. He had even met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the issue. But at the last minute, Harak Singh Rawat, a former minister who was allegedly involved in the unwed mother scandal was made the CLP leader.

Khanduri was facing trouble in finding a suitable seat for himself due to infighting within the state unit of his party. Uttarakhand BJP president and former Chief Minister Bhagat Singh Koshiyari has been sulking after losing the race for the post of Chief Minister to Khanduri. Moreover, Khanduri, according to party insiders, was not willing to take any chances that may disturb the thin majority of his party in the Assembly by making any of its legislators to resign for him.

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Presidential Election
Congress keeping eye on new front’s moves
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
Even as it remained overtly indifferent to the meeting of leaders of eight parties, who floated a front in Hyderabad yesterday, the Congress is watching their moves on the Presidential election which will have a bearing on the vote arithmatic.

Not expecting votes for the UPA candidate from any of the parties who met in Hyderabad, the Congress will factor in their stance while making an assesment of the relative strength of the opposition in case of a contest. If the grouping of parties, the INLD, the AIADMK, the SP, the AGP, the MDMK, the TDP, the KEC and the JVM, decides to abstain in a poll, it will make the task of UPA candidate much easier.

However, their decision to back opposition candidate will make the election close, though numerical advantage will remain with the UPA. The eight parties have a vote value of over 1 lakh in the Presidential elections.

The front leaders, who said yesterday they wanted to provide an alternative to both the Congress and the BJP, are likely to take a decision on the Presidential elections at a meeting in Chennai. Though most constituents of the front have allied with the NDA in the past, there is some opposition in the group to support a BJP-backed candidate.

There are indications that vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat may contest the elections as an independent to garner votes of parties, who are opposed to the Congress in various states but would not like to be seen as voting for a BJP-sponsored candidate.

The front, which has its eyes on the 2009 general elections, will want to make its presence felt in the Presidential elections. However, it is unlikely to put up a candidate of its own.

The Samajwadi Party had said earlier that it would not support a Congress candidate for the Rashtrapati Bhawan though it was inclined to support a Left candidate.

There are indications that the front would like to take a unanimous decision on the Presidential elections but observers have not ruled out the possibility of constituents taking an independent line in the secret ballot.

Supporters of Shekhawat are hopeful of his friends in various parties pitching for him in case of a contest.

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Cong, NCP undecided on Goa CM
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, June 7
The newly elected coalition in Goa led by the Congress and the NCP are unable to decide on who will be the chief minister, two days after the results were out.

The Congress Legislature Party has had three meetings so far but has been unable to decide on who will head the government. One meeting had senior NCP leaders and Congress party observers Margaret Alva and Sushilkumar Shinde in attendance, but nothing came of it.

Sources said an elaborate exercise to guage the will of every MLA was being taken before deciding on who heads the government.

With uncertainty looming, more aspirants are coming to the fore. Apart from incumbent Pratapsinh Rane and senior leader Ravi Naik, health minister Dayanand Narvekar has also thrown his hat in the ring. Today, he produced the names of six MLAs backing him.

Senior Congress leaders are upset that the two member Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the two Independent MLAs apart from the NCP are determining who becomes Chief Minister.

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Rift among MLAs over next Goa CM

Panaji, June 7
The Congress, seeking to form government in Goa, was tonight engaged in sorting out the issue of chief ministership amid indications of a sharp division of opinion among the newly-elected party MLAs on who should be their leader.

However, NCP, a coalition partner of Congress, said the new ministry is likely to be sworn-in tomorrow with the allies meeting Governor S C Jamir and staking claim to form the government.

AICC observers Sushil Kumar Shinde and Margaret Alva held nearly four hours of talks with the party MLAs, the union power minister had a meeting with Pratapsinh Rane, who is one of the prime contenders for the top post along with state party chief Ravi Naik. Rane's son, Vishwajeet, an independent MLA, who has extended support to the alliance, was also present.

Congress sources said “sharp differences” have cropped up with a section of the MLAs backing Naik while certain others including the two-member Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, another coalition partner, wanting Rane to continue. — PTI

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Unrest in TN
Protests over move to disqualify Jaya
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, June 7
Tamil Nadu today witnessed protests by opposition AIADMK workers against the ruling DMK decision to move the Election Commission seeking disqualification of Jayalalithaa for failing to declare all assets.

