SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Govt could succumb to US on N-deal, fears Bardhan
New Delhi, June 24
As India continues to be engaged in back-channel discussions on the civilian-nuclear cooperation with Washington, Left parties have expressed concern that the Manmohan Singh government could succumb to US pressure and accede to the 123 agreement.

India going high on drugs, warns US official
New Delhi, June 24
Party drugs like ecstasy are becoming an emerging threat to India, a top UN official has said. "The problem of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy in India is simmering and we have to be extra cautious about it.

Shekhawat to file papers today
New Delhi, June 24
Hoping to garner support from rival formations as numbers are not in his favour, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat will file his nomination for the Presidential poll as an independent backed by the NDA tomorrow, the day coinciding with the 32nd anniversary of the 18-month-long state of emergency imposed in 1975.



EARLIER STORIES


Actor Suniel Shetty (centre) wishes the bikers good luck prior to the flag-off of the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey in New Delhi
Actor Suniel Shetty (centre) wishes the bikers good luck prior to the flag-off of the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey in New Delhi on Sunday. The Himalayan Odyssey, which is on its fourth annual run, is organised by Royal Enfield Motorcycles. Fifty participants are taking part in the 2,500-km trip which includes crossing the Khadung La, the world's highest motorable road at the height of 18,350 feet above sea level. — AFP

Blind singer Divakar (L) and Kishan Chand. Media reports say Chand, a resident of Delhi, committed suicide and left a note to donate his eyes to Divakar
Blind singer Divakar (L) and Kishan Chand. Media reports say Chand, a resident of Delhi, committed suicide and left a note to donate his eyes to Divakar. — PTI

Gujjars demand Raje’s resignation
Pushkar, June 24
Gujjars, whose agitation seeking tribal status had turned violent, last month, demanded Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's resignation at the community's national meet here on Sunday.

2 more militants held in Lucknow
Lucknow, June 24
The Special Task Force of the Uttar Pradesh Police today arrested two members of an alleged Mujjahidin Islam-al-Hind gang who were involved in the 1993 serial blasts in the Rajdhani Express trains in the country.

Stepped-up Taliban activity
ITBP commandos to protect Indians in Afghanistan
New Delhi, June 24
India is rushing a contingent of paramilitary commandos to Afghanistan to beef up security of its personnel engaged in reconstruction work there in view of increase in Taliban activity.

Book
‘Musharraf’s claims on terrorism misleading’
New Delhi, June 24
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s oft-repeated projection as a saviour of Pakistan is misleading as terrorist and extremist groups have become more lethal and better networked in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the past eight years of his rule.

Cruelty to wife is not abetment to suicide: SC
New Delhi, June 24
The Supreme Court has held that treating one's wife with cruelty or harassing her does not amount to abetment to suicide by the married woman. A Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and D K Jain, while giving a clean chit to one husband Kishori Lal in a case of offence under Section 306 of the IPC (abetment to suicide), handed down the ruling.

2 minors in lock-up for theft
Patna, June 24
Two children, both aged about 10 years, were put in the lock up of Shastrinagar police station here after being taken in custody for suspected theft. Rahul and Rakesh, residents of Digha slums, were caught yesterday with the help of the locals in the Patel Nagar locality.

Kidnapped infant rescued
Surat, June 24
An infant allegedly kidnapped by a gang of security guards from a posh area in the city, last week was rescued from Orissa and one of the abductors arrested, the police said here today.

Surgery by Teenager
Vital documents, computer seized
Tiruchirapalli, June 24
A three-member team probing the alleged caesarean surgery on a woman by a 15-year-old schoolboy at a private hospital in Manapparai in this district has seized some vital documents and a computer of the controversial medico, Dr K Murugesan.

More surgery centres planned for leprosy patients
New Delhi, June 24
Leprosy-cured persons living with deformities can now hope to avail of reconstructive surgery at more government hospitals. Leprosy is a dreaded disease that mainly affects skin, peripheral nerves and mucosa of upper respiratory tract, eyes and some internal organs.

