SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Released fishermen speak of ill-treatment
Vadodara, July 4
Released from Pakistani jails, the 50 fishermen who reached the city at midnight from the Wagah border, recounted tales ill-treatment they were subjected to during their confinement in prisons across the border.

Home secy-level talks
Pak again feigns ignorance about Dawood
New Delhi, July 4
India and Pakistan today reported substantive progress on three issues - new visa regime, release of civilian prisoners and fishermen, and greater cooperation between their narcotics control agencies-- but failed to make any breakthrough on the issue of terrorism.

Bangalore police checks antecedents of terror suspects
Bangalore, July 4
With two doctors of Indian origin, hailing from Bangalore, being questioned for involvement in the Glasgow terror attack, the city police today opened an investigation to check on the antecedents of both.


EARLIER STORIES



A zoo official holds a star-patterned tortoise at the zoological park in Hyderabad on Wednesday. About 375 Indian star tortoises were returned to India after they were smuggled from the country and seized in Malaysia last week.
A zoo official holds a star-patterned tortoise at the zoological park in Hyderabad on Wednesday. About 375 Indian star tortoises were returned to India after they were smuggled from the country and seized in Malaysia last week. — Reuters
Pigeons fly in the compound of the historical Jama Masjid as clouds gather for another round of rain in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Pigeons fly in the compound of the historical Jama Masjid as clouds gather for another round of rain in New Delhi on Wednesday. — PTI
SCs to get free drinking water in Haryana
Punjab seeks hike in per unit assistance under TSC
New Delhi, July 4
Haryana public health minister Randeep Singh Surjewala today said the state government would spend Rs 340 crore under the ambitious Indira Gandhi Drinking Water Supply Scheme in next three years to provide free drinking water connection to scheduled caste households in the state.

Melting of Shivlingam
President urged to look into row
New Delhi, July 4
The Shri Amarnath Yatra Welfare Organisation has written to the President, asking him to look into the latest controversy regarding the melting of the holy Shivlingam before time.

Plan to decentralise water management
New Delhi, July 4
Calling upon state governments to empower institutional structures in districts to handle water supply, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today emphasised the need to effectively moblise scientific expertise for location of sources and collective action for water recharge.

Ethanol Fuel
Raise quota, UP tells Centre
Lucknow, June 4
The state government has asked the Centre to increase its quota to manufacture ethanol fuel. This is expected to bring relief to farmers reeling under the impact of falling sugar prices due to a bumper sugarcane crop.

Patil to visit Chandigarh
New Delhi, July 4
The UPA-Left presidential candidate Pratibha Patil will be visiting Chandigarh on July 7 to seek support from the MLAs and MPs of Punjab and Haryana.

Rain brings Kolkata to a standstill
Kolkata, July 4
The monsoon continued to lash the city and the surrounding districts for the second day today forcing people to remain confined to their homes.

Maharashtra told to compensate victim’s kin
New Delhi, July 4
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Maharashtra government to pay Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of a person who died due to custodial torture in the state.

‘Teen doctor’ surrenders
Tiruchirappalli, July 4
The teenaged boy who allegedly performed a Caesarean section at a hospital run by his doctor parents in Manapparai surrendered to a juvenile court here today. 

10 m visit state last year
Bihar turns hot spot for tourists
Patna, July 4
The fact that more than ten million tourists, including 94,446 foreigners, visited Bihar last year, might encourage the Bihar Government to promote tourism in the state in a big way.

IMA bike expedition ends
Dehra Dun, July 4
As a part of adventure activities planned during the platinum jubilee year of the Indian Military Academy (IMA), a more than three-week-long motor cycle expedition touching Khardung la Pass culminated at Nizam Pavilion of the academy here today.

Kerosene scam
Pandemonium in UP House
Lucknow, July 4
Uttar Pradesh Assembly witnessed pandemonium following protest by the Samajwadi Party members on their demand for a discussion on the kerosene scam in the state.

Indian black pearl developer keen to trade tech
New Delhi, July 4
A self-taught Indian scientist who has produced the world’s largest black pearl is looking to commercialise his pearl culture technique that has the potential to change the profile of the country’s gem and jewellery exports.

Seven schools set afire in Manipur
Imphal, July 4
Seven government higher secondary schools in three hill districts of Manipur were set on fire today, prompting the authorities to beef up security measures in the state.

