SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

India to ratify amendment to IAEA convention
New Delhi, June 15
India today decided to ratify an amendment to the international atomic energy agency (IAEA) convention that provides for protection of nuclear material from acts of terror and sabotage.

Rajasthan DGP’s ATR to SC on Gujjars’ agitation
18 deaths admitted in police firing
New Delhi, June 15
The Rajasthan Director-General of Police, in his action taken report to the Supreme Court on Gujjars’ agitation filed today, admitted the death of 18 persons in police firing resorted to at least at seven places to control the violent movement that also resulted in the death of two constables and injuries to 172 other officials of different ranks.

Petition against 18 Rajasthan MLAs
Jaipur, June 15
A petition has been filed before Rajasthan Governor Pratibha Patil seeking disqualification of 18 members of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly, including four ministers, for their alleged breach of oath of the office as MLAs.





EARLIER STORIES




Children offer prayers for the safe return of US astronaut Sunita Williams during a mass prayer ceremony in a mosque in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Children offer prayers for the safe return of US astronaut Sunita Williams during a mass prayer ceremony in a mosque in Ahmedabad on Friday. — PTI

Prez Poll
Cong forms coordination committee
New Delhi, June 15
Having chosen the UPA's candidate for the presidential poll, the Congress has got down to the task of election management by forming a committee which will coordinate with allies and partners and seek to maximise support for its nominee by talking to some parties outside the ruling alliance.

Badal meets Shekhawat
New Delhi, June 15
Amid possibility of Vice-President Bharion Singh Shekhawat contesting the presidential poll as an independent candidate, Punjab Chief Minister called on him at his residence today.

Minister in the soup for pushing woman
Bhagalpur, June 15
Bihar agriculture minister Narendra Singh has landed in a controversy over allegedly misbehaving with the widow of a government employee seeking job for her son on compassionate grounds.

Nitish orders job for widow ‘shoved’ by minister
Patna, June 15
In a damage-control exercise after a member of his cabinet stirred a controversy by “misbehaving” with the widow of a government employee seeking a job for her son, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar tonight instructed the chief secretary to complete the exercise of giving employment to the dependent of the deceased staff within a week.

A family takes cover under an umbrella during a downpour at Rajpath in New Delhi on Friday.
Under cover: A family takes cover under an umbrella during a downpour at Rajpath in New Delhi on Friday. — AFP

FIR lodged against SP leader
Lucknow, June 15
The Rampur police today filed an FIR against former urban development minister Mohammad Azam Khan and Samajwadi Party district president, charging them with “breach of trust” for stocking DUDA material in the district SP office and distributing it.

’93 blasts convict
Ejaz Pathan dead
Mumbai, June 15
Gangster Ejaz Pathan, one of the main accused in 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, died at J J hospital here today, the police said.

CPMT Results
Probe into irregularities ordered
Lucknow, June 15
Following widespread protests by aspiring medical students protesting against reported irregularities in the results of the Uttar Pradesh Combined Pre-Medical Test (CPMT), the state government today announced a probe into the issue.

Mukherjee to discuss ‘Look East’ policy
New Delhi, June 15
The country's foreign policy will tumble out of the closet and come into the public domain when external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee visits Shillong tomorrow to discuss the ‘Look East’ policy expected to impact the development of the Northeastern region.

e-linking of Kashmir and PoK
Home Ministry for speedy clearance of proposal
New Delhi, June 15
The Home Ministry has asked the External Affairs Ministry to speedily take up with Pakistan a proposal for "e-linking" Srinagar and Muzaffarabad for quick clearance of documents of people travelling between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Wheat procurement ends
Punjab gears up for atta-dal scheme
Chandigarh, June 15
As the wheat procurement season in Punjab and Haryana ended this afternoon, the state authorities concerned have started preparing to implement the “atta-dal” scheme for poor sections of society.

PM takes oath as RS member
New Delhi, June 15
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took oath as a Rajya Sabha member from Assam. Having been elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha for the fourth term, Dr Singh was administered the oath by Vice-President and Chairman of the Upper House Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in Parliament House here.