Judgement in Haren Pandya murder case likely today
Ahmedabad, June 24
The designated POTA court Judge Sonia Gokani is likely to pronounce judgement in the Haren Pandya murder case tomorrow. Haren Pandya, who came into limelight for his controversial role as minister of state for home during the 2002 Gujarat carnage.

Evening courts in Tamil Nadu from July
Chennai, June 24
Tamil Nadu is all set to become only the second state, after Gujarat, in the country to have evening courts. The first batch of 11 evening courts will be inaugurated on July 3. While Chennai will have four evening courts, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli will have two each and Salem, Madurai and Tirucharapalli one each.

Gay film festival evokes warm response
Kolkata, June 24
A special film festival organised here to strengthen campaign against gay rights in the country and to introduce members of the gay community and the people of Kolkata to world-class films made on general awareness about gays’ related issues evoked warm response.
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Govt could succumb to US on N-deal, fears Bardhan
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 24
As India continues to be engaged in back-channel discussions on the civilian-nuclear cooperation with Washington, Left parties have expressed concern that the Manmohan Singh government could succumb to US pressure and accede to the 123 agreement.

“There is no ground for a pact based on the present 123 agreement. But, the trouble is there is a danger of our governemnt succumbing to it after the US coming up with clever manipulation of words,” CPI general secretary A. B. Bardhan told The Tribune.

He said, “A few tricks, or clever wordings or phraseology will not dilute the fact that there is a legislation called the Hyde Act and that Act will operate for the Americans.”

The CPI leader’s concern assumes significance, as there are reports that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is expected to visit Washington in August and is likely to spend a day or two in President George Bush’s ranch in Texas.

Normally, most Heads of State get to meet the President in the White House. Invitations are extended to a rural retreat and a more intense interaction with as few aides as possible only to leaders of nations with whom the US has a close working relationship, it said.

After several rounds of negotiations on the text of the 123 agreement, disagreement exist on five major issues: (a) Testing; (b) Right of return; (c) Safeguards; (d) Fuel assurances; and (e) Right to reprocessing spent fuel, reprocessing technology and heavy water technology.

Officials in India and US are hoping that the visit of the Prime Minister to Washington would give the necessary political push to the nuclear deal.

There is also urgency to wrap up the agreement as the US Congress is largely in recess all of August and would be in full presidential election mode in September.

Bardhan said, “As things stands today, I do not think we can have any (nuclear) deal with the US. The 123 agreement cannot come forth based on the Hyde Act.”

The CPI leader pointed out that the nuclear deal has highlighted the need for parliamentary ratification of the treaty and agreements signed by the government.

“The executive cannot barter or sign away our rights even without consulting Parliament. There must be a provision for ratification of agreement by the government. If that requires an amendment to the Constitution, so be it,” Bardhan asserted.

Countering the argument of that the civilian nuclear cooperation would help in meeting the growing energy needs of the country, he said, “Nuclear power is not cheap in the first place. It also takes a long gestation period.”

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India going high on drugs, warns US official

New Delhi, June 24
Party drugs like ecstasy are becoming an emerging threat to India, a top UN official has said.

"The problem of synthetic drugs such as ecstasy in India is simmering and we have to be extra cautious about it. This is not an epidemic yet but a new emerging threat to India," Rajiv Walia, project coordinator with the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said in an interview in the run-up to June 26, International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

"It is a new peril but it has certainly not spread to the same extent as it has in Southeast Asian countries, Europe and the US," Walia told IANS in an interview.

Synthetic drugs like ephedrine, amphetamines and methaqualone are known by many names such as Ecstasy, MDMA, Adam, XTC, love drug and hug. They are often abused during parties.

According to Walia, these drugs are a combination of psychoactive drugs that have stimulant and hallucinogenic qualities and are similar to other street drugs known for causing brain damage. They also damage the body by raising its temperature, which can cause muscle breakdown and heart and kidney failure.

