SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Rain Fury
Helicopters called in for rescue work in Rajasthan

Jaipur, July 5
Hundreds of people were marooned today after incessant rains created a flood-like situation at Surayata village in Rajasthan's Pali district. Helicopters were pressed into service to evacuate them to safer places, officials said.
An old woman walks through a waterlogged street in north Kolkata An old woman walks through a waterlogged street in north Kolkata on Thursday.
— PTI photo

India’s quest to engage Africa in a big way
Signs five agreements with Ethiopia
New Delhi, July 5
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s ongoing bilateral visit to Ethiopia is being seen here as India’s renewed quest for engaging Africa comprehensively -- politically, economically and strategically.



EARLIER STORIES


Nimitz leaves Chennai coast
Chennai, July 5
After a four-day sojourn here, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz left the city coast today. Sources in the US Consulate here said ship, along with the USS Pinckney, which also anchored off Chennai port on July 2, left around 10 am. Both the ships were heading back to the Persian Gulf region to support coalition forces for peace in Iraq.

Pratibha outstanding, says PM
New Delhi, July 5
Under constant attack from the Opposition, UPA-Left Presidential nominee Pratibha Patil today got a special vote of confidence from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who described her as an “outstanding candidate”, and said he was not apologetic about picking her as the ruling coalition’s candidate for the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Documentary proof against Patil: BJP
New Delhi, July 5
Continuing its broadside against UPA-Left presidential nominee Pratibha Patil, the BJP today asserted that there was documentary proof about the allegations levelled against her.

Advani appeals for conscience vote
New Delhi, July 5
Even as his appeal to the UPA to replace its presidential candidate Pratibha Patil was turned down by the ruling alliance, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani has now written to all MPs and MLAs, seeking a conscience vote in the July 19 election which “could have a far-reaching impact on our national life”.

A Pelican catches a fish at the Delhi zoo on Thursday morning
A Pelican catches a fish at the Delhi zoo on Thursday morning. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Prez Poll
EC rejects Advani’s plea
New Delhi, July 5
The Election Commission today rejected senior BJP leader L.K. Advani’s demand that presidential candidates be asked to declare their assets, saying it was not empowered to deal with the issue.

Bhim Singh asks Patil to withdraw
New Delhi, July 5
Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh, who is supporting NDA-backed independent candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in the presidential election, today called upon UPA candidate Pratibha Patil to withdraw from the contest in view of the allegations against her concerning financial indiscipline.

Semi-nude Protest
NCW seeks security for woman
New Delhi, July 5
Shocked over a woman taking the extreme measure of walking semi-nude on the roads of Rajkot to highlight her torture for dowry, the National Commission for Women has asked the Gujarat administration to take appropriate action and provide her with security.

Tapashi Mallick Murder
CPM leader refuses to take lie-detector test
Kolkata, July 5
The CBI probe into Tapashi Mallick's death on March 18 at Singur suffered a major setback today following accused Suhrid Dutta's refusal to undergo the polygraph (lie-detector) and narcotic tests.

Mansion Trouble
Notice to Mukesh Ambani
Mumbai, July 5
The Maharashtra Wakf Board today issued notice to Mukesh Ambani’s Antilia Commercial Private Limited, asking it to explain within seven days why the plot where he was building his mansion should not be restored to the board as it was acquired “in contravention of Wakf rules”.

Provide safe drinking water: Centre to states
New Delhi, July 5
The government is concerned over the presence of arsenic, fluoride and iron in water resources in various parts of the country and has initiated steps to provide safe, adequate drinking water at an affordable price to all, rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said today.

Maya not committed to anti-tobacco law
Lucknow, July 5
The Mayawati government is in no mood to bring any law to curtail the sale of tobacco, gutka, paan masala or cigarettes in the state, declared medical education and parliamentary affairs minister Lalji Verma in the Vidhan Sabha today.

Samajwadi Party protests ‘false’ cases
Kanpur, July 5
Police registered cases of land grabbing and threatening against a former Samajwadi Party legislator and a candidate in the April Assembly polls even as the party termed the action as political vendetta.

HC dismisses Natwar’s plea
New Delhi, July 5
The Delhi High Court today dismissed the petitions of former external affairs minister Natwar Singh and his son Jagat Singh seeking direction to the Enforcement Directorate to provide them all documents relating to Iraq’s oil-for-food scam.