Thousands of AIADMK workers were arrested as they blocked roads and burnt effigies of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi. They condemned his “derogatory remarks” against Jayalalithaa.

Karunanidhi said Jayalalithaa's election to the Assembly “will also be null and void”, if it was true that she did not declare her ownership of the tea estate in Ooty, along with her friend Sasikala.

Karunanidhi's statement and a rumour that an Income Tax raid might take place at her Poes Garden residence here led to protests by angry workers, who blocked traffic on the main arterial Mount Road in the metropolis and in other parts of the state. They shouted slogans against the

ruling DMK and alleged that Karunanidhi was indulging in witch-hunting.

Karunanidhi said a senior journalist had informed him that Jayalalithaa had not disclosed her investment in the tea estate in her statutory affidavit before the last Assembly election. "If this charge of suppression of her assets is proved, she may incur disqualification and lose her seat and may not be able to contest future elections," he said.

Kodanadu Estate, which was reportedly acquired by Jayalalithaa and Sasikala in the early 1990s, has now become a bone of contention between the two parties as officials while on an inquiry mission were obstructed by estate workers who were arrested.

The Chief Minister released extracts of the financial statement, including the balance-sheet, of the estate which stated an investment of Rs 3.60 crore in the names of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala as on March 31, 2006.

He said a palatial building, with an area of 38,000 square feet, had been constructed.

Regarding the IT raid on her residence, Karunanidhi dismissed it as a rumour and remarked, "The story of the raid is false and it is you (journalists) who spread it."

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Quota politics dividing society: RSS

New Delhi, June 7
As Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje's pre-election reservation promise to Gujjars backfired on the BJP, the RSS has flayed the quota system for Dalits, calling it a technique to divide society for power.

"Instead of benefiting different castes, reservations now are becoming a weapon to divide society to satisfy greed for power," a page-one article in Sangh mouthpiece Panchjanya said.

It followed a write-up in another RSS organ, Organiser, which blamed the caste rioting in Rajasthan on the state police while seeking to bail out the chief minister from fierce criticism she had been facing for her handling of the crisis.

The Panchjanya article clearly endorsed senior BJP leader L K Advani's call for an all-party meeting to discuss ways to bring order back to Rajasthan, where trouble broke out over Raje's pre-poll promise that she would take steps to ensure classification of Gurjars as a scheduled tribe.

"Nobody bothered to call an all-party meeting to defuse the agitation immediately," it said. "Both ruling and opposition parties are busy in their own politics." The Sangh piece named no BJP leader while criticising politics in general over reservations, but it did slam former prime minister V P Singh for Mandal.

"Every Indian has the right to have an opportunity to move ahead in education and profession without discrimination," it said.

Politicians, the article alleged, were concerned only about votes.

It praised Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for her successful social engineering. — PTI

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Berlin Diary
PM remains inaccessible
T.R. Ramachandran

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who arrived here yesterday afternoon, confined himself to his suite in the hotel, nursing a sore throat. He has a hectic schedule over the next two days with India and four other Outreach countries participating in the G-8 summit on Friday. The Prime Minister skipped the on-board press conference during the flight from Delhi to Berlin.

Riots continue in Heiligendamm

Fresh riots broke out in Heiligendamm, the venue of the G-8 summit located on the Baltic coast, about 200 km from Berlin, which kept the police on their toes. Considering the threats to the leaders of the world’s rich countries, the area where the Summit is being held has been completely sanitised. All rioters have been blocked about 8 km before the Summit venue. That , however, did not dampen the spirit of the protesters. There was an escalation of the situation last night with the USA and Japan blocking climate issues.

The start of the Summit has been overshadowed by demonstrations by anti-G-8/globalisation activists.

The demonstrators managed to break two police security chains and reached the security fence.

There were violent riots with sitting blockades and the over strained law and order machinery resorting to water cannons and the protesters pelting stones.

Bush, Putin head for confrontation

US President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared

to be heading for an open confrontation in the dispute on the missile shield.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel kept her counsel to herself about the chances of ending the dispute.

Putin has been very vocal of the missile shield that Washington plans to deploy in Poland and the Czech

Republic, which Moscow insists will upset the strategic balance. Russia has dubbed the West’s explanations as insufficient even though Bush has stressed that Moscow is not an enemy nor a target.