Asked about how these drugs reach India, he said most were smuggled from Myanmar. Although the total quantity available in India was not large yet, Walia warned against complacency. "There have been seizures of synthetic drugs, especially party drugs, in metropolitan cities in India," he pointed out.

According to Walia, seizure of narcotics in India during the past few years suggests that local drugs like ganja and hashish - derivatives of opium - continue to be abused most often, as they are cheap and easily available.

"India is the only country currently producing opium for medical and scientific purposes. But despite the best controls, certain quantities do flow into the illicit channel although the extent is very difficult to determine." Walia added that heroin trailed ganja and hashish in the top drug race, but by and large its abuse was restricted to urban areas and the transit routes of smugglers.

Cocaine abuse too appeared to be confined to the urban elite, he said. Going by the quantity of drugs seized in the last 10 years, Walia felt that there had been no major upsurge in drug abuse, though there was a slight upward trend.

Drug enforcement officials throughout the world have a rule of thumb - the quantity of drugs seized by the authorities is about 10 per cent of the quantity being smuggled.

Going by that, an average of 10 tonnes of heroin have been smuggled into India every year over the past decade, Walia said. Some of it was smuggled in from the Maynmar border and the rest from Afghanistan via Pakistan.

But India was a relatively small player in the smuggling of heroin out of Afghanistan, Walia felt, since that country produced an average of 610 tonnes of heroin every year.

He stressed that the number of specially trained people in various drug law enforcement agencies should be increased to fight the menace more effectively.

The UNODC (www.unodc.org) runs various courses to train people in police and paramilitary forces as well as specialised drug law enforcement agencies. It also provides specialised equipment to the authorities. — IANS

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Shekhawat to file papers today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 24
Hoping to garner support from rival formations as numbers are not in his favour, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat will file his nomination for the Presidential poll as an independent backed by the NDA tomorrow, the day coinciding with the 32nd anniversary of the 18-month-long state of emergency imposed in 1975.

The race for selecting the 12th President has already gained momentum with UPA candidate Pratibha Patil filing her nomination papers yesterday. With incumbent A.P.J. Abdul Kalam withdrawing from the race to Raisina Hills, the former Rajasthan Governor is emerging as a front-runner for the President.

Given the unity displayed by the UPA-Left grouping against a second term for Kalam and the newly formed Third Front, christened the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA), ruling out support for Shekhawat, the 84-year-old three-time Rajasthan Chief Minister has a hard task ahead of the July 19 poll.

But, the mudslinging against Pratibha Patil has evoked sharp reaction from Left parties.

“It was only natural for the RSS-BJP and their proactive slander machinery to spring into action on such occasions,” CPM leader Sitaram Yechury told reporters after a meeting of the party politburo here.

Responding to questions on the allegations against Patil, he said agriculture minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar had made it clear that Patil’s name did not figure anywhere in a Jalgaon murder case. She was also not the head of the sugar mill that along with 73 others had defaulted on bank loans as it had turned sick.

He alleged that such acts of slander reflected the opposition’s desperation as they did not have the numbers to win the poll.

As there are no takers for the NDA call of a “conscience vote” as in the 1969 Presidential election and members of the UPA-Left combine are hoping it will be smooth sailing for Patil.

The UPA-Left and the Bahujan Samaj Party have around 5,70,265 votes.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has around 3,54,689 votes, while the UNPA has 1,06,281 votes.

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Gujjars demand Raje’s resignation

Pushkar, June 24
Gujjars, whose agitation seeking tribal status had turned violent, last month, demanded Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje's resignation at the community's national meet here on Sunday.

The Mahapanchayat or mass meet was called to finalise the future course of action on the community's demand for Scheduled Tribe status that would give them better job and educational opportunities.

Thousands of Gujjars who came here from all over the country expressed anger at the way the state government responded to the agitation.

The agitation from May 29 to June 4 had paralysed Rajasthan for a week and at least 26 people were killed, many in police firing and hundreds injured.

"The chief minister should resign on moral grounds," the resolution passed in the meeting said.