Another Prince
Rescue hit as crane slides
Jaipur, July 5
The rescue operation to save Suraj, who fell into a borewell here yesterday, has been hampered as a crane slid down the sand, seriously injuring a labourer today. Even after 24 hours, the Army and the police have not been able to rescue five-year-old Suraj.
In video (56k)

Niece scalds aunt in row over TV
Pune, July 5
Upset over being scolded, a teenage girl poured hot water on her sleeping aunt and hit her with a wooden stick leaving her hospitalised here. Forty-five year old Kumuda Tripathi, a college teacher, asked her 19-year-old niece Namita to lower the TV volume which triggered a violent reaction from the girl who smashed the remote on Tuesday.

Fake ghee racket busted
Lucknow, June 5
With the arrest of six persons from Varanasi and Fatehpur district and recovery of approximately 300 kgs of artificial ghee the STF has managed to bust a major racket selling duplicate ghee of leading brands across the state.

Videos
Temple that predicts monsoon.
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Mango harvest decides marriages.
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Rains cause vegetable prices to rise.
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Explosion in the numbers of crocodiles.
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Tushhar and Tanisha pair up.
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Rain Fury
Helicopters called in for rescue work in Rajasthan

Jaipur, July 5
Hundreds of people were marooned today after incessant rains created a flood-like situation at Surayata village in Rajasthan's Pali district. Helicopters were pressed into service to evacuate them to safer places, officials said.

A rail section between Pali and Bomadada railway stations were also submerged and passengers of the Jodhpur-Banglore train were stranded at Pali station since early morning, additional district magistrate (Pali) Kalpna Agarwal said.

All small dams and rivers were overflowing following heavy downpour in the last two days in the district where Sojat recorded a maximum rainfall in the state of 24 cms, she said.

Railways have also taken up the restoration works of Pali-Bomadada section near Marwar junction, she said.

Though the national highway from Jodhpur to Ahmedabad via Pali-Sirohi was still unaffected, it could be trapped as a number of small rivers like Bandi could touch roads if the rains did not stop, she said.

Heavy rainfall occurred at most places in the state since yesterday. Devgarh recorded the maximum rainfall of 21 cm followed by Marwar junction 18 cm, Jaitaran 17 cm, Bali 16 cm, Raipur 13 cm, Sumerpur 11 cm, Pali, Merta, Mount Abu 10 cms each, Mawali 8 cm, Bilara 7 cm, Nathdwara, Sayala, Sawaimadhopur 6 cm each and Pindwara, Pisangan and Degu 5 cm each.

Jaipur also received moderate to heavy rains recording a maximum rainfall of 4 cm in the morning.

The Southwest monsoon would further aggravate the situation over the state by the weekend, a forecast warned.

Eleven of the 17 passengers of a jeep, which was swept away in flash floods in a stream at Dungaria-Rapat in Udaipur district, were rescued yesterday. The vehicle was also recovered, superintendent of police Govind Gupta said.

The search for the missing persons, including the driver of the jeep, had been intensified, the SP said.

Scores of deer are feared have been trapped or drowned in torrential rains in the forest area of Bhopalgarh tehsil in Jodhpur district yesterday, a wildlife official said.

Situation improves in Kolkata

One more person died in rain-related incidents in West Bengal, taking the toll to 19 as life in the metropolis and adjoining districts lashed by the monsoon limped back to normal today.

However, the met office warned that heavy to very heavy rainfall was likely in the next 48 hours.

Regional Meteorological Centre director G.C. Debnath said that heavy to very heavy rainfall was forecast in all districts of Gangetic West Bengal in the next 48 hours with a deep depression lying 50 km off here.

IGP (law and order) Raj Kanojia said one person died in a wall collapse at Bishnupur in Bankura district this morning.

Twenty-three mud houses collapsed at Binpur in West Midnapore district in heavy rains last night, he said.

After two days of disruption, attendance in offices and other establishments improved as some schools reopened.

Public transport, badly hit by the rains, was slowly returning to normal.

Train services on both Eastern and South-eastern Railways in Sealdah and Howrah divisions also improved.