Bush rebuffs Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel finds that the USA and the EU have rejected the concrete climate protection targets that she wants the rich countries to adopt. US President George Bush remained firm in rejecting it during a meeting with Merkel just before the beginning of the G-8 Summit.

Bush spoke up for a follow up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time India and China are coming under increasing pressure to sign up for a mandatory limit on the greenhouse gas emissions.

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India-China Border Row
No headway expected this year
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
An intense power struggle is already on in China and as a result no forward movement is expected on the Sino-Indian boundary dispute this year, a key source and sinologist told The Tribune today.

The seventeenth congress of the Communist Party of China is to be held in September- October this year and the Chinese power hierarchy will become clear after this session. A churning is going on inside the Chinese Communist party and hawks like the present foreign minister Yang Jiechi are engaged in a domestic game of political oneupmanship. Beijing is understood to have put the boundary dispute with India on its back-burner and no forward movement is expected in the near future.

It is against this backdrop that Yang’s hard talk with external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee in Hamburg (Germany) last week should be seen, knowledgeable sources here say.

Yang reportedly conveyed to Mukherjee that “mere presence” of populated areas would not affect Chinese claims on the boundary, a position which goes contrary to a bilateral agreement signed by India and China in April 2005.

The agreement, called “Political Parameters and Guiding Principles”, signed during Chinese premier Wen Jiabao’s India visit two years ago, makes it clear that both countries shall safeguard the interests of their settled population in the border areas.

The inclusion of the phrase “settled population in the border areas” was then seen as a diplomatic concession that India had extracted from China as it was seen as protecting India's interests against Chinese claims to Tawang and other areas in Arunachal Pradesh.

Officially, China lays claim to the entire Arunachal Pradesh and treats the Indian state as Chinese territory. China has repeatedly denied visa to Indian natives from Arunachal Pradesh, the last such incident taking place barely a fortnight ago. New Delhi treats the new Chinese foreign minister’s policy statement to Mukherjee as “a serious retrograde step”.

Apart from the ongoing power tussle in China, Beijing is believed to be quite upset about India’s increasing diplomatic leverage in world affairs. The ongoing negotiations between India and the US for operationalising their historic civilian nuclear cooperation deal and serious talk of a Quadrilateral Strategic Forum involving US, Japan, Australia and India are like a red rag for Chinese policy makers and strategic thinkers.

As far as India is concerned, its foreign policy and strategic thought re underpinned by a strong desire to work in harmony with one and all, including China.

This policy is demonstrated by Indian Navy recently holding joint exercises with the Chinese Navy in Shanghai and the upcoming joint military exercises between India and China in October.

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Ban on mercury not in sight in India
EU to phase out mercury use by 2012
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
After the European Union’s June 5 move signaling the end of traditional barometers and thermometers through a ban on sale of products containing mercury, India is now the only major country that continues indulging in its free and unregulated trade and use.

Mercury is a known neurotoxin that is extremely harmful to both health and environment.

Senior programme coordinator, Toxic Links, Prashant Pastore, says most developed nations have banned the mercury from its products and processes or have stricter regulations, but mercury has found resistance in its replacement in India because of lack of policy initiatives and public awareness on toxic effects of the mercury.

“At present, India does not have any policy on mercury reduction or ban from health care and industry except efforts like voluntary declaration of phasing out from the chlor alkali industry by 2012,” he adds.

India is the second largest consumer of elemental mercury for uses in chlor alkali production, thermometers, blood pressure instruments, batteries, dental amalgam, lighting, switches and paints.

The EU’s decision to phase out mercury use by 2012 has environmentalists like Toxic Links director Ravi Aggarwal worried that India might now be the dumping ground of the highly toxic substance from across the world.

Pastore says that India imports between 110-200 mt of elemental mercury for different uses in the industry. Besides this coal-based power plants also put out at least 50-100 mt of mercury into the air each year.

“It poses a vast multiplicity of environmental and health risk factors health, especially to development of children in utero, lowering IQs and damaging nervous systems,” he adds.

Aggarwal says that a gram of mercury has the toxicity to pollute a 20-acre lake. In comparison, a thermometer used carelessly in healthcare contains 0.6 gm mercury. “ If places on the palm, it can cross the skin-barrier and enter the blood. It can even cross the placental barrier and enter the foetus. Pregnant women, children, nurses, industrial workers, dental assistants, students using mercury in school labs are at high risk” he adds.