Subbarao takes charge as finance secy
New Delhi, July 4
Dr D. Subbarao today assumed charge as union finance secretary. He was holding the post of secretary, economic affairs, in the same ministry from May 1, 2007.

Ghai ready to pay Rs 1 crore for film script
Mumbai, July 4
In the first ever initiative of its kind, Bollywood producer-director Subhash Ghai has announced to pay Rs 1 crore to any screenwriter who brings forth a complete, bound script which could be acquired by Mukta Arts selection committee on its first hearing.

Jaya, 16 others told to pay charges
Bhopal, July 4
Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan and 16 other owners have been asked by the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) to deposit money spent on demolition of illegal structures allegedly constructed by them, official sources said today.

Security sweep at Big B’s house
Mumbai, July 4
The residence of actor Amitabh Bachchan here was searched today by officials and sniffer dogs of bomb disposal squad of the Mumbai police following information that some subversive act could be carried out there, police said.

Telgi to tell all in autobiography
Pune, July 4
Abdul Karim Telgi, the kingpin of the multi-crore fake stamp paper scam, plans to expose his associates and beneficiaries of the scandal who went scot free in an autobiography that he intends to publish soon.


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Released fishermen speak of ill-treatment

Vadodara, July 4
Released from Pakistani jails, the 50 fishermen who reached the city at midnight from the Wagah border, recounted tales ill-treatment they were subjected to during their confinement in prisons across the border.

"There are still 395 Indian fishermen languishing in Pakistani custody which includes 41 boys who were arrested by the Pakistan's Marine Security Agency while fishing in the Arabian Sea," Raghu Bikha, a fisherman who reached the city via the Golden Temple Express told PTI at Vadodara railway station.

"The Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails are questioned for long hours and harassed by the local authorities," said Bikha while relating his experience.

Bikha, however, refused to talk further on the issue as talking about the situation in jails could jeopardise release of those still in Pakistani custody.

"We were tortured inside the jails and were also asked to wash clothes of other inmates," said Ravindra Sibu one of the 50 fishermen all of whom hail from Gujarat.

Sibu also narrated an incident wherein the Indian fishermen went on hunger strike for getting legal counselling.

"We had to resort to a day-long hunger strike when the Pakistani authorities refused legal counselling," Sibu said.

"The quality of food given to the Indian fishermen in the jails is very bad and the quantity is insufficient," said another fisherman Sanjay Ramdas while talking about how the prisoners were given just a couple of rotis and bit of dal and palak for lunch and dinner.

"We also found it difficult to write letters to our relatives in India as most of the time we did not have the necessary money for the postage," Ramdas said.

The fishermen also complained that the officials from the Indian High Commission located in Pakistan do not visit them at regular intervals because of which several fishermen who have completed their sentences do not get released.

These released fishermen are also carrying a letter written jointly by some of their imprisoned colleagues.

Through the letter, the fishermen have pleaded the Indian government to ensure their early release so that they could re-unite with their family members during the upcoming festival season.

The letter will be sent to the Union government later.

Apart from these 50 fishermen, Pakistan also released a sailor Naran Khera who was rescued from a ship that drowned near Karachi almost a couple of months ago. — PTI

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Home secy-level talks
Pak again feigns ignorance about Dawood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
India and Pakistan today reported substantive progress on three issues - new visa regime, release of civilian prisoners and fishermen, and greater cooperation between their narcotics control agencies-- but failed to make any breakthrough on the issue of terrorism.

On terrorism, Pakistan reiterated its assurances, though its actions point to the contrary. Pakistan once again feigned ignorance on the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim and other fugitives wanted by India and Interpol in terrorist cases. This was evident at the home secretary-level talks, which came to an abrupt end here yesterday as Pakistani home secretary Syed Kamal Shah flew back home last night in view of the Lal Masjid developments in Islamabad.

A joint statement issued today admitted that “frank and candid discussions were held” by the two sides - a diplomatic euphemism normally used in situations when negotiators come up with a number of divergences. The two sides spent a considerable time yesterday in drafting a joint statement, which finally accommodated the points of view of both sides in a mutually acceptable language.

There is satisfaction in the Indian camp that New Delhi was once again able to get a written undertaking from Pakistan on the issue of terrorism. The relevant paragraph of the joint statement reads as follows: “Both sides strongly condemned all acts of terrorism and underlined the imperative need for effective and sustained measures against terrorist activities”.