Speaker after speaker demanded an inquiry into the police firing and a hike in the compensation for those killed in firing.

"The government has announced a compensation of Rs 500,000 to the family of each of those killed in firing. It should be increased and the government should also offer a job to a family member of every person killed in firing," the resolution said.

Violence ended after Colonel Kirori Lal Bainsla, the head of the Gujjar Aarakshan Sangharsh Samiti that spearheaded the agitation and the state government arrived at an agreement on June 4.

According to the agreement, a retired high court judge will head a three-member high-powered committee to look into the Gujjar demand and report to the state government in three months.

"We will see what the government does in next three months and if there is no progress from the government side we would be forced to step up our agitation," said Govind Singh Gujjar, president of the Rajasthan Yuva Gujjar Mahasabha.

He said a 15-member team was formed that will step up the movement top press for the demand.

Requesting his brethren not to politicise the issue, Colonel Bainsala said: "I am ready to do whatever I can for the community.”

"I am not here to fight elections and I request others, especially people from political parties, to let me work for the cause of the community," he said. — IANS

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2 more militants held in Lucknow

Lucknow, June 24
The Special Task Force (STF) of the Uttar Pradesh Police today arrested two members of an alleged Mujjahidin Islam-al-Hind gang who were involved in the 1993 serial blasts in the Rajdhani Express trains in the country.

The STF personnel arrested Mohammad Salim and Aslam here this afternoon with the duo also charged with supplying explosive to blow up Lucknow-Delhi bus near Sitapur on May 26 last. However, they could not place the explosives inside the bus. 
SSP (STF) Amitabh Yash here said both the accused were residents of the adjoining Hardoi district and were linked with Mujahidin Islam-al-Hind outfit.

A homemade rifle, two pistols, three mobile phones, eight fake driving licences and 45 vehicle keys were recovered from them.

During interrogation, Salim admitted that he had supplied the explosives and was involved in a fake currency racket. — UNI

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Stepped-up Taliban activity
ITBP commandos to protect Indians in Afghanistan

New Delhi, June 24
India is rushing a contingent of paramilitary commandos to Afghanistan to beef up security of its personnel engaged in reconstruction work there in view of increase in Taliban activity.

At least 134 highly trained ITBP commandos will be sent in two batches beginning this week for the protection of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) personnel constructing a crucial highway in Afghanistan, sources told PTI here.

Seventyfive commandos will be sent in the first batch in view of the urgent security requirement cited by the BRO, the sources said.

In the next batch, 59 more commandos will be sent early next month, they said, adding they are at present being given training for the specific task.

With the reinforcements, the total number of ITBP commandos in Afghanistan for the protection of Indian workers will go up to 388 as 254 are already there.

The decision to send additional commandos was taken in response to a recent SOS from the BRO, which is engaged in the construction of the 218-km Zaranj-Delaram highway, a strategic road that will connect Kandahar to Iran border.

The BRO, whose 300 personnel are constructing the crucial road, sent the request as it feared the Taliban could target its workers to prevent them from carrying out their task.

In the recent months, Taliban activities have increased substantially, particularly in south Afghanistan, triggering fears about the safety of BRO personnel.

The BRO, which is in Afghanistan since 2002, has already lost one of its men in Afghanistan. M.K. Kutty, a driver with the BRO, was kidnapped and killed by the Taliban in November 2005.

The Taliban had then demanded that India end its reconstruction operations in Afghanistan failing which others will meet the same fate.

Three months later, the Taliban kidnapped and killed another Indian, K. Suryanarayana, who was engaged in a telecom project and repeated its threat.

India refused to be cowed down by the threats but rushed 218 ITBP commandos to protect its workers there in view of these incidents. Thirty-six ITBP personnel were already there for protection of Indian embassy and its staff.

There have been more incidents of threats and attacks by the Taliban after that to prevent reconstruction work being done by the BRO, the sources said.

Due to security and related issues, the estimated cost of the Zaranj-Delaram road project, targeted to be completed by May next year, has almost doubled from Rs 377 crore to Rs 730 crore. After additional ITBP commandos start work, the cost of the project is expected to go up to Rs 746 crore.