Rane elected Goa speaker
Mumbai, June 15
Pratapsinh Rane, former Chief Minister of Goa, was today elected unopposed as speaker of Goa Assembly.

Andhra turning into a tipplers' paradise
Hyderabad, June 15
Andhra Pradesh is turning into a tipplers' paradise. Thanks to the growing patronage by Bacchus lovers, the government coffers are literally overflowing with liquor money.

ULFA blames blast on RSS
Guwahati, June 15
The banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has accused hand of the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS) behind June 13 bomb blast at a market near Hajo in Kamrup district in which 2 persons were killed and over 30 injured.

Model impersonates Miss India Earth
Varanasi, June 15
A probe has been ordered by the district administration into an incident involving a model from Lucknow where she allegedly posed as Femina Miss India Earth 2005.

Man fails high school exam for 38th time
Jaipur, June 15
A 73-year-old farmer, who vowed not to marry before passing his high school exams has failed to get through for the 38th time.

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India to ratify amendment to IAEA convention
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 15
India today decided to ratify an amendment to the international atomic energy agency (IAEA) convention that provides for protection of nuclear material from acts of terror and sabotage.

The Union Cabinet approved the ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, 1980 and also to amend the Extradition Act 1962, the parliamentary affairs minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi told reporters here.

He said by becoming a party to the convention would strengthen the international legal framework to combat terrorism and also enhance international cooperation in investigation, prosecution and extradition of those who commit terrorist acts and acts of sabotage involving radioactive material or nuclear devices and facilities.

The amended convention will make it legally binding for state parties to protect nuclear facilities and material in peaceful domestic use, storage as well as transport, he said.

It will also provides for expanded cooperation between and among states regarding rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage and prevent and combat related offences, Dasmunsi said.

The IAEA members, at a diplomatic conference in Geneva in July 2005, had adopted an amendment to the convention to strengthen the provisions and include terrorist acts and acts of sabotage against nuclear material and facilities.

The convention requires the state parties to make such offences punishable under the domestic laws.

The Cabinet also gave its approval for signing and ratification of a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with the Republic of Mozambique.

This agreement is likely to increase investments between India and Mozambique.

He said the Cabinet accorded its approval for concluding a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement with the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPA) have been signed by the Government of India with 65 countries.

The Cabinet also gave its approval for establishment of Indira Gandhi National Tribal University in Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh with Central Government funding. It also approved introduction of the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University Bill, 2007 in Parliament.

Dasmunsi said this would ensure establishment of a teaching and affiliating University for facilitating and promoting avenues of higher education and research facilities for the tribal population of the country.

The objects of the university include inter-alia, promoting studies and research in tribal art, culture, tradition, language, custom, medicinal systems, forest based economic activities, including special studies in the flora and fauna, and advancements in technologies relating to natural resources of the tribal areas.

Apart from affiliating the colleges, the university has the power to establish such number of its own regional centers in tribal areas as the university may deem fit.

There will be at least one school in every regional Centre, to serve as a model school for the schools of the region, wherefrom the tribal students would be expected to join the local colleges, the off-campuses or the university.

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Rajasthan DGP’s ATR to SC on Gujjars’ agitation
18 deaths admitted in police firing
S.S.Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, June 15
The Rajasthan Director-General of Police, in his action taken report to the Supreme Court on Gujjars’ agitation filed today, admitted the death of 18 persons in police firing resorted to at least at seven places to control the violent movement that also resulted in the death of two constables and injuries to 172 other officials of different ranks.

In a graphic detail on the Gujjars’ agitation, Rajasthan DGP A.S.Gill, in his affidavit, said the police firing had to be resorted to quell the unprecedented violence after the lathi-charge and tear gassing failed to disperse thousands of violent agitators armed with sharp-edged weapons at several places.

On the other hand, the All India Gujjars Sangharsh Samiti (AIGSS), which spearheaded the agitation, moved a petition, blaming a Rajasthan minister from the Meena community for “fomenting” the violence by instigating people against its movement.