The next sentence of the statement, however, suited the Pakistanis well. It said: “The two sides recognised that terrorists and criminals in either country need to be given swift and effective punishment”.

The Pakistanis look at this formulation as a veiled caveat against India vis-a-vis the Baluchistan situation. Islamabad has for long been accusing India of fanning the Baluchistan insurgency. India has been dismissive of this allegation. The Pakistani side once again reiterated the charge at the home secretary-level talks yesterday and India again rejected the charge.

Both sides welcomed the release of prisoners and fishermen by each other on the eve of these talks as a gesture of goodwill and on human considerations.

They also agreed to release by August 14-15 this year, those prisoners who had been granted consular access, whose national status had been verified and who had completed their prison sentences. To this end, they agreed that immediate steps would be taken by either side to reconcile their numbers to facilitate their early release on completion of necessary formalities.

The two sides also agreed to release by August 14-15, 2007, the remaining fishermen in each other’s custody on the completion of due process. They decided to take immediate steps to release the fishing boats, excluding trawlers, in each other’s custody.

Both sides agreed that the recently formed Committee on Prisoners, comprising eminent retired judges from the two countries, was a useful instrument to facilitate the release and repatriation of prisoners who had served their prison sentences. It was agreed that action would be initiated to hold two meetings, one in India and the other in Pakistan, within a period of three months by which time the necessary reconciliation of numbers of prisoners on both sides would have been completed.

India and Pakistan made considerable progress towards early finalisation and signing of the visa agreement at yesterday’s talks. Separate working groups discussed in detail the drafts of the revised visa and consular access agreements aimed at liberalising and making existing provisions more effective. The text of the agreement on consular access had been finalised.

Both sides assessed as positive the existing cooperation and information sharing between the Narcotics Control Bureau of India and the Anti-Narcotics Force of Pakistan and agreed that both agencies would enhance mutual cooperation in terms of effective and sustained steps to control drugs trafficking. They also agreed that a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two drug control agencies would be signed at the earliest possible.

Both sides appreciated the continuing interaction between the CBI of India and the Federal Investigation Agency of Pakistan in the areas of human trafficking, illegal immigration and counterfeit currency, and underlined the need to further intensify it.

While India and Pakistan agreed that the nodal points in both agencies - CBI and FIA --would meet periodically to facilitate the early disposal of Interpol related cases, the agreement seems to be on paper only. That is because India once again asked Pakistan to hand over to it “global terrorist” Dawood Ibrahim and others against whom Interpol’s red corner alert notices were pending, but the Pakistani side reiterated that these wanted persons were not in Pakistan.

This was the fourth round of home secretary level talks between India and Pakistan on terrorism and drug trafficking. The previous round had taken place in Islamabad 14 months ago.

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Bangalore police checks antecedents of terror suspects
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, July 4
With two doctors of Indian origin, hailing from Bangalore, being questioned for involvement in the Glasgow terror attack, the city police today opened an investigation to check on the antecedents of both.

Dr Sabeel Ahmed and Dr Mohammed Haneef, the suspects, it was revealed today, are also related to each other.

Bangalore police commissioner N Achyut Rao said even though none of the two doctors had any criminal record, the police had started a process to check on their antecedents. The police will investigate the circumstances in which Sabeel, who was a junior of Haneef, discontinued his studies for one year and obtained his medical degree two years after Haneef passed out from Dr B.R. Ambedkar Medical College here.

The police is also likely to investigate Sabeel and Haneef’s links with religious organisations as it had been revealed that Haneef was deeply religious and had even cited Islamic history as his main area of interest outside medicine, in a questionnaire filled during his study at the medical college. The police commissioner stressed that this exercise was being done on the initiative of the local police itself and that no such directions had been received from the centre. The local police had also not yet been asked to conduct a check on the antecedents of the two doctors by the British authorities.

Both Sabeel and Haneef were friends and their families are related to each other with Haneef being a son of a niece of Sabeel’s father. Haneef’s father also indicated this by saying Haneef had handed over his mobile phone SIM card to Sabeel before leaving England. He said an ‘accidental’ call received on this phone from one of the perpetrators of the terror attack had landed both, his son and Sabeel into trouble.