Nearly, two-third of the work has been completed, the sources said, adding construction is now going on in areas having substantial Taliban presence. — PTI

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Book
‘Musharraf’s claims on terrorism misleading’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 24
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s oft-repeated projection as a saviour of Pakistan is misleading as terrorist and extremist groups have become more lethal and better networked in Pakistan and Afghanistan during the past eight years of his rule.

A new book which critically examines Musharraf’s role in the much-talked about global war on terrorism clearly debunks his claims of fighting extremism and warns of its repercussions on the regional security and stability.

The book, “The General and Jihad”, authored by Wilson John, a senior fellow with Observer Research Foundation, exposes Musharraf’s duplicity in dealing with terrorism, his policy of keeping the jihadi option alive as a strategic tool and exploiting the presence of jihadi terrorists in Pakistan to project himself as a saviour of Pakistan.

No other country in the world has spawned and supported as many extremist and terrorist groups as Pakistan, says the book. The size of the jihadi population could be gauged from a simple fact that Karachi alone has 30 terrorist groups.

Many of these groups are sectarian in nature, some purely criminal while others are aligned with al-Qaida and the Taliban, all of them, however, boast of links with the ISI.

Musharraf has claimed time and again that he has been trying to put these jihadi groups in check. He has launched several high-profile campaigns to rid Pakistan of terrorists and has even caught a few of them for the USA.

Nothing can be more misleading, argues the book. It documents Pakistan’s role in the US-led global war on terror and points out that the campaign has only created more terrorist groups in Pakistan, more lethal, better armed and networked before September 11, 2001.

Musharraf, since 1999, has not only allowed various religious extremist and terrorist organisations to set up their offices in different parts of Pakistan but has also promoted establishment of madrasas that are increasingly becoming centres of fundamentalism. In 1971, there were 900 such madrasas in Pakistan; today these exceed 9,500 and the unregistered madrasas number close to 50,000.

The book points out that it was this religious-military-terror nexus that masterminded the

Kandahar hijacking of December 1999, barely two months after his coup. The hijacking of IC-814 Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi was not an isolated incident. It was part of a carefully worked out strategy to raise the level of proxy war against India.

The book says there were enough clues to expose the Pakistan’s hand in the hijacking. Of the five hijackers, four were from Pakistan. These hijackers were constantly in touch with the Pak Army’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi.

To facilitate communication, Pak intelligence officers in Kathmandu had given them a satellite phone. In fact, the ISI and Army officers in Kathmandu had planned the entire operation.

Jaish was only part of the overall Kashmir plan drawn up by Musharraf, who was forced to withdraw from Kargil early 1999. He promoted another terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT), with equal munificence.

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Cruelty to wife is not abetment to suicide: SC

New Delhi, June 24
The Supreme Court has held that treating one's wife with cruelty or harassing her does not amount to abetment to suicide by the married woman.

A Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and D K Jain, while giving a clean chit to one husband Kishori Lal in a case of offence under Section 306 of the IPC (abetment to suicide), handed down the ruling.

According to the prosecution, the deceased Rajkumari, had committed suicide in her matrimonial home on August 31, 1982 due to alleged harassment by her husband Kishori Lal. Lal was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by the trial court and his appeal was dismissed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The apex court, while giving a clean chit to the appellant observed, '' In cases of alleged abetment of suicide, there must be proof of direct or indirect acts of incitement to the commission of suicide. The mere fact that the husband has treated his deceased wife with cruelty is not enough''.

The court further added, '' Merely on the allegations of harassment conviction in terms of Section 306 of the IPC is not sustainable. There is ample evidence on record that the deceased was disturbed because she could not give birth to a child. The deceased was upset due to this, according to statements made by three prosecution witnesses.'' '' If the background facts are analysed, it is crystal clear that the prosecution has failed to establish its case.

