SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Replace Pratibha, Advani to UPA
New Delhi, June 29
Leader of Opposition Lal Krishna Advani today reiterated his appeal to UPA leaders to withdraw Pratibha Patil from the presidential race and replace her with a suitable candidate of their choice in the light of allegations levelled against her.

Undue influence
NDA moves poll panel
New Delhi, June 29
The NDA today sought the Election Commission’s intervention to stop the Congress from exercising undue influence on voters in the presidential election.

Prez Poll: Congress resorting to pressure tactics
New Delhi, June 29
Under constant pressure from the BJP over Pratibha Patil’s presidential candidature, the UPA allies and the Left parties are planning on issuing a statement condemning the opposition’s campaign against their nominee as a public demonstration of support for her.

Nod to buy combat aircraft
New Delhi, June 29
The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) bid to acquire new and technologically superior fighter aircraft today got a major boost, with the government clearing the floating of India’s biggest-ever global tender for the purchase of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft.






EARLIER STORIES




President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam interacts with students at the inauguration of an international conference on high speed transporation in Hyderabad on Friday.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam interacts with students at the inauguration of an international conference on high speed transportation in Hyderabad on Friday. — PTI

No new taxes in Maya’s budget
Lucknow, June 29
With a 37 per cent increase in the budget for infrastructure development chief minister Mayawati’s first budget has made 512 new proposals costing Rs 8900 crore which include a Rs 200 crore financial assistance for augmenting urban water supply named after BSP’s founder Kanshi Ram.

23 kidnapped kids rescued
Guwahati, June 29
The Assam police has rescued as many as 23 children who were forced to work as domestic help and manual labourers in different areas near Dimapur in Nagaland.

ICCR to bid for Gandhi’s manuscript
Jalpaiguri, June 29
The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) will bid for the manuscript of a priceless letter Mahatma Gandhi had written days before his assassination that is slated to go under the auctioneer’s hammer in London on July 3.

PM for transparency in statistics
New Delhi, June 29
Asserting that the hallmark of a country’s reputation will be the credibility and transparency of its statistical system, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today gave an assurance that the government would maintain independence of the statistical agencies.

India to free 40 Pak prisoners
New Delhi, June 29
India has decided to repatriate 40 Pakistani prisoners, including 10 fishermen. They will be handed over to Pakistani authorities at the Attari border tomorrow.

Less than normal monsoon: IMD
New Delhi, June 29
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) today issued a fresh long-range forecast update for the 2007 Monsoon, predicting lower than normal rains for the country as a whole. For the northwest in particular, the prediction is that of a “ not alarming but not so good ” situation between June and September.

Watch a ‘blue moon’ today
New Delhi, June 29
Tomorrow, when the full moon appears in the night sky, it will literally be a case of once in a blue moon.

Cong wrests Madurai seat from AIADMK
Chennai, June 29
The Congress today wrested the Madurai West Assembly seat from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu as its nominee K.S.K. Rajendran won by a comfortable margin of 31,115 votes over his nearest rival Sellur K. Raju of the AIADMK.

Municipal chief among two killed in blast
Chennai, June 29
A powerful blast in the Lok Sabha constituency of union finance minister P. Chidambaram in Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu killed two men and injured several others today.

Uttarakhand ignoring wildlife conservation: CAG
Dehra Dun, June 29
At a time when preservation of wildlife is increasingly becoming a cause of national concern, the management of reserve areas for the purpose is suffering due to lack of official attention in Uttarakhand, which has more than 60 per cent area under forests.

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Replace Pratibha, Advani to UPA
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
Leader of Opposition Lal Krishna Advani today reiterated his appeal to UPA leaders to withdraw Pratibha Patil from the presidential race and replace her with a suitable candidate of their choice in the light of allegations levelled against her.

In a specially-circulated statement released by the BJP media cell, Advani cited allegations against Patil as head of a cooperative bank and those levelled by wife of a Congress leader that the former Rajasthan governor's brother was involved in a murder.

He referred to spate of highly incriminating revelations about Patil and close members of her family and said that the revelations are of such grave nature that they completely and incontestably render the person unfit to occupy the highest constitutional office in the country.

Taking exception to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's defence of Patil by calling media revelations as "mud-slinging", Advani said that the Prime Minister should know that none of these is cooked up by the opposition.

"All these ante-date her selection as the UPA's candidate and can be sourced to verifiable records of the RBI, other government agencies and memoranda submitted by the people affected by these scandals," Advani said. He asked the Prime Minister to tell whether he as a former finance minister would have brushed aside the loan default of crores of rupees by a sugar factory, which hardly produced any sugar.

"I appeal to you (the Prime Minister), therefore, to once again consult your ministerial colleagues and leaders of the allies of your party and nominate any other suitable person for the presidential election," he said.