Though the minister’s name had not been directly mentioned, the AIGSS, in its petition, sought CBI probe into the entire episode, accusing the particular minister of doing rounds in a state helicopter from one place to another “instigating” people for violence.

Apart from Rajasthan, police chiefs of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh also filed their ATRs in the Supreme Court scheduled to hear a suo motu petition on June 18 on large-scale violence and damage to properties during the agitation. The Haryana DGP had submitted his report yesterday.

The apex court had sought ATRs from the police chiefs of the four states where Gujjars were up in arms. Rajasthan, from where the agitation started, had witnessed the maximum violence with 39 deaths reported.

The magnitude of the violence in Rajasthan reflected from its DGP’s affidavit, which said that a total of 352 FIRs had so far been registered against various provisions of the Indian Penal Code against those indulging in violence. Though a total of 2,081 preventive arrests were made during the agitation, till date 265 accused had been sent to judicial custody, while 68 were granted bail by the courts, the ATR said.

Giving details of the mobilisation of police and para-military forces during the agitation, Gill said six persons each were killed in police firing at village Pipalkhera and Deve Naraian Temple on May 29 when thousands of people blocked National Highways No-11 and 12 at those points, respectively. Four deaths occurred at Bonli and one each in Morda and Bayana villages.

Gill also blamed the electronic media for “contributing” in spreading the violence by repeatedly showing the incidents and images of dead on their network. He pleaded the court to take into account the impact of unregulated coverage of such violent agitations.

An affidavit, filed on behalf of the Delhi Police Commissioner K.K.Paul by deputy commissioner of police, headquarters, stated that a total of nine FIRs were registered in connection with the damage caused to the private and public properties, including DTC buses in the Capital, where the agitation was confined to outskirts where Gujjars’ population is concentrated.

The DGP of UP, in his reports, stated that a total of 25 FIRs were registered against the culprits in the state and 90 arrests were made. The agitation was mainly confined to Gujjar-dominated areas of western Uttar Pradesh, including Ghaziabad, Mathura and some other districts.

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Petition against 18 Rajasthan MLAs

Jaipur, June 15
A petition has been filed before Rajasthan Governor Pratibha Patil seeking disqualification of 18 members of the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly, including four ministers, for their alleged breach of oath of the office as MLAs.

A local industrialist and former member of Jaipur District Consumer Forum Kansi Purohit has filed the petition through his counsel Abhinav Sharma, against four ministers, and nine MLAs from the ruling BJP, three Congress members, a BSP MLA and one independent for taking a ‘’casteist stand’’ during the Gujjar agitation in the state, in violation of the oath administered to them after their election to the state legislature.

Counsel Abhinav Sharma told UNI that the petition had been submitted before the Governor under Article 192 of the Constitution for ‘’breach of the oath’’. Mr Sharma said that it was submitted in the petition that the respondents by taking a ‘’casteist stand’’ during the agitation had breached the oath wherein they had sworn to keep the integrity and sovereignty of the country at the top and to work above caste and community considerations, without favour, affection or fear.

The petition was received by the Governor who assured of appropriate action after perusal of the same.

The 18 respondent MLAs included four members of council of ministers — Dr Kirodi Lal Meena, Kalu Lal Gurjar, Kanak Mal Katara and Virendra Meena. — UNI

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Prez Poll
Cong forms coordination committee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 15
Having chosen the UPA's candidate for the presidential poll, the Congress has got down to the task of election management by forming a committee which will coordinate with allies and partners and seek to maximise support for its nominee by talking to some parties outside the ruling alliance. The committee, comprising external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, parliamentary affairs minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Suresh Pachouri, political secretary to Congress president Ahmed Patel and senior party leader R.K.Dhawan, will take support of office-bearers of the Congress Parliamentary Party in its work.

Sources said the committee would talk to PCC chiefs and CLP leaders in states. The task of coordination with UPA partners in states would be done through their leaders, some of whom are ministers in the cabinet. The committee is also likely to look at ways to minimise the possibility of cross-voting.