Haneef’s family has come out with an emotional response in his defence saying just because their son was religious by nature did not mean he was over zealous and would resort to terrorist activities. The family claimed Haneef also had a very good reason to buy a one way ticket from Brisbane for India and this did not amount to an attempt to flee the country due to any guilt. Haneef’s sister Sumaiya, while talking to TNS, said her brother was coming to Bangalore to see his baby who was born just four days back. She said Haneef wanted to take time out to apply for a passport for the baby due to which he did not have a time schedule for his return journey. Sumaiya said the family was passing through a harrowing time as the Indian High Commission in Canberra was unable to give them any information about Haneef.

Sabeel’s family has chosen to be away from the media glare, saying they could only respond after they come to know about the charges being framed against their son. Sabeel’s mother Dr Zakia Ahmed, however, said the family was shocked by the accusations that her son was involved in the Glasgow bomb blasts. She said her son had struggled hard to obtain a medical degree in Bangalore and had gone abroad to further his professional career. “I do not believe he is involved in any terrorist activities”. She said she was in touch with friends and well wishers and was convinced there was any ‘misunderstanding’ which had resulted in his detention, would be removed in a few days.

Haneef did his schoolding from Government Urdu School at Mudigere in Karnataka’s Chikmagalur district. His late father was a teacher there. He went on to do his MBBS degree from Dr B.R. Ambedkar Medical College which is affiliated to Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences.

According to the university records, he was a brilliant student, who cleared his first and second year in first division. He passed out in 2002 and has since been the pillar of strength for his family which had suffered economically after the death of his father ten years back. Haneef worked in Liverpool before joining a Queensland hospital as a registrar nine months ago.

Sabeel passed out from Dr B.R. Ambedkar Medical College in 2004. He had got admission on a free seat. He took took two years to complete both, the first and second years of his medical degree but cleared the final year in one attempt. Both Sabeel and Haneef had worked together in Halton hospital in Cheshire, indicating they were in close touch with each other since the last few years.

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SCs to get free drinking water in Haryana
Punjab seeks hike in per unit assistance under TSC
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
Haryana public health minister Randeep Singh Surjewala today said the state government would spend Rs 340 crore under the ambitious Indira Gandhi Drinking Water Supply Scheme in next three years to provide free drinking water connection to scheduled caste households in the state.

Speaking at a conference of ministers of states and union territories in-charge of rural water supply and sanitation, convened by Ministry of Rural Development here today, Surjewala said the state government would spend Rs 240 crore for providing free water connections and Rs 100 crore for upgradation of basic infrastructure in scheduled caste habitations.

He said under the Indira Gandhi Drinking Water Supply Scheme, free drinking water connection to eight lakh schedule caste households would be provided in three years by spending Rs 3,000 per connection. He added that free 200 litre capacity tank with a floating valve and tap would also be provided to each scheduled caste household for storage of water.

Punjab water supply and sanitation minister Bikram Singh Majithia sought financial and technical assistance from the Centre to improve rural water supply schemes.

The minister also requested the Centre to consider raising the minimum benchmark under water supply schemes from 40 liters per capita per day to 70 liters per capita per day.

Urging the Centre to raise the per unit assistance under the total sanitation campaign from Rs 1500 to Rs 5000, he said the government should allocate at least Rs 10 crore annually for dissemination of information about various schemes to rural masses.

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Melting of Shivlingam
President urged to look into row
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
The Shri Amarnath Yatra Welfare Organisation has written to the President, asking him to look into the latest controversy regarding the melting of the holy Shivlingam before time.

As per reports, after achieving a height of 12 feet in early June, the Shivlingam shrunk to eight feet by June 25. By July 1, the Shivlingam had completely melted, cause of which was attributed to global warming by the officials concerned. However, experts also ascribed the reason behind the Shivlingam melting much before time to thousands of pilgrims arriving at the holy cave before the official opening of the yatra and helicopters operating close the shrine.

As per president of the organisation Rajinder Kumar Sharma, people arriving at the holy cave before the official opening of the yatra means they took these undue means by colluding with officials of the local administration.

“This is a clear case of the administration playing with sentiments of crores of people across the globe,” the letter stated, adding that “by this way the holy cave could have been infiltrated by anti-national elements”.