That being so, the appeal deserves to be allowed, which we direct'', the court added. — UNI

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2 minors in lock-up for theft

Patna, June 24
Two children, both aged about 10 years, were put in the lock up of Shastrinagar police station here after being taken in custody for suspected theft.

Rahul and Rakesh, residents of Digha slums, were caught yesterday with the help of the locals in the Patel Nagar locality and lodged in the lock-up in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act before being handed over to their guardians by the orders of the officer in-charge of the police station.

Five youngsters were found loitering on the road No 10 of Patel Nagar, where petty thefts by juveniles are rampant and the locals informed the police about their presence following which the two were taken in custody while the others escaped, officer in-charge Kumod Kumar told PTI today.

The patrol party handed them over at the police station from where one of them tried to escape. This prompted a constable to bundle them in the lock-up where the children stayed for about half-an-hour, the officer said.

Kumar said when he reached the police station and saw the children behind the bars, he immediately ordered them to be taken out.

He said the children's claim that they were rounded up for stealing 'jamuns' was false as there are no jamun trees in the area.

As it was found in the inquiry that the duo had no record history of crime, they were handed over to their guardians.

A report has been submitted to the SP (city) Anwar Hussain against the errant constable for putting the boys in the lock up for taking appropriate action, he said. — PTI

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Kidnapped infant rescued

Surat, June 24
An infant allegedly kidnapped by a gang of security guards from a posh area in the city, last week was rescued from Orissa and one of the abductors arrested, the police said here today.

One-and-half year old Pranshu Sirohiya, was rescued from Khurda district of Orissa yesterday and one of the abductors had been arrested, police commissioner R M S Brar said.

The main accused, however, is still at large, he said.

The boy was safe and would be united with his parents soon, the senior official said.

The official did not divulge at this point if the kidnapping was for ransom or there was some other motive.

The rescued boy's father Paresh Sirohiya who works as a manager in a diamond polishing firm said that he was very relieved to hear that his son was safe. — PTI

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Surgery by Teenager
Vital documents, computer seized

Tiruchirapalli, June 24
A three-member team probing the alleged caesarean surgery on a woman by a 15-year-old schoolboy at a private hospital in Manapparai in this district has seized some vital documents and a computer of the controversial medico, Dr K Murugesan.

Reliable sources said the investigation team had seized some vital documents and a computer system from Dr Murugesan at Mathi Surgical and Maternity Hospital, where M Dhileepan Raj, a Class X student, conducted the surgery, as claimed by his father earlier. The team sealed the computer and it would be opened tomorrow in the presence of Dr Murugesan for verification. The doctor had left for Chennai to attend a meeting of Indian Medical Council, Tamil Nadu Chapter.

The team, led by Tiruchirapalli revenue divisional officer (RDO) S Ramanidharan, is verifying the documents seized from the hospital and compiling the probe details to be submitted to the DC.

Doctors for action

Chennai: Coming down heavily on a doctor who allegedly allowed his 15-year-old son to perform a Caesarean section to set a record, the medical fraternity in Tamil Nadu today appealed to the state medical council to initiate disciplinary action against him.

The Tamil Nadu branch of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), which met here, adopted a resolution to this effect.

State IMA secretary Ravishankar said the executive committee of the association would meet in the end of July or in the first week of August to decide on cancelling Murugesan’s membership of the IMA. — UNI, PTI

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More surgery centres planned for leprosy patients
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 24
Leprosy-cured persons living with deformities can now hope to avail of reconstructive surgery at more government hospitals.

Leprosy is a dreaded disease that mainly affects skin, peripheral nerves and mucosa of upper respiratory tract, eyes and some internal organs.

The director of the National Leprosy Elimination Programme (NLEP), Dr P.L.Joshi, is keen on setting up reconstructive units in government hospitals for the benefit of the leprosy-cured persons in urgent need of treatment for deformities.

During a recent visit to Uttarakhand, Dr Joshi identified four government hospitals in the hill state to train orthopaedic and general surgeons in reconstructive surgery. These are in Dehradun, Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar and Haldwani.