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Uranium mining generates heat in Meghalaya
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, June 7
After a series of agitations against the mining of Uranium, the precious strategic mineral, has hit Meghalaya, in the run-up to the proposed public hearing on the issue on June 12 next.

The Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), the spearhead of the anti-Uranium mining campaign, has called for a four-day night blockade from tonight along the national highway-44 that connects Meghalaya to Shillong, Southern Assam, Tripura and Mizoram, demanding calling-off of the public hearing.

The KSU protestors stalled the functioning of government offices in the hill state in protest against the public hearing for the last couple of days.

Apart from the KSU, two other NGOs -- Meghalaya People’s Human Right Council and Langrin Youth Welfare Association -- have opposed the proposed public hearing to be held at a place called Nongbah-Jynrin in Mawthabah in continuation of their sustained agitation against Uranium mining in the state.

They apprehend serious health and environment hazards if the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) is allowed to mine the strategic mineral.

However, the Congress-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) government has remained firm on holding the public hearing stating that it was essential to know the opinion of all sections of the society over the vexed issue.

Rejecting the opposition Nationalist Congress Party’s proposal for an all-party meeting over the issue, the state government has promulgated Section 144 under the CrPC, in the East Khasi Hill district of the state, to neutralise the agitation led by the KSU.

Chief Minister D.D. Lapang has rejected the NCP suggestion saying “it was not necessary at this stage.”

The NCP’s MP from the state, Robert Kharsing, said he supported the KSU on its stand against the uranium mining. The Uranium deposit in question is located at a place called Domiasat in west Khasi hills in the state. The UCIL applied for mining permission from the Meghalaya state government in 2001.

Since then the issue has been hanging fire.

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Transferring of Enclaves
India, B’desh to set up committee
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, June 7
India and Bangladesh agreed to set up a joint action committee for transferring of the enclaves between the two countries at the earliest, which was agreed as per Indira-Mujib pack of 1974.

The decision was taken at an official meeting in Coochbehar, north Bengal, last week in which the external affairs, home ministry and BSF personnel of both the countries were present. It was further decided that a joint action committee would be formed within next one week which would meeting first in Dhaka and then New Delhi some time in July-August for executing the actual transferring of the enclaves between the countries.

The external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee during his last visit to Dhaka already discussed the issue with the Bangladesh President and his counterpart along with several other matters of bi-lateral interests.

Mukherjee urged the need for quick transferring of the country's 162 enclaves in Bangladesh to India and 62 Bangladesh's enclaves now in India to Bangladesh which had been agreed upon by the heads of the two countries long ago.

It has been admitted officially that over 200,000 Indian nationals, now residing inside the countries enclaves in Bangladesh, have been facing the people of the " no-man's land" as they do not get any facilities of the either countries. These people are the Indian voters and the ration card holders but they do not get the ration facilities, though they exercise franchises during the elections.

It was decided that within June 30, the two countries would set up special check post in their respective areas which would be manned by the land customs, excise and the border force personnel of two countries.

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Dawood’s associate Ejaz gets 10-year jail

Sanjay summoned

The special court to hear the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, has asked actor Sanjay Dutt to appear before it on June 14. Today, the court opened the report filed by a probation officer on some of those convicted in the blasts case. It is not clear if Dutt's name too figure in the report. The actor is among several others who have sought exemption from a prison term under the Probation of Offenders Act (POA).

Mumbai, June 7
The special TADA court here today sentenced gangster Ejaz Pathan and conspirator Shaikh Ali Shaikh Umar to rigorous imprisonment for 10 years and life imprisonment, respectively, for their roles in the 1993 serial blasts in the city.

Pathan was sent to prison for 10 years and directed to pay a fine of Rs 2.25 lakh.

A onetime associate of fugitive gangster, Dawood Ibrahim, Pathan was present at the conspirators’ first meeting in Dubai, where it was decided that the demolition of the Babri mosque had to be avenged.

Pathan provided his men for the landing of arms and explosives on the Raigad coast. However, he was spared from a life sentence as he was not aware of what was being landed beforehand. He was also not involved in the conspiracy in the later stages.