Having surprised the opposition by its choice of candidate, the UPA is waiting for responses of the NDA and newly floated front of eight parties, who are meeting separately on June 18.

Sources said Patil would file nomination after June 19 when the picture on presidential poll would become clear.

They said the Congress was likely to make behind-the-scene efforts to get support from smaller parties and some NDA allies such as JD(U) and BJD and isolate the BJP. The Shiv Sena's initial reaction to Patil's candidature, reflected in the party mouthpiece - Saamna - is being seen as indicator to the possibility of some NDA allies supporting the UPA nominee. Sources said Congress leaders are even looking at the possibility of BJP agreeing to a consensus if it is not sure of support from its partners to an opposition candidate. Sources said in case the front of eight parties puts up a candidate, the Congress effort would be to get maximum second preference votes in Patil's favour.

Meanwhile, Mahila Congress activists, led by their national president Rita Bahuguna Joshi who met Congress president Sonia Gandhi today, said the nomination of Pratibha Patil for the post of President was a matter of great pride for Indian womanhood.

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Badal meets Shekhawat
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 15
Amid possibility of Vice-President Bharion Singh Shekhawat contesting the presidential poll as an independent candidate, Punjab Chief Minister called on him at his residence today.

Though the meeting was officially described as a “courtesy call”, the two leaders are believed to have discussed the presidential elections. Replying to queries from mediapersons, Parkash Singh Badal said Shekhawat was an old friend and had done commendable job during his tenure as Vice-President.

Badal said if Shekhawat contested the poll, the SAD would support him fully and also use its influence among other parties.

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Minister in the soup for pushing woman

Bhagalpur, June 15
Bihar agriculture minister Narendra Singh has landed in a controversy over allegedly misbehaving with the widow of a government employee seeking job for her son on compassionate grounds.

Akelo Devi, wife of Radhe Singh, a driver in the Rajendra Agriculture College at Sabaur near here, was allegedly pushed away by the minister when she tried to plead with him for a job to her son in place of her husband who died a couple of years ago.

The incident beamed on various local and national news channels showed an angry Singh, who was here to lay the foundation of a hostel at the college and inaugurate a mango festival, shoving the woman before boarding his car.

Denying allegations that Akelo suffered a fracture in her arm as a result of the shove, Singh said she had broken her limb a fortnight ago and had come to meet him with a plaster on.

“I did not push the woman but a boy who accompanied her. He was egging her on repeatedly to wangle an assurance from me for her son’s job,” Singh said.

Narrating the incident, the minister said soon after he had laid the foundation stone, the woman approached him with an application claiming she had not received the dues owed by the college to her late husband and sought a job for her son.

“On going through the document I found that her late husband had a temporary job and thus his dependents were not entitled to employment on compassionate grounds," he said.

"I handed over her application to the vice-chancellor, who was accompanying me, with a request to consider giving a job to her son even if it is temporary," the minister said.

He said when he was about to board his vehicle, the woman tugged at his clothes after being egged on by the boy to seek a concrete assurance from him.

"It is the boy whom I mildly pushed back so that I could board my vehicle," the minister claimed adding, "The TV channels claiming that the widow was given short shrift are wrong. I gave her a patient hearing."

Meanwhile, the main opposition RJD has demanded the resignation of the minister from the state Cabinet failing which it sought his dismissal. — PTI

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Nitish orders job for widow ‘shoved’ by minister

Patna, June 15
In a damage-control exercise after a member of his cabinet stirred a controversy by “misbehaving” with the widow of a government employee seeking a job for her son, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar tonight instructed the chief secretary to complete the exercise of giving employment to the dependent of the deceased staff within a week.

The CM also instructed chief secretary A.K. Chaudhary to calculate within a week the arrears due to Radhe Singh, an employee of Rajendra Agriculture College, Sabaur, Bhagalpur district, who died in harness a couple of years ago, and make full payment to his wife Akelo Devi, who suffered the ire of agriculture minister Narendra Singh during a function at the college yesterday.