A review meeting was held this morning by the state finance minister Asim Dasgupta, urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, relief minister Mortaza Hossain and mayor Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya.

The state government yesterday sounded an alert in all south Bengal districts following forecast of heavy rains in the next 24 hours.

Fishermen in West Bengal and the Andamans have been advised not to venture out to the sea in the next 24 hours. — PTI

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India’s quest to engage Africa in a big way
Signs five agreements with Ethiopia
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 5
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s ongoing bilateral visit to Ethiopia is being seen here as India’s renewed quest for engaging Africa comprehensively -- politically, economically and strategically.

However, China has already enlarged its footprints in the 53-nation continent substantially and is way ahead of India in the strategic game currently on in Africa.

Diplomatic observers here note that India has to have large footprints in the African continent for realising its mission of becoming a permanent member of the to-be-reformed United Nation’s Security Council. Besides, Africa, with its huge oil and gas reserves, has also become an important factor in global energy markets. China substantially raised its stakes in the continent several years ago to get the share of oil contracts.

Mukherjee’s ongoing visit to Ethiopia, which is currently the host of the 53-nation African Union, should be seen in this perspective. Significantly, one of the important scheduled meetings of Mukherjee in Ethiopia is with Alpha Oumar Konare, chairman of the AU, where Mukherjee is expected to pitch for the AU’s support for New Delhi’s bid for the permanent membership of the Security Council.

India and Ethiopia today signed five bilateral agreements. These agreements pertain to the establishment of a joint ministerial commission, protocol for consultations between Ethiopia’s foreign ministry and India’s ministry of external affairs, cooperation in the fields of science and technology, reciprocal promotion and protection of investments and an exchange programme between the two governments in the field of education. The external affairs minister is also scheduled to inaugurate pilot projects for tele-education and tele-medicine components of the Pan-African E-Network Project. It’s a part of an initiative called the Pan-African e-Network project, which was launched in 2005. Funded by India, the project aims to bring benefits of tele-education and tele-medicine to the African continent.

The minister did his homework well before embarking on his trip to Ethiopia. He had a detailed meeting with 18 Indian ambassadors posted in the sub-Saharan countries in Addis Ababa. The meeting was held yesterday in the Indian Embassy in Addis Ababa. The aim was to look for ways of increasing India’s investment and boosting economic ties in Africa. At the meeting, Mukherjee spelt out in detail New Delhi’s policy on further development and intensification of India’s traditionally close, cooperative and mutually beneficial relations with the countries of the region.

The ministry of external affairs says that many useful suggestions emerged from the discussions and these will help further develop and fine tune India’s overall policy of partnership towards Africa that covers political, cultural, trade and economic, S&T, defence, ICT, health, agriculture and other spheres.

The conference addressed major themes, including bilateral relations, India-Africa partnership, Africa and the world, and enhancing India’s development partnership with Africa. Among the issues discussed was the need for Indian missions to continue providing assistance in times of need to Indian communities resident in their territories of accreditation.

Ethiopia is the second largest country in Africa with a population of nearly 80 million. It is home to the headquarters of the African Union as well as the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The then external affairs minister, Yashwant Sinha, had extensively toured Africa in 2003-04.

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Nimitz leaves Chennai coast

Chennai, July 5
After a four-day sojourn here, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz left the city coast today.

Sources in the US Consulate here said ship, along with the USS Pinckney, which also anchored off Chennai port on July 2, left around 10 am. Both the ships were heading back to the Persian Gulf region to support coalition forces for peace in Iraq.

During its four-day visit, marked by protests from various political parties and environmental agencies on the grounds of radiation hazards, the crew of the world’s largest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier participated in community work in various parts of the city and visited a tsunami rehabilitation village at Kanathur on the city outskirts and interacted with the victims and children.

The crew also celebrated the US Independence day aboard the ship yesterday.

Both ships were anchored about two nautical miles off Chennai coast and an Indian Naval ship was deployed near its vicinity to carry out regular checks on radiation release into the environment.

The US Navy and the Indian Navy officials interacted with each other on strengthening ties between the two countries.