Judge Pramod Kode also said Pathan’s failing health was taken into consideration while sentencing him. Pathan, extradited from Dubai four years ago, suffers from a blood clot in his brain and will undergo surgery on June 26. The government has sanctioned Rs 2.5 lakh for the operation, the court was informed today.

Pathan was also convicted for illegal possession of three AK-56 rifles.

Shaikh Ali Shaikh Umar, a conspirator, was given a life sentence and ordered to pay a fine of Rs 1.5 lakh.

The court has so far sentenced 73 out of 100 persons convicted for their role in the serial blasts that killed 257 persons. — PTI

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No breakthrough in Bachchan’s land case
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, June 7
Cinestar Amitabh Bachchan’s status as a farmer still hangs in balance as the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court today reserved its order on the maintainability of Amitabh Bachchan’s petition.

In his petition Bachchan has challenged a Faizabad court’s order for cancelling the allotment of his 0.2 hectare fallow land in district Barabanki.

The much-awaited petition came up before Justice D.P. Singh. After hearing arguments from both sides for close to two hours, Justice Singh reserved his order.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Mukul Rohtagi, appearing on behalf of Bachchan, argued that his client was not given an opportunity of being heard in the matter by the commissioner’s court.

Terming it as a “gross violation of the principles of natural justice”, Rohtagi said that it was the right of his client to be heard before the matter was decided.

He pleaded that Bachchan’s revised petition be taken which Faizabad additional commissioner V.S. Prasad had decided last week.

Rohatgi said Prasad had exceeded his jurisdiction by going into the merits of the case whereas, he was to decide merely upon a technical point.

Meanwhile, state government counsel D.K. Upadhyaya submitted that a “clear cut fraud” was committed in the transfer of land in Daulatpur village and pleaded for the petition to be dismissed with costs.

Upadhyaya pointed out that the petitioner did not mention a word about how he had acquired the said land in 1982, as claimed by him. He said the petitioner had not produced any paper to substantiate his claim.

Defending the Faizabad commissioner’s court’s order, Upadhyaya pleaded that the petition was not maintainable as the commissioner's court had full jurisdiction to hear the matter.

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Militants abduct schoolboy
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, June 7
Unidentified insurgents abducted a 12-year-old school boy, Rajat Agarwalla, from Sonari in Sivasagar district of eastern Assam while he was on his way to school around 8 am today.

According to a police source, the abducted boy was travelling with five other students in an auto rickshaw to St. Joseph High School at Sonari town from Towkok Tea Estate along the Assam-Nagaland Road when they were waylaid by armed ultras.

The unidentified militants then forced the driver of the auto rickshaw at gun point to proceed towards the Assam-Nagaland boundary about a few kilometres away along with the schoolchildren.

About a couple of kilometres away from the inter-state boundary, the armed men allowed five of the children and the driver to get down and took away Class VII student Rajat along with the vehicle towards the Nagaland side of the boundary.

On being informed about the incident by the auto rickshaw driver, the police and the Army launched a massive search operation on both sides of the inter-state boundary to trace the boy on the Nagaland side of the border.

Senior district police officials rushed to Sonari where district superintendent Shyamol Saikia is coordinating the search operation.

The police was yet to ascertain the identity of the militants’ group involved in the abduction.

The auto rickshaw driver informed the police that the armed militants looked like people from the tea tribe community raising suspicion about the involvement of newly-formed All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA).

The area near the Assam-Nagaland border is also infested with the banned ULFA ultras and Naga rebels. The police allege that the AANLA was being promoted and used as a front by the Naga rebel group NSCN-IM, which is now in truce with the Government of India, to carry out operation in the Assam tea belt on its behalf.

The family of the abducted boy owns a grocery shop at Towkok tea estate. His father Dilip Agarwalla is away in New Delhi for the treatment of his ailing wife.

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Criminal liability on unqualified doc for MTP
SC refers query to larger Bench
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, June 7
A case involving an important question pertaining to the fixation of criminal liability on a doctor for medical termination of pregnancy was today referred to a larger Bench by the Supreme Court to decide whether a legally unqualified doctor could be prosecuted for causing the death of the child or the mother.

Since an important question of law related to the provisions of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Rules, 1975, was involved in the matter, a vacation Bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and B.P. Singh said it needed to be decided by a larger Bench.