“The CM has given the chief secretary a week’s time to give a job on compassionate ground to one dependent of Radhe Singh. The deceased employee’s wife is at liberty either to have a job for her or nominate her son,” sources in Chief Minister’s secretariat said.

Narendra Singh had stirred a controversy by allegedly shoving Akelo Devi when the latter had approached him in public to vent her grievance about the non-payment of her husband’s dues and sought a job for her son on compassionate grounds.

Though the minister denied having insulted the woman, TV news channels beamed the footage of him pushing the widow, triggering strong protest by main opposition RJD whose workers burnt an effigy of the minister in the state capital.

The RJD also demanded the resignation of the minister and sought his dismissal from the cabinet if he did not step down. — PTI

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FIR lodged against SP leader
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, June 15
The Rampur police today filed an FIR against former urban development minister Mohammad Azam Khan and Samajwadi Party district president, charging them with “breach of trust” for stocking DUDA material in the district SP office and distributing it.

Home secretary Javeed Ahmed said the FIR was filed following the recovery of some of the distributed material (blankets and sewing machines) from the beneficiaries, who reportedly named the two persons.

The FIR was filed under Section 409 of the IPC late last night. Sewing machines and blankets worth Rs 10 lakh had been received through DUDA to be distributed to the needy.

According to the DM Sanjiv Gupta, the material had been stored at the SP district office, as it could not be distributed at that time due to the enforcement of the model code of conduct.

Yesterday when the material was being distributed, the news spread and the police and district administration raided the SP office and filed FIRs against two senior party leaders.

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’93 blasts convict
Ejaz Pathan dead
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, June 15
Gangster Ejaz Pathan, one of the main accused in 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, died at J J hospital here today, the police said.

According to the police Pathan died after a clot formed in his brain. Pathan had been seriously injured in an attempt on his life in Karachi several years ago. Though he survived the attack, it left him with serious illness, including a paralytic stroke and heart disease.

Pathan had only last week been sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment for his role in the 1993 blasts.

Pathan was found guilty of being present at a meeting of the Dawood gang in Dubai where the plan to carry out the blasts was hatched. He subsequently organised the landing of arms and RDX explosives at Raigad which were used in the blasts.

Pathan was spared a life sentence on account of his poor health. He was extradited from Dubai four years ago after falling out with the Dawood gang. He was earlier shot at in Karachi in 1998 but made up with Dawood before falling out again.

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CPMT Results
Probe into irregularities ordered
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, June 15
Following widespread protests by aspiring medical students protesting against reported irregularities in the results of the Uttar Pradesh Combined Pre-Medical Test (CPMT), the state government today announced a probe into the issue.

After a meeting with a delegation of agitating students this morning, state medical education minister Lalji Verma ordered a probe into the allegations.

Verma assured the delegation to personally look into their allegations and guaranteed that the preliminary probe report will be out by Monday.

“The government will not spare those found guilty of indulging in irregularities,” Verma assured the angry students.

For the first time this year, the CPMT result had been announced on Thursday at a function in the presence of the minister and senior officials in which even the media had been invited.

However within a few hours, students from cities like Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur and Meerut came out on the roads damaging public property and raising slogans against the “rigged” results.

Protest started from Kanpur last evening, where nearly 16,000 students, who had appeared in the CPMT, took to the streets after they discovered that merely 20 were declared qualified.

This afternoon, agitating students in Lucknow’s VIP Lohia Path stopped and set fire to a crowded inter-state bus. Passengers caught unawares ran helter-skelter to save their lives.

Speaking to TNS, several students after checking their results on the Internet said that unlike earlier years, those who had not qualified had not been given their marks-break up.

“All we are being told is that we have not qualified. This is not enough. Why are we not being informed about our marks”, asked a young student, who had missed being on the list last year by just a few marks and this year hoped to see her name.

“After working much harder I do not know if I have done better or worse than last year,” she complained.

However, secretary home Javeed Ahmad said that the detailed results had not been downloaded yesterday and would be done by this evening.

In the UP CPMT results, out of the total 80,572 examinees only 15,086 candidates were declared qualified.