The parties had opposed the docking of the USS Nimitz in Indian territorial waters, fearing radiation hazards. But the US allayed the fears and said the first ever port call in India by an US-based aircraft carrier was a landmark event in the bilateral relations of both countries. — UNI

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Pratibha outstanding, says PM
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 5
Under constant attack from the Opposition, UPA-Left Presidential nominee Pratibha Patil today got a special vote of confidence from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who described her as an “outstanding candidate”, and said he was not apologetic about picking her as the ruling coalition’s candidate for the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Dr Singh, who has already gone on record to rubbish the Opposition campaign against Pratibha Patil as “ mudslinging”, had no hesitation in giving her a clean chit. “I am satisfied that there is no charge against her,” he said, adding that Patil had been in public life since 1962 and held several important positions. “I don’t think she compares unfavourably with other occupants of this office,” he remarked.

On the other hand, he poked fun at the Opposition Presidential nominee Bhairon Singh Shekhawat who, he said, had spent his entire life in the BJP but did not want to contest as its candidate. Unlike the UPA, whose candidate, he said, was getting support from outside, the NDA was in disarray.

Dr Singh’s strong defence of Pratibha Patil came during the course of an hour-long interaction with members of the Indian Women’s Press Corps when he fielded questions on both domestic and international issues.

Like a good economist, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is known to be extremely economical with words. But he was unusually forthcoming during the interaction when he took a dig at the BJP in general and L.K. Advani in particular. This also turned out to be a time for candid confessions with the Prime Minister, admitting that the current agrarian crisis was worrying and that the government had been late in tackling it. He virtually expressed his helplessness with regard to judicial appointments as he had limited powers.

He was cutting in his comments on Advani. Referring to the BJP leader’s recent remark that he was handpicked for the PM’s post by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, he said the language used by Advani was not healthy for a democracy.

When asked if he felt hurt by such comments, Dr Singh said he only felt sad for Advani, who had failed to realise his ambition of becoming the Prime Minister. Dr Singh said he had made strenuous efforts to build a healthy relationship with the Opposition but these had been rebuffed by the other side.

While flagging the UPA governemnt’s achievements, the Prime Minister repeatedly singled out the agricutlural sector as a problem area, remarking that its 2 per cent growth rate was not acceptable. While agreeing that they had been slow to tackle this problem, the Prime Minister said this issue was now high on their agenda. A fresh comprehensive package of Rs 25,000 crore with specific state and district-level plans for the agriculture sector was on the anvil.

As regards the controversial SEZ policy, he admitted that while some mistakes had been made in the past, there was no alternative to industrialisation if India was to become a developed nation. While reiterating that the intention was not to destroy fertile land, the PM said whenever land was to be acquired, farmers must be made stakeholders in the project.

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Documentary proof against Patil: BJP

New Delhi, July 5
Continuing its broadside against UPA-Left presidential nominee Pratibha Patil, the BJP today asserted that there was documentary proof about the allegations levelled against her.

Describing as “bald and mechanical,” the stand by Patil that all allegations against her were motivated, the party said, “There is not even the remotest denial of any specific allegation all of which are based upon documentary evidence, including the proceedings of the court, inspection report of the Reserve Bank of India as also the finance ministry”.

Talking to news persons, BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said Patil’s denial “conceals more than it reveals”. All the allegations were related to the gross abuse of money of small depositors “admittedly squandered away by a bank of which she was not only the founder but also retained effective control till the very last when it went bust...”.

Prasad referred to the recent allegations made by the widow of a murdered Congress leader and said the investigation into the murder was “grossly unfair” because one of the principal conspirator happens to be her brother, a charge found prima-facie true by the High Court, which referred the matter to the CBI.

Besides, there was also a charge of diversion of her MPLAD funds to a trust of her husband when she was an MP.

Describing the revelations about her as “disturbing, stark and very specific”, Prasad regretted that Patil was keeping a conspicuous silence on all these charges which further “reinforced” their suspicion about her involvement, and the people of this country ought to know if a person “with such a past” was fit to occupy the highest constitutional office of this country. — UNI

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Advani appeals for conscience vote
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 5
Even as his appeal to the UPA to replace its presidential candidate Pratibha Patil was turned down by the ruling alliance, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani has now written to all MPs and MLAs, seeking a conscience vote in the July 19 election which “could have a far-reaching impact on our national life”.