The NLEP wants to impart training to more orthopaedic surgeons and general surgeons working in government hospitals across the country to provide prompt surgical interventions to the leprosy cured. This would in turn expedite their rehabilitation.

According to the NLEP, there are presently only 18 hospitals across the country that provide reconstructive surgery for the leprosy cured.

According to NLEP figures of March 2006, the total number of leprosy cases in India was 1,39,252.

The NLEP says that 1 to 2 per cent of these 1,39,252 persons may need reconstructive surgery for deformities.

In March this year, the NLEP reported a national prevalence rate of 0.72 case per 10,000 population.

Dr Joshi said the decline in national prevalence rate of leprosy from 0.84 in March 2006 to 0.72 in March this year is discernible and encouraging.

Sources in the NLEP said that although leprosy has been eliminated in India at the national level, it is yet to be eliminated in states as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh are also lagging behind in leprosy elimination efforts. Economic migrants who don't belong to the indigenous population in Chandigarh have contributed to the leprosy burden in these two UTs.

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Judgement in Haren Pandya murder case likely today

Ahmedabad, June 24
The designated POTA court Judge Sonia Gokani is likely to pronounce judgement in the Haren Pandya murder case tomorrow.

Haren Pandya, who came into limelight for his controversial role as minister of state for home during the 2002 Gujarat carnage, was killed under mysterious circumstances on March 26, 2003 in Ahmedabad, seven months after the 43-year-old politician quit the Narendra Modi ministry.

The CBI which investigated the case had filed a charge sheet against 19 accused in the case, in which the trial has also ended.

According to the prosecution, on March 26, 2003, accused Asghar Ali and Yunus were handed over a loaded revolver and a pistol by Anas Machiswala. Thereafter, Yunus armed with these weapons drove Asghar Ali to the Law Garden area of the city where the slain leader used to come every day for morning walk.

On that fateful day as soon as Haren Pandya arrived at about 7.30 am in his car and parked it at his regular place, Asghar Ali, who was waiting for him, allegedly fired five rounds at him before fleeing from the spot. — UNI

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Evening courts in Tamil Nadu from July

Chennai, June 24
Tamil Nadu is all set to become only the second state, after Gujarat, in the country to have evening courts. The first batch of 11 evening courts will be inaugurated on July 3.

While Chennai will have four evening courts, Coimbatore and Tirunelveli will have two each and Salem, Madurai and Tirucharapalli one each.

They will function from 6 pm to 8 pm on all working days official sources here today informed.

These courts, which were only in the Metropolitan/Judicial Magistrate court category for now, will consider and dispose of petty cases. The presiding officers will be regular and serving judges, who will be entitled to extra remuneration.

The officials said the first batch of 11 courts would come into existence on an experimental basis and depending on its success the state government in consultation with the Madras High Court, would accord permission for more evening courts in other parts of the state.

Meanwhile, judicial officers across the country ranging from Judicial Magistrates to Supreme Court judges, would be getting a laptop on July 9.

In Tamil Nadu, Chief Justice A P Shah would disburse laptops to judicial officers in Chennai. — UNI

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Gay film festival evokes warm response

Kolkata, June 24
A special film festival organised here to strengthen campaign against gay rights in the country and to introduce members of the gay community and the people of Kolkata to world-class films made on general awareness about gays’ related issues evoked warm response.

The two-day fest, organised by Pratyay Gender Trust and Sappho for Equality, both organisations fighting for the rights of the alternative people, concluded yesterday with most of the films screened here dwelt on the success and failures of people with different sexual orientations.

Eight films directed by national and international directors that addressed the issues of lesbianism, homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender issues were featured during the festival.

The festival, with the theme “Ending homophobic violence”, showcased films like “The Investigator” by Chris Oxley; “Licensed to Kill” by Arthur Dong; “Breakfast on Pluto” by Neil Jordan; a Bengali film “Being Mate, Being Koti” by Mahuya Bandopadhyay and French film “Ma Vie en Rose”. — ANI

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