As per the 1975 MTP Rules, pregnancy can be terminated only by a doctor with an MD degree in gynaecology for whom no extra experience is required, or by a doctor registered before 1972 but having three years of experience in gynaecology. In the case of a doctor registered after 1972, he or she should have six months house surgeonship qualification in gynaecology, or one-year experience in it.

The issue arose from an appeal by Dr Neeta Jain and Dr Praful Jain from district Seoni in Madhya Pradesh, facing prosecution for medical negligence in the case of MTP carried on a woman in April 1998. Both had MBBS degrees and were running a private clinic.

According to the case registered against them on the complaint of Prem Chand, the husband of the deceased, they were not qualified to carry out MTP.

Complainant’s counsel Virender Kumar Sharma said the two doctors facing trial had taken a stand that the child had died in the womb of the woman with seven months of pregnancy when admitted to their hospital and she could have not survived.

Though the Dean of the Medical College, Jabalpur, in his opinion, called for by the prosecution, had said the line of treatment given by the two doctors to the woman was correct, the MP High Court had rejected their appeal against the order of the trial court for registering a case under various provisions of IPC for medical negligence.

The High Court had said since they did not fulfil the eligibility criteria to carry MTP as laid down in the 1975 Rules, they were liable to be prosecuted.

The two doctors had taken a defence under the Supreme Court verdict in the famous Dr Jacob Mathew case of Punjab, in which it was laid down that a doctor could not be hauled for criminal negligence for any mishap during the treatment but a civil case for damages could be filed against him.

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Big project runs into rough weather in AP
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, June 7
Another big ticket project in Andhra Pradesh has run into rough weather over environmental and livelihood issues.

The ambitious Aluminium Project, being planned by the Jindal Group in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, has turned controversial with locals opposing it on the ground that it would spell disaster for the tribal-dominated region.

Along with the main opposition TDP, the CPI and CPM have been leading an agitation against the Rs 9,000-crore project, involving setting up of aluminium refinery and smelter in Sringavarapukota assembly segment in the coastal region, saying that it would displace hundreds of farmers and play havoc with their livelihood.

During a public hearing organised by the AP Pollution Control Board at Boddavara village recently, a majority of tribal farmers, mobilised by the opposition parties, raised their voice against the project and made it clear that they were not willing to part with their lands.

"As many as 32 out of 35 speakers opposed the plant. A report on the proceedings of the public hearing will be sent to the government soon," joint collector of Vizianagaram district M. Jaganmohan said.

It was in July 2005 that JSW Aluminium Limited, which is part of the Rs 18,000-crore OP Jindal Group, had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the state government for setting up a 1.4-million tonne aluminium refinery and a co-generation power plant.

At present, the company has three plants -- two in Maharashtra and one in Karnataka --and commands 15 per cent market share.

The project was originally planned at Sabbavaram in the neighbouring Visakhapatnam district but had to be shifted to Vizianagaram, bordering Orissa, following severe resistance from local NGOs and political parties.

However, controversy continued to dog the project with the Left parties spearheading a tribal movement against the factory and also the proposed bauxite mining.

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Pesticide Row
Nooyi admits to mistakes

New Delhi, June 7
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has blamed herself for not handling the pesticides-in-cola controversy properly, saying she should have been in India to propagate the safety of the company's soft drinks.

"One thing I should have done was to appear in India three years ago and say: 'Cut it out. These products are the safest in the world, bar none, and your tests are wrong'," Nooyi told US-based magazine BusinessWeek in an interview.

Talking about the controversy emanating from Centre for Science and Environment's report alleging pesticide residues in soft drinks, the India-born CEO admitted the company's marketing strategy also made the matter worse.

"Combine the public seeing the mercenary side of us, along with the fact that this was an American company," Nooyi, who was then the chief financial officer of PepsiCo, said.

Before the pesticides controversy, the Supreme Court had in December 2002 pulled up PepsiCo for damaging environment by painting advertisement on rocks in Himalayan mountains. — PTI

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Uttarakhand, UP employees can now swap places
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, June 7
The contentious issue of mutually agreeable transfers of employees of Uttarakhand and its mother state Uttar Pradesh, which has been hanging fire since formation of the former, finally got the nod yesterday.

The Uttarakhand cabinet decided in its meeting held here yesterday to give thousands of employees of both the states who had opted to serve in their respective home states to mutually agree to such transfers.