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Mukherjee to discuss ‘Look East’ policy
T R Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 15
The country's foreign policy will tumble out of the closet and come into the public domain when external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee visits Shillong tomorrow to discuss the ‘Look East’ policy expected to impact the development of the Northeastern region.

Since the creation of the Public Diplomacy division of the MEA in May last year, Mukherjee will be endeavouring to bring to the fore the importance of the ‘Look East’ policy in the capital of Meghalaya through a lecture “Geography as an Opportunity” and an interactive session with civil society encompassing academics, businessmen, media and leading citizens from the far flung region.

The interface will largely revolve around developing closer relations with the economic tigers of South-East Asia as well as those in the immediate neighbourhood like Myanmar, China and Bangladesh.

It was during P.V Narasimha Rao's Prime Ministership in the 90s that the ‘Look East’ policy was enunciated coupled with the process of economic reforms of restructuring the market at home and seeking economic partners abroad because of the contiguity of the Northeast with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

This is viewed as a major shift as diplomacy has largely been conducted behind closed doors of the imposing South Block housing the MEA and the Prime Minister's office. The endeavour of the Public Diplomacy division of the MEA is to educate and influence global and domestic opinion on key policy issues and project a better image of the country commensurate with its rising stature in the comity of nations.

Clearly, the opening up of the historic WWII Stilwell road to boost trade between the Northeast and the neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, is expected to figure at the discussions with Mukherjee in Shillong. The 1700 km Stilwell road connects India's northeast state of Assam to Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan province after traversing through Myanmar. The road is a critical link to most Southeast Asian capitals. Talks are on at various levels to speed up the reopening of the Stilwell road.

For the people of landlocked Northeast, opening of the Stilwell road is of critical importance to make its presence felt in the gas rich Myanmar.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said his government is keen to strengthen its ‘Look East’ policy by allowing border trade with the neighbouring Asian countries. The Chief Ministers of some Northeastern states have also desired opening of the Stilwell road to empower the region and become a gateway to East Asian economic centres.

Last year India and China revived direct trade through the Nathu La in Sikkim.

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e-linking of Kashmir and PoK
Home Ministry for speedy clearance of proposal

New Delhi, June 15
The Home Ministry has asked the External Affairs Ministry to speedily take up with Pakistan a proposal for "e-linking" Srinagar and Muzaffarabad for quick clearance of documents of people travelling between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, during a high-level meeting held in Srinagar yesterday, asked MEA officials to take up the matter with their Pakistani counterparts at the earliest as it could be seen as a confidence-building measure initiated by the two countries on Kashmir, official sources said.

The proposal, which came from the Jammu and Kashmir government, will do away with cumbersome and time-consuming procedures due to which applications for travel get delayed for months together, they said.

The ministry officials informed the meeting that the proposal was with the National Informatics Centre as it had to give a technical feasibility report. The matter could be taken up with Pakistan after this.

According to the state government's proposal, two nodal offices in Srinagar and Muzaffarabad will be e-linked to each other. This will ensure that all applications are processed "as quickly as possible", the sources said.

The move is also expected to do away with official wrangling and lengthy procedures, and travel permits could be issued within a few days instead of months, they said.

The proposal was discussed with Central security agencies, which gave their nod to it and even suggested that a secure line should be used for connecting the two offices in Jammu and Kashmir and PoK.

The move is also aimed at benefiting passengers of two trans-border bus services, the Karvan-e-Aman connecting Srinagar with Muzaffarabad and the service between Poonch and Rawalakote, as well as people crossing the LoC on foot via Teetwal-Nauseri in the Kashmir Valley and Mendhar-Tatapani in the Jammu region.

Only 1,700 persons from Jammu and Kashmir and 1,900 from PoK have used the Karvan-e-Aman service since it commenced on April 7, 2005.

According to the existing procedures, officials of the two sides meet once a month at Kaman post in Uri in north Kashmir and exchange documents of people who intend to travel across the LoC. It then takes months for the people to get clearance.