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Plan to decentralise water management
Tribune News Service

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, July 4
Calling upon state governments to empower institutional structures in districts to handle water supply, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today emphasised the need to effectively moblise scientific expertise for location of sources and collective action for water recharge.

Speaking at a conference of ministers in charge of rural drinking water supply and rural sanitation here, the Prime Minister warned of severe water shortage in the next few decades if resources were not carefully conserved.

He said government agencies must create a framework for collective action with non-governmental agencies and civil society for conserving water. Pointing out that management of drinking water was being handled at the state level, Dr Singh said the state governments should consider empowering district level institutional structures to handle water supply.

Panchayati raj institutions should be encouraged to manage and financially sustain the operation of water systems. He said officers, who today work in the drinking water supply sector, largely come from a civil engineering background while ground water systems called for expertise in areas like geo-hydrology.

Asserting that resources for rural drinking water supply had been substantially increased from Rs 4,560 crore during 2006-07 to Rs 6,500 crore during 2007-08, he said the onus was now on the states to ensure that these resources get translated into actual entitlements and improved services.

He said the central plan outlay for sanitation had increased from Rs 740 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 1,060 crore in 2007-08 and the Total Sanitation Campaign was being implemented in 572 districts.

The Prime Minister also released documents on water sustainability on the occasion.

Rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said lack of availability of safe drinking water in large parts of the country was a "blot" but the ministry was striving to wipe out the problem in a time-bound manner. He said targets of drinking water supply under the Bharat Nirman would be achieved.

Water resources minister Saifuddin Soz called for better coordination between various agencies and state governments for sustainability to drinking water in rural areas.

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Ethanol Fuel
Raise quota, UP tells Centre
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, June 4
The state government has asked the Centre to increase its quota to manufacture ethanol fuel. This is expected to bring relief to farmers reeling under the impact of falling sugar prices due to a bumper sugarcane crop.

Announcing this in the Vidhan Sabha, sugar minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui declared that even at present, UP was supplying eight crore litres of the total 18 crore litres of ethanol being consumed in the country.

Responding to a question by senior BJP leader Hukum Singh, the minister pointed out that there was no booming demand for ethanol fuel, which is a biofuel alternative to petrol.

The reason cited by the minister for the insignificant demand was that though the Central government has directed petroleum companies to mix 5 per cent ethanol in petrol, the order is not binding.

Earlier presenting his case, Hukum Singh said that the state government should not remain passive but take the initiative to push for more ethanol production as Uttar Pradesh had the ideal combination of available raw material (sugarcane) in abundance, mills and even a vast market in the state itself.

Giving the example of Brazil, Singh pointed out that it produced around 16.4 billion litres of ethanol using 2.7 million hectares of land area for production. Of this, around 12.4 billion litres were produced as fuel for ethanol-powered vehicles in the domestic market.

The BJP leader said that with depleting oil reserves, the government should be proactive and create a demand for this environment -friendly fuel. “Uttar Pradesh could well take the lead in this regard,” he declared.

Hukum Singh also suggested that the production of ethanol as a safety measure for sugarcane farmers should be an integral part of the new sugar policy that the new government is working on.

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Patil to visit Chandigarh

New Delhi, July 4
The UPA-Left presidential candidate Pratibha Patil will be visiting Chandigarh on July 7 to seek support from the MLAs and MPs of Punjab and Haryana.

The two states have a combined vote of 23,652 in the Electoral College. While the value of each vote in Punjab is 116, in Haryana, it is 112. The value of each vote of MP is 708.

Minister of state for commerce Ashwani Kumar later told The Tribune that the kind of campaign that we are witnessing for the highest constitutional post does not augur well for democracy. — TNS

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Rain brings Kolkata to a standstill
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 4
The monsoon continued to lash the city and the surrounding districts for the second day today forcing people to remain confined to their homes.

After a brief break for about two hours last evening, heavy rain re-started and led to the inundation of several new places, particularly in the low-lying areas in the neighbouring North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah, and Hooghly, marooning hundreds of people, who were later moved to safer places by the police and the fire-brigade.

City mayor Bikash Bhattacharyya blamed the faulty drainage and sewerage system made by the former Trinamool municipal board, which led the delay in draining out the accumulated rain water from Kolkata.

He said since the rain was still continuing, it was not possible for them to save the city from water-logging at this point. He claimed that all pumps were in operation but since the adjoining outlets were already filled up, the water was again flowing back to the city.