The issue of transfer had been pending for the past seven years since the new state of Uttarakhand came into being in November 2000. More than 5000 employees serving in Uttarakhand had sought transfers to their parent state of Uttar Pradesh but the permission was refused.

Similarly, the employees belonging to Uttarakhand serving in Uttar Pradesh wanted to serve in their home state stood deprived of the option.

Since the issue involved a large number of employees, it was taken up several times in the reorganisation committee set up by the Central government to resolve all pending issues of division of assets and liabilities between the two states.

As per the new decision, the employees can swap places with their Uttar Pradesh counterparts in the same grade, pay and cadre. Such transfers, however, would be subject to ratification by the Reorganisation Committee of the Central government.

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A night of rare celestial treat

New Delhi, June 7
Astronomers and star-gazers witnessed a rare celestial spectacle tonight as seven planets made an appearance in a single night, giving the sky-watchers a rare opportunity.

At sundown, the elusive Mercury, nearest to the sun, put up a brief appearance on the western horizon. A brilliant Venus followed in the footsteps of Mercury.

On June 9, Venus will reach its greatest elongation at 45.3909 degrees east of the sun and can be spotted as a very bright star-like object in the western sky above the horizon after sunset.

Saturn, the Lord of the Rings, was to make an appearance in the wee hours, presenting a magnificent view of its rings along with gas giant Jupiter and its satellites.

One could also spot Neptune, Uranus and Mars in the wee hours of the day.

As announced by the International Astronomical Union, there are currently eight planets and three dwarf planets. — PTI

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Pay Rs 5000 to kids who fell ill at function: NHRC
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 7
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended a payment of Rs 5,000 each to all 49 children who fell ill during Gandhi Jayanti celebrations in Kanpur two years back.

At the same time, the commission has condemned the practice of using children as showpieces during VIP visits. It has also asked the state chief secretary to submit, within eight weeks, a compliance report along with the proof of payment.

The commission has emphasised that the state administration should treat the children as valuable national assets and handle them with care and affection.

According to the complaint made to the commission, the children were forced to sit in scorching heat without food and shelter as the chief guest reached the venue three hours late. The complainant further alleged that many children fainted as they had to wait from 6 a.m to 1 p.m in the heat without any arrangement for first-aid or transport.

Acting on a complaint, the NHRC had, in February this year, issued notice to the state chief secretary to show cause as to why interim relief should not be paid to the children who fell ill due to callous attitude of the local administration.

The commission observed that forcing the children to sit in scorching sun for six long hours is blatant violation of their human rights. The NHRC has said the UP government has not responded to the show-cause notice and it therefore leads to the presumption that it has nothing to say against granting interim relief to the children.

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Rs 22 lakh hawala money seized

Hoshiarpur, June 7
The police arrested a person while he allegedly was ferrying hawala money of Rs 22.06 lakh. The money was found in a black colour bag which Chetan Kumar, alias Baboo, of local Bhawani Nagar was carrying on his scooter.

SSP Anita Punj said a police party had set up a check post near the Tagore park in the town after being tipped off by a source. Punj said the scooterist coming from the Bhangi Choe side, carrying the money, was signalled to stop and was nabbed while trying to flee the spot.

A search of the bag yielded the money. The police also seized a faxed list from him in which names of those persons were mentioned to whom the hawala money was to be delivered. The hawala money and faxed list had been taken in custody by the police and officials of the Enforcement Directorate, Jalandhar, had been informed, she said.

Meanwhile, assistant director, Enforcement, Jalandhar, and the police handed over the culprit and faxed the list to him for further action. — PTI

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Elephant kills 3 children
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, June 7
An elephant turned violent in the forest area near a Hardwar village and killed three children on the spot, besides injuring four others, two of them critically. In the past five years, wild elephants have killed 34 persons in and around the Rajaji Park area.

According to residents of Laldhang village on the outskirts of Hardwar district, an elephant attacked a group of children and adults. They had come from Bjinore and Meerut to the village to attend a marriage of a relative when they went into the forest coming under Pauri Garhwal district. Some children managed to ran from the spot to the village and informed their parents.

The deceased have been identified as Farha (10), Shabana(13) and Rafique (6) while Danish, Siama, Shahrukh, Nazim, Asif were injured. The condition of Sharique and Afroz was stated to be critical. The injured were rushed to Ramkrishna Mission Hospital at Haridwar.

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