In a letter in his capacity as a Lok Sabha member, the former Deputy Prime Minister wrote that Patil faced allegations pertaining to the protection of criminalisation of politics, referring to charges levelled by the widow of a slain Maharashtra Congress leader against her.

Accusing Congress chief Sonia Gandhi of having devalued the office of the Prime Minister by handpicking a person who exercised no authority of his own, Advani told the voters that now the plan seemed to be to have as Rashtrapati someone who just could not act independently.

In a six-page handwritten letter, the BJP leader maintained that allegations against Patil antedate her being named as a presidential nominee.

We in the BJP and the NDA went to the Rashtrapati Bhavan on several occasions, seeking action against ‘tainted ministers’ in the UPA government. But what if the Rashtrapati Bhavan itself gets a ‘tainted occupant’? he stressed in his communication.

Addressing each voter as a friend, Advani recalled how a state of emergency was declared in the country in 1975 and said, “If you have in the President’s chair a pliant person, who is loyal not to the Constitution, but just to an individual, this is always likely to happen”.

According to the Election Commission, in a presidential election, no party can issue a whip, he said and assured them that they could vote freely as their vote could not be called “cross voting”.

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Prez Poll
EC rejects Advani’s plea

New Delhi, July 5
The Election Commission today rejected senior BJP leader L.K. Advani’s demand that presidential candidates be asked to declare their assets, saying it was not empowered to deal with the issue.

The EC’s decision came close on the heels of the Supreme Court’s rejection of a lawyer's plea challenging nomination of UPA-Left candidate Pratibha Patil in connection with allegations against her over her role as head of a cooperative bank.

In his letter to the EC, the BJP veteran has demanded that presidential candidates should also be asked to disclose the details of any cases pending against them.

EC sources said the commission has replied to Advani's letter that it was not under its purview to issue directions to presidential candidates to make such declarations.

"Even though the electoral process for the election for the president has already commenced, it is incumbent for the Election Commission even now to require all candidates to make necessary disclosures as are expected from the candidates seeking to enter legislative bodies," Advani had said in his letter to the EC. — PTI

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Bhim Singh asks Patil to withdraw
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 5
Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh, who is supporting NDA-backed independent candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat in the presidential election, today called upon UPA candidate Pratibha Patil to withdraw from the contest in view of the allegations against her concerning financial indiscipline.

Bhim Singh, who has written a letter to Patil, said he was "deeply hurt that some serious charges have been slapped against a presidential candidate which remain unanswered."

However, he added that at this stage he was not worried as much by the merit of charges as about the impression that had been generated through the media against a presidential candidate.

Bhim Singh, whose party recently withdrew support from the Congress-led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, claimed that the Left had an "agenda" in supporting Patil's candidature.

Urging Patil to retire from the presidential race, Bhim Singh said it would fetch her more glory.

Referring to allegations against Patil's husband in a suicide case, which had been denied by the Congress, he said there was possibility of the police knocking at the door of Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Bhim Singh said though his party's votes would not make much difference arithmetically, there were thousands of legislators who were thinking like him.

The Panthers Party chief, who plans to tour different state capitals in support of Shekhawat, claimed that several MPs and MLAs from the Congress would also vote for him. He took a dig at the Congress for taking support of the Shiv Sena.

Replying to queries, Bhim singh said Patil should take cue from Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who decided not to become the Prime Minister.

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Semi-nude Protest
NCW seeks security for woman

New Delhi, July 5
Shocked over a woman taking the extreme measure of walking semi-nude on the roads of Rajkot to highlight her torture for dowry, the National Commission for Women has asked the Gujarat administration to take appropriate action and provide her with security.

“We are aggrieved to learn that the police did not file an FIR promptly forcing the woman to take the extreme measure,” NCW Chairperson Girija Vyas told PTI.

She said the commission had taken suo motu congnizance of the matter and asked the state police to promptly act against the culprits. Vyas said the NCW has also asked the police to provide the 22-year-old Pooja Chauhan with security.

“It is the duty of the police to take congnizance of complaints made to them and promptly register an FIR,” she said.

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Tapashi Mallick Murder
CPM leader refuses to take lie-detector test
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 5
The CBI probe into Tapashi Mallick's death on March 18 at Singur suffered a major setback today following accused Suhrid Dutta's refusal to undergo the polygraph (lie-detector) and narcotic tests.

Dutta, a