He said the CMC had finalised a master plan for draining out the rain water directly to the Ganga from the city, instead of making it flow through the outlets.

The Alipore Met Office recorded 195 mm rainfall during the last 24 hours. Train and air services were hit for the second day today due to the continuous rainfall. Many mail and long-distance trains leaving Howrah and Sealdah, respectively, have either been cancelled or re-scheduled.

Suburban trains were cancelled, circular trains did not run, air-services were re-scheduled and buses, taxis, trams and other public vehicles in Kolkata were off the road in many places in the city.

The attendance in government offices and other organisations was also thin. Most schools, colleges and other educational institutions were also closed. Shops, markets and shopping centres also could not function.

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Maharashtra told to compensate victim’s kin
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Maharashtra government to pay Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of a person who died due to custodial torture in the state.

NHRC has directed the state chief secretary to send a compliance report along with proof of payment. The case relates to Chandra Kant who died in police custody in October 2002. NHRC started the investigation into his death in November 2002.

According to reports collected by the NHRC Investigation Division, Chandra Kant was picked up by police on October 7, 2002, in a case under the Kaij police station in Beed district of the state.

On October 10, 2002, Chandra Kant died during interrogation when he fell while being taken out of the lock up by Sub-Inspector Sanjay Dattaray Sanap. He died on his way to the hospital.

Inquest, post-mortem and magisterial inquiry showed evidence of custodial torture. A case of murder was registered. The Criminal Investigation Department of the State carried out investigation and sub-inspectors S.D. Sanap and G.S. Kanade besides Dr S.K. Goli, professor and head of department, Forensic Medicine, were charged.

The state CID informed NHRC that prosecution sanction had been accorded against Sanap and Kanade. The prosecution sanctioned against Dr Goli was awaited from the Department of Medical Education and Research, Maharashtra.

Following these reports, the NHRC issued a show-cause notice to the Maharashtra chief secretary as to why the provisions of Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, should not be invoked and an interim relief to the next of kin of the deceased not be recommended. Then the Home Department of the Maharashtra, in a communication dated September 2, 2006, informed NHRC that the state government was considering payment of interim relief to the next of kin of the deceased.

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‘Teen doctor’ surrenders

Tiruchirappalli, July 4
The teenaged boy who allegedly performed a Caesarean section at a hospital run by his doctor parents in Manapparai surrendered to a juvenile court here today. 

Later, a juvenile court magistrate granted bail to 16-year-old Dhileepan Raj. His doctor parents, K. Murugesan and Gandhimathi, were arrested on June 25 and the police formed several teams to trace Dhileepan, who reportedly performed the surgery on March 25.

Dhileepan had filed an anticipatory bail plea in the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court, which disposed of it a few days ago with a direction to the police to produce him before the Juvenile Justice Board, which would decide the issue of bail for him. — PTI

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10 m visit state last year
Bihar turns hot spot for tourists
Tribune News Service

Patna, July 4
The fact that more than ten million tourists, including 94,446 foreigners, visited Bihar last year, might encourage the Bihar Government to promote tourism in the state in a big way.

Tourism, including the promotion of Gaya-Bodhgaya-Rajgir circuit on the international map, besides food-processing and agriculture, was on the top of the agenda of the 21-month-old Nitish government to bring the state’s economy back on the track.

The bifurcated state managed to attract such a huge number of tourists despite having limited infrastructure and the presence of a growing naxalite menace in central and north Bihar.

Official sources quoting latest figures said of the total 1,07,64,714 tourists between January and December 2006, 20,12,647, including 3,964 foreigners, visited Patna.

This was followed by 11,40,108 tourists, including 3,338 foreigners, who visited Gaya and 5,13,790, including 52,917 foreigners, who went to Bodhgaya last year.

A total of 34,822 domestic and 10,885 foreign tourists visited Rajgir. Another 1,41,547 domestic and 2,469 foreign visitors toured naxal -infested Raxaul near the Indo-Nepal border during the same period.

About 400,000 tourists, including 1,709 foreigners, visited Sonepur, the site of the world’s largest cattle fair, last year.

Keeping in mind the huge growth potential of tourism in the mineral -rich state, which also enjoys a considerable forest cover besides being rich in flora and fauna, the state government has already chalked out a plan to promote tourism in the next two years and appointed a consultant.