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Undue influence
NDA moves poll panel
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
The NDA today sought the Election Commission’s intervention to stop the Congress from exercising undue influence on voters in the presidential election.

In its complaint, the NDA alleged that the Congress’ petition for the disqualification of its Rajya Sabha MP Natwar Singh showed that it was using pressure tactics to secure support for UPA-Left candidate Pratibha Patil because he was a proposer to the nomination of Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Talking to newspersons after leading a delegation to the EC, NDA spokesperson Sushma Swaraj said the Congress’ claims that it was its second petition for Natwar Singh’s disqualification as the Rajya Sabha member because of his role in the Samaj Party’s campaign in Uttar Pradesh was false.

“We have sought appropriate action from the Election Commission,” she said. Swaraj argued that the disqualification plea came barely a day after the former union minister proposed Shekhawat’s name for the country’s top post.

Swaraj, Vijay Kumar Malhotra and Satpal Jain of the BJP and Digvijay Singh of the JD (U) submitted their complaint with Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla, whom their party accuses of having links with the Congress.

In its petition, the NDA urged the EC to take “appropriate action” against the Congress, its Rajya Sabha MP V. Narayanasamy and Pratibha Patil for “exerting undue influence” on Natwar Singh and other electors in the presidential election.

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Prez Poll: Congress resorting to pressure tactics
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
Under constant pressure from the BJP over Pratibha Patil’s presidential candidature, the UPA allies and the Left parties are planning on issuing a statement condemning the opposition’s campaign against their nominee as a public demonstration of support for her. In addition, they are also expected to campaign jointly for Patil on completion of the nomination process.

Senior Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee, A.K. Antony and Ahmed Patel are learnt to have discussed this issue with CPI leader A.B. Bardhan yesterday where it was decided that the UPA should publicly rally behind Patil. In addition, they also drew up a tentative schedule for a joint campaign.

Congress leaders will also be speaking to its other allies in the coming days in this connection. The NDA on Friday filed a complaint with the EC against Congress for using ‘pressure tactics’ for getting support for Patil.

It was felt that a joint show of support for Patil will nail the BJP’s whisper campaign that the Congress is under pressure from the Left parties to withdraw Patil from the Presidential race. Such a move is also meant to send out a signal that the Congress is not waging a lone battle and that it enjoys the full support of its coalition partners. The details of the UPA’s Presidential election were also discussed at the Congress core committee’s weekly meeting today.

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Nod to buy combat aircraft
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
The Indian Air Force’s (IAF) bid to acquire new and technologically superior fighter aircraft today got a major boost, with the government clearing the floating of India’s biggest-ever global tender for the purchase of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft.

The request for the proposal (RFP) for the purchase for the aircraft could be issued in early August. Some of the world’s top fighter aircraft-manufacturing companies with the backing of their governments have been lining up at the IAF’s door for the contract.

The aircraft would eventually replace the ageing MiG fleet of the IAF and would also give its depleting strength of squadrons a big fillip.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), headed by defence minister A.K.Antony, gave its approval for the starting of the RFP process, which would lead to a defence deal that could run up to a staggering Rs 42,000 crore or approximately $ 10 billion. It ended almost six years of suspense since the request for information was circulated in 2001 among international manufacturers.

The meeting was also attended by minister of state for defence Rao Inderjit Singh, defence secretary Shekhar Dutt, secretary defence production K.P.Singh, defence finance secretary V.K.Mishra, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major and naval chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta.

An official announcement from the Ministry of Defence said the "process for the procurement of the fighters had been cleared". Under the deal, India will acquire 18 fighters in a flyaway condition or from off-the-shelf and 118 will be manufactured under licence in the country.

Although India's geopolitical considerations will play an important role in the final selection, the government, reflecting the country’s emerging global power, has broken from the existing norms and said that the chosen manufacturer would have to spend as much as 50 per cent as direct offsets on the aircraft or defence-manufacturing industry in India.

Under current rules, there is a 30 per cent offset clause in all defence deals worth over Rs 300 crore. The mover of the MoD was also in line with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that India's large defence purchases should be leveraged to serve the country's strategic ends. Incidentally, the landmark Indo-US civilian nuclear pact has been lurking in the background. This, coupled with the aggressive backing of its fighters by the US government, there has been speculation that F-16s and F/A-18s are already ahead in the sweepstakes. But only time will tell if a US fighter pips others to the finishing line.

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No new taxes in Maya’s budget
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, June 29
With a 37 per cent increase in the budget for infrastructure development chief minister Mayawati’s first budget has made 512 new proposals costing Rs 8900 crore which include a Rs 200 crore financial assistance for augmenting urban water supply named after BSP’s founder Kanshi Ram.