One of five working groups set up after the second roundtable conference on Kashmir in Srinagar last year was asked by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look into the issue of easy cross-border movement. — PTI

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Wheat procurement ends
Punjab gears up for atta-dal scheme
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 15
As the wheat procurement season in Punjab and Haryana ended this afternoon, the state authorities concerned have started preparing to implement the “atta-dal” scheme for poor sections of society.

The Union government had extended the procurement of wheat by government agencies in Punjab and Haryana till today. The government agencies have procured wheat at Rs 850 per quintal and it includes Rs 100 per quintal as bonus. The Punjab government was expecting the arrival of 90 lakh tonne of wheat in various markets. However, arrival had been below its expectations.

However, procurement by the government agencies for the current year was a little more than that of the last year. Till last evening, the government agencies had procured 71,81,366 tones of wheat in Punjab. It was about 2.30 lakh tonne more than that of the wheat procured by the government agencies last time till the end of procurement season. Besides the government agencies, the traders had also procured 6,88,858 tonne of wheat.

“We have cleared the payment of all farmers and procurement operation was very smooth”, said Adesh Partap Singh, food and civil supplies minister. “Our focus is now on the atta-dal scheme”, he said. “We are fully geared up to implement the scheme as all preliminary arrangements related the implementation of the scheme had been completed,” said Adesh Partap Singh.

He said the state government had already purchased 6 lakh tones of wheat for distribution among 13.78 lakh families enlisted for the scheme. Monthly expenditure on the scheme would be in the range of Rs 40 crore per month. “In fact, we have bought about 1.5 lakh tonnes of wheat stock in excess for the scheme. The excess stock will be sent to the Central pool,” he added. The scheme would become operational from August 15. “Tenders to procure pulses would be floated soon”, he added.

In the first survey, the number of enlisted families was about 17 lakh. However, during the review of lists, number came down drastically. Earlier, even well off families had got themselves enlisted as beneficiaries.

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PM takes oath as RS member

New Delhi, June 15
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took oath as a Rajya Sabha member from Assam.

Having been elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha for the fourth term, Dr Singh was administered the oath by Vice-President and Chairman of the Upper House Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in Parliament House here.

UPA Chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, several union ministers, including Lalu Prasad Yadav, T.R Baalu, Ram Vilas Paswan, Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, Shivraj Patil, H.R Bhardwaj as well as Rajya Sabha members like S.S Ahluwalia and Sitaram Yechury were present on the occasion.

The Prime Minister was elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha on May 18 after independent candidate Matang Singh withdrew from the contest. — TNS

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Rane elected Goa speaker
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, June 15
Pratapsinh Rane, former Chief Minister of Goa, was today elected unopposed as speaker of Goa Assembly.

Rane was elected after Laxmikant Parsekar, the nominee of the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, withdrew his nomination just before the election.

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Andhra turning into a tipplers' paradise
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, June 15
Andhra Pradesh is turning into a tipplers' paradise.

Thanks to the growing patronage by Bacchus lovers, the government coffers are literally overflowing with liquor money.

With the liquor sales showing a consistent surge in the last pew years, the excise revenue has touched Rs 6,761 crore in 2006-07, registering a 34 per cent growth compared to Rs 4,800 crores last year.

"We expect the revenues to cross Rs 7,000 crore by the end of the current financial year," the state excise minister J Ram Mohan Rao said.

In May, liquor worth Rs 675 crore was sold as against Rs 498 crore in the corresponding period last fiscal.

The state ranked first in the country in the sale of beer which netted Rs 700 crore in 2006-07.

It is clear from the sales being recorded by A P Beverages Corporation Limited that excise revenue is a key driver of the state economy.

The growth has been fairly consistent since 2001-02 when liquor sales fetched Rs 3,208 crore followed by Rs 3,677 crore in 2002-03, Rs 3,843 crore in 2003-04, Rs 4,500 crore in 2004-05 and Rs 5,363 crore in 2005-06.

The spurt in liquor sales is attributed to the liberal excise policy under which even villages, with a population of 5,000, are allowed bar licences and liquor permit rooms.