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IMA bike expedition ends
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, July 4
As a part of adventure activities planned during the platinum jubilee year of the Indian Military Academy (IMA), a more than three-week-long motor cycle expedition touching Khardung la Pass culminated at Nizam Pavilion of the academy here today.

Flagged in by Lt-Gen P.K. Rampal, Commandant, IMA, the expedition comprising 24 risers and 12 motor cycles led by Major D.S. Patwal started on June 9. It covered a distance of approximately 2,650 km, apart from additional 540 km as detours caused by tracks rendered unmotorable due to incessant rains and landslides.

Congratulating team members, the IMA Commandant said such expeditions encouraged the spirit of adventure among the future leaders of the Indian Army.

The expedition did its first high altitude acclimatisation at Manali and advanced high attitude acclimatisation at Patsio (14,000 feet) in Jammu and Kashmir. The team crossed Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet) Baralachla Pass (16,047 feet) and Khardungla Pass (18500 feet) which also happens to be the highest motorable pass of the world before reaching the Siachan base camp. On their way back, the expedition team followed the same route up to Manali. It reached Dehra Dun through Leh, Pang Patsio, Mandi, Pathankot, Jalandhar and Ambala.

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Kerosene scam
Pandemonium in UP House

Lucknow, July 4
Uttar Pradesh Assembly witnessed pandemonium following protest by the Samajwadi Party members on their demand for a discussion on the kerosene scam in the state.

The SP members even trooped to the well of the House and raised anti-government slogans when Speaker Sukhdeo Rajbhar said he would examine the demand of discussion under rule-49.

Leader of the Opposition Mulayam Singh Yadav said there was no such precedence on examining the demand for a discussion under rule-49. He also quoted examples of Parliament in this connections.

However, the House remained distrupted for about 30 minutes during question hour.

Earlier, to a question of BJP member Vidyasagar Gupta, state food and supply minister Ram Prasad Choudhury said shortage of kerosene in the state has led the government to initiate several measures to prevent blackmarketing of kerosene.

He said against the demand of 1.80 lakh litre of kerosene per month in the state, the Centre was only supplying 1.32 lakh litre.

“The Centre has also rejected the demand of UP to hike the quota saying that they have given enough LPG connections to fill the gap,” Choudhary said.

But the Opposition members claimed that black marketing of kerosene was the main reason for the shortage in the state. Some of the BJP members even claimed that poor people were being forced to purchase kerosene at Rs 35 to Rs 40 per litre while most of the kerosene is been sold in the black market to run genset or mix with petroleum products. — UNI

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Indian black pearl developer keen to trade tech

New Delhi, July 4
A self-taught Indian scientist who has produced the world’s largest black pearl is looking to commercialise his pearl culture technique that has the potential to change the profile of the country’s gem and jewellery exports.

Ajai Kumar Sonkar, who is often mistaken for a jeweller, feels that commercialisation of the technique could make India a net exporter of the magnificent gem.

Sonkar, who has mastered production of nucleus and had presented his work before President A P J Abdul Kalam in August 2004, said, he had received offers from corporates for enabling mass production. But, he turned them down as they insisted on exclusivity over the technology that he could conceive in future.

The scientist had earlier announced that he had developed a 22mm nuclei, beating Japan’s record of 18mm, which has a monopoly over the world pearl market.

“My aim is to create jobs for hundreds of thousands of people by making this technology commercial, but cannot allow my research to become a casualty to this process,” said Sonkar, 35, who founded the Pearl Aquaculture Research Foundation in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

His interest to mass produce pearls is significant given the failure of government labs to perfect pearl culture despite over three decades of research.

“Being a valuable product, the project could earn huge foreign exchange... (besides) offer hundreds of jobs to the youth,” he said. — PTI

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Seven schools set afire in Manipur

Imphal, July 4
Seven government higher secondary schools in three hill districts of Manipur were set on fire today, prompting the authorities to beef up security measures in the state.

The motive behind the incident or the identity of the miscreants was not immediately known, official reports said adding no individual or group has claimed responsibility.

Activists of a hill-based students’ organisation which wanted affiliation of schools in Manipur hill districts to the Nagaland Board of Secondary Education were, however, suspected to be behind the incidents.