The 2007-08 budget is the first budget of the 11th Five Year plan. It has set a 10 per cent growth rate for the state. The size of current year’s state budget has increased by 22 per cent to 1,00,911.41 crore. Still it remains a tax-free and surplus budget.

To accelerate the development of basic facilities in the rural areas Rs 10,000 crore has been allocated. A newly introduced Dr Ambedkar Gram Sabha Vikas Yojna would focus on integrated development of the most neglected pockets of the rural areas.

An idea of the government’s priorities can be gauged from the major increase in budget allocations. For instance, power sector budget has almost doubled (49 per cent). Similarly, amongst the other areas that had received additional funds are developments of infrastructure (37 per cent) roads (25 per cent), social security (43 per cent) and education (15 per cent)

In her budget speech chief minister Mayawati spelt out ‘sarvajan hitaya sarvajan sukhaya’ as the guiding principle of her budget that she had attempted to make a “vehicle for justice, development and discipline”.

Still an allocation of Rs 322 crore was made for the completion of work for a single pet project - Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar Memorial and Museum. Another Rs 44 crore was earmarked for the long-term maintenance of Ram Bai Ambedkar Vatika. 

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23 kidnapped kids rescued
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, June 29
The Assam police has rescued as many as 23 children who were forced to work as domestic help and manual labourers in different areas near Dimapur in Nagaland.

Additional Superintendent of Police, Udalguri district, L Terang informed that a police team from Orang police station rescued the children in the age group of 5-15 years from Nagaland villages in two separate operations carried out of June 24 and June 27.There were 10 minor girls among them. The police arrested one person called Bikash Bagh on charges of kidnapping and trafficking.

The police official informed that Bikash Bagh, who is married to a girl from Saikia Chuk village under Orang police station of Udalguri district and lives near Dimapur in Nagaland, had taken these children from very poor families after promising their parents ‘free education’ for their wards in a missionary school in Dimapur.

This way, the accused has managed to lure about 40 children from different poor families under Orang police station areas during the last couple of years. However, the farce came to light when one of such children managed to flee from Dimapur and come back to his village early this month.

The boy informed villagers back home that all the children were sold off by Bikash to different persons in Dimapur and all of them were now engaged as domestic helps or daily-wage labourers in the neighbouring state.

The villagers caught hold of Bikash and handed him over to police when he came to Orang on June 18 last to take few more children for ‘free education’ in Nagaland. Police said efforts were on to trace rest of the children lured by Bikash to Nagaland.

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ICCR to bid for Gandhi’s manuscript

Jalpaiguri, June 29
The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) will bid for the manuscript of a priceless letter Mahatma Gandhi had written days before his assassination that is slated to go under the auctioneer’s hammer in London on July 3.

“We will bid for it. We have told the ICCR to bid for Gandhiji’s letter,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters here.

He expressed the hope that the government would be able to get the manuscript. — PTI

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PM for transparency in statistics

New Delhi, June 29
Asserting that the hallmark of a country’s reputation will be the credibility and transparency of its statistical system, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today gave an assurance that the government would maintain independence of the statistical agencies.

“The role of statistics will grow as the country progresses in the path of development towards becoming a knowledge economy and as we integrate with the international economic order,” the PM said.

In his address after inaugurating the Statistics Day celebrations here, he pointed out that in such a situation, the hallmark of a country’s reputation would be the credibility and transparency of its statistical system.

Referring to the National Statistical Commission, the PM observed that two aspects of its mandate are of particular importance.

“The first is to evolve and lay down national quality standards in different areas of statistics; and the second is to exercise statistical coordination among the ministries, departments and state governments”. The PM paid tribute to P.C. Mahalonobis for his pioneering contributions to a wide range of areas, including anthropology, educational testing, statistical quality control, agriculture, flood control and meteorology. — TNS

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India to free 40 Pak prisoners
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
India has decided to repatriate 40 Pakistani prisoners, including 10 fishermen. They will be handed over to Pakistani authorities at the Attari border tomorrow.

“We are committed to early release and repatriation of all those Pakistani nationals who have completed their prison sentence,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a release here today.

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Less than normal monsoon: IMD
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 29
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) today issued a fresh long-range forecast update for the 2007 Monsoon, predicting lower than normal rains for the country as a whole. For the northwest in particular, the prediction is that of a “ not alarming but not so good ” situation between June and September.

According to the latest forecast update, the country as a whole can expect the rainfall to be 93 per cent of the Long Period Average (LPA) with a model error of ± 4 per cent. Incidentally, on April 19, the IMD predicted the rainfall to be 95 per cent of the LPA with a model error of ± 5 per cent.

Director of the IMD's Pune-based National Climate Centre M. Rajeevan, responsible for long range monsoon forecast, confirmed to The Tribune that the country on the whole was likely to receive seven per cent less than the LPA of 89 cm rainfall. In other words, the country can expect around 83 cm rains with an error margin of ± 4 per cent.