Ironically, AP had experimented with total prohibition in 1995 when late N.T. Rama Rao introduced the dry law in tune with his TDP's election promise. It was later lifted by his son-in-law N. Chandrababu Naidu.

The new excise policy unveiled by the Congress government in 2005-2006 had virtually opened the floodgates to liquor business. Unlike in the past when bar licences were granted only in municipalities, corporations and tourism notified areas, the new policy allows even villages to apply for licence.

Ironically, the Congress had promised in the run-up to the 2004 elections that it would re-introduce prohibition in a phased manner.

"The government has to apologise to people, particularly the women, for going back on its poll promise," the TDP spokesman M V Mysoora Reddy said.

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ULFA blames blast on RSS
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, June 15
The banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has accused hand of the Rashtriya Sawayamsevak Sangh (RSS) behind June 13 bomb blast at a market near Hajo in Kamrup district in which 2 persons were killed and over 30 injured.

The RSS regional office here has refuted the ULFA allegation stating that it was against the principle and 85-year-old tradition of the RSS to indulge in such type of cowardice act of violence like bomb blast.

In a statement issued to the media, self-styled major of the banned outfit stated that it was the RSS which connived with one Abhijit Sharma, a police officer in the garb of an NGO worker to trigger the blast in the market in a religious minorities inhabited area to foment communal hatred and tarnish the image of the ULFA.

The police arrested three youths namely, Madhuram Deka, Kishore Das and Ganesh Thakuria after they were caught red handed by the public as soon as they had triggered the explosion with a remote control device.

The ULFA has stated that these arrested youth were in no way connected with the outfit while the police have remained tight-lipped over their identity.

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Model impersonates Miss India Earth

Varanasi, June 15
A probe has been ordered by the district administration into an incident involving a model from Lucknow where she allegedly posed as Femina Miss India Earth 2005.

District magistrate Beena Kumari Meena said here today that the entertainment tax office had been directed to investigate the entire matter, where model Neha Singh, posing as Miss India Earth 2005, duped organisers of a fashion show and a premier coaching institute here on Monday and Tuesday.

Taking strong note of the episode, an inquiry has been ordered to figure out how such a fashion show was organised in the city without permission from the authorities, Meena said, promising stern action against all those involved in the incident.

The model from Lucknow, who has only been participating in fashion shows in the Uttar Pradesh capital strutted on the ramp, mingled with students of a spoken English institute and even gave autographs to children of a school here while appealing to vote for Taj Mahal among the seven wonders of the world.

Neha, who stayed in the city for two days, even addressed a media conference on June 11, claiming to be Miss India Earth 2005 and also introduced herself as the winner of a premier beauty paegent organised by fashion magazine Gladrags in 2003.

''Please ask questions...don’t stick to my introduction only,'' she had told mediapersons, fearing her fake identity would be disclosed.

Meanwhile, the organiser of the June 12 fashion show, Kala Prerna Manch, a Varanasi-based voluntary organisation, has blamed Lucknow-based advertising company Friends India and Neha Singh for committing fraud and fleecing them of Rs 10,000.

''I have already sent a notice to Friends India owner Wamiq Khan and Neha through my lawyer for committing fraud and given them a time of two days to reply, failing which, a case of fraud will be registered against them,'' Kala Prerna Manch president Vikram Bhardwaj said. — UNI

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Man fails high school exam for 38th time

Jaipur, June 15
A 73-year-old farmer, who vowed not to marry before passing his high school exams has failed to get through for the 38th time.

Shiv Charan Yadav has been taking the exams, normally given to schoolchildren at the age of 15, every year since 1969 but without success.

He was in his 30s when he first decided to better himself through education.

This year, he failed in every subject except Sanskrit, scoring only 103 out of a possible 600 points.

He said he found mathematics especially hard, blaming the subject for bringing down his score.

“Once I pass I want to get married to a girl who’s under 30”, Yadav, who lives alone in Kohari village in the western desert state of Rajasthan, told Reuters.

He is now revising for his 39th attempt next year. — Reuters

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