Official sources said major portions of three government schools in Senapati district and two each in Chandel and Ukhrul districts were gutted in the fire by unidentified persons.

Security measures and patrolling were intensified in Tamenglong hill district following apprehensions that they might also attempt to do the same there, official reports said.

Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh and education minister L Jayantakumar Singh have appealed to the people not to launch any violent agitation but to protect the educational institutions in the interest of the students’ community. — PTI

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Subbarao takes charge as finance secy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
Dr D. Subbarao today assumed charge as union finance secretary. He was holding the post of secretary, economic affairs, in the same ministry from May 1, 2007.

An IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre had topped the civil services examination in 1972. He has wide experience in the field of public finance and has held important posts in this area.

He was lead economist in the World Bank during 1999-2004 and worked on issues of public finance in countries of Africa and east Asia.

Dr Subbarao studied at the IIT, Kanpur, and was one of the first IITians to join the civil services.

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Ghai ready to pay Rs 1 crore for film script

Mumbai, July 4
In the first ever initiative of its kind, Bollywood producer-director Subhash Ghai has announced to pay Rs 1 crore to any screenwriter who brings forth a complete, bound script which could be acquired by Mukta Arts selection committee on its first hearing.

“This is just a glimpse of the future of good writers in the impending times of the Indian entertainment industry. If we say that we are perpetually on the lookout for good scripts then why can’t we put our money where our mouth is and pay one crore for a brilliant script, which according to me is a fair price especially when we are going to spend 25 to 50 crores to produce the film,” said Subhash Ghai, who is the chairman of Mukta Arts Ltd and Whistling Woods International.

Whistling Woods International Film and Television Institute, promoted by Mukta Arts, has extended scholarships and special loans to promising applicants for the screenwriting program.

“Screenwriting is going to be the highest paid profession in media in the future. Hence, this is the appropriate time for the youth of today to understand the importance of this profession and consider it seriously. The writer is the real creator of media - be it films, TV or animation.” he added. — UNI

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Jaya, 16 others told to pay charges

Bhopal, July 4
Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan and 16 other owners have been asked by the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) to deposit money spent on demolition of illegal structures allegedly constructed by them, official sources said today.

Notices seeking money spent on demolition of illegal structures during an anti-encroachment drive, were issued to Bachchan and 16 other flat owners of an apartment yesterday, Mayor Sunib Sood told PTI.

The BMC had razed illegal structures twice last year after some upper-floor flat owners complained to the Lok Ayukta that the constructions were encroaching on their parking area, he said.

The ground-floor flat owners had moved courts against BMC action, but were not granted any relief. — PTI

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Security sweep at Big B’s house

Mumbai, July 4
The residence of actor Amitabh Bachchan here was searched today by officials and sniffer dogs of bomb disposal squad of the Mumbai police following information that some subversive act could be carried out there, police said.

The search carried for an hour from 3 pm was conducted after a senior police officer got a tip off about the possibility that some subversive act can be carried out at Jalsa, the Juhu residence of Bachchan, a police official said.

However, no explosive was found during the search, they added. — PTI

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Telgi to tell all in autobiography

Pune, July 4
Abdul Karim Telgi, the kingpin of the multi-crore fake stamp paper scam, plans to expose his associates and beneficiaries of the scandal who went scot free in an autobiography that he intends to publish soon.

“He plans to bring out his autobiography soon. He has already finished 750 pages of it,” his lawyer Milind Pawar said.

Telgi, recently sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 13 years by a court here in one of the major cases of the scam, will give details in the book of his early life and how he got involved in the fake stamp business after meeting Ramratan Soni while in the custody of the Mumbai police sometime in the early 1990s.

Pawar said part of the autobiography would be devoted to his relationship with co-accused in the Yerawada Central Jail here, how he contracted HIV (Telgi alleges he was injected with the virus) and on developments leading to his agreeing to plead guilty in the Bund Garden fake stamp case in the last week of June.

Special Judge Chitra Bhedi, the judge who sentenced Telgi but has now relinquished charge on being transferred to a court in Mumbai, will find a mention in the autobiography, for which Telgi has asked Pawar to find a good publisher.

Meanwhile, “Mudrank, The Stamp” — a film whose script was inspired by the fake stamp business — is ready for release in August. But an application by Telgi for a stay has put a question mark on its early premiere. — PTI

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