“So far the monsoon has been good. But in the coming months some lull periods can be expected, resulting in more subdued rains henceforth," he said, adding that rains for the entire country were likely to be on the lower side of the normal.

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Watch a ‘blue moon’ today

New Delhi, June 29
Tomorrow, when the full moon appears in the night sky, it will literally be a case of once in a blue moon.

People in India and some other parts of the world, including Australia, will witness a celestial phenomenon that is termed `blue moon’, that is two full moons in a single calendar month. The last full moon was on June one.

‘Blue moon’ is an astronomical term used to describe the second full moon in a month, an event which occurs only once every two-and-a-half years.

A full moon occurs every 29 and a half days, while the length of an average month is roughly 30.5 days. This makes it very unlikely that any given month will contain two full moons.

However, the `blue moon’ does not mean that moon will be of blue colour.

More traditionally, it was referred to as the fourth full moon in a season. That is, each of the four seasons of the year has three months, and will usually have three full moons.

Each of the 12 full moons in the year has a unique name like `Harvest Moon’ and `Hunter’s Moon’. But when a year has 13 moons, there is no name for this occasional moon and it is hence termed `Blue Moon’.Another accepted meaning of the term `Blue Moon’ is when certain atmospheric conditions cause the moon to take on a bluish colour. — PTI

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Cong wrests Madurai seat from AIADMK
Tribune News Service

Chennai, June 29
The Congress today wrested the Madurai West Assembly seat from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu as its nominee K.S.K. Rajendran won by a comfortable margin of 31,115 votes over his nearest rival Sellur K. Raju of the AIADMK.

The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had allotted the seat to the Congress as they are part of the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA).

The presence of Tamil film star Vijaykanth's DMDK nominee did not make a difference as he came third polling 21,272. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has marginal presence in the state suffered a jolt as its candidate Sasiraman polled only 1,308 votes and lost his security deposit along with 24 other independent candidates.

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Municipal chief among two killed in blast
Tribune News Service

Chennai, June 29
A powerful blast in the Lok Sabha constituency of union finance minister P. Chidambaram in Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu killed two men and injured several others today.

Chairman of the Sivaganga municipality P. Murugan of the DMK and his driver were killed and 10 injured when a powerful bomb exploded inside his car ripping off its roof at the municipal office.

The police said the bomb exploded the moment Murugan got into the car at around 1.30 pm after finishing his work at his office.

The explosion was so powerful that the car blew up and its fragments like flying missiles hit passengers of a Madurai-bound bus that parked near the spot. Ten passengers were injured.

Murugan’s legs were blown away and he along with his driver Pandi died on the way to the government hospital in Madurai. The spot looked bloody with limbs strewn all over the place.

Tension prevailed in the area after the blast and police contingents were deployed in sensitive areas.

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Uttarakhand ignoring wildlife conservation: CAG
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, June 29
At a time when preservation of wildlife is increasingly becoming a cause of national concern, the management of reserve areas for the purpose is suffering due to lack of official attention in Uttarakhand, which has more than 60 per cent area under forests.

In its latest report, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has observed that the management of six national parks and six wildlife sanctuaries in the state has suffered rendering many wildlife species under stress.

As a glaring example of this, the musk deer face extinction due to inadequate attention of the state government. Its population in the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary declined to 37 in 2005 from 63 in 2003.

Moreover, the state failed to release the entire funds received from the union government along with the state’s share for Project Tiger to Corbett Tiger Reserve between 2001 and 2006. “Non-release of funds by the state government affected the conservation of flora and fauna including the flagship species tiger,” the report noted.

The report tabled in the state Assembly on the opening day of the budget session on Wednesday, has criticised the state government for running the wildlife parks and sanctuaries on ‘ad hoc basis’.

“The objective to protect, develop and scientifically manage the wildlife in protected areas was not fully achieved due to department’s lack of urgency and inability to tackle the problems of biotic and human interference in these areas. Lack of planning, and prioritisation of preservation and conservation measures, delay in setting up monitoring committee and inability to utilise funds also contributed to non-achievement of intended objectives,” said the report.

Due to the government failure to issue notification declaring 4779 sq km as protected area, Rajaji National Park, Govind National Park, Gangotri National Park, Askot Wildlife Sanctuary, Mussoorie Wildlife Sanctuary and Govind Wildlife Sanctuary have no legal sanction.

Interestingly, the notification of intention to create Rajaji National Park was issued in 1983 but no action has been taken to declare the area as protected, which was required to be done within two years. The report said even after creation of Uttarakhand in 2000, the management plans of its parks and sanctuaries were not approved by the chief wildlife warden except for Corbett National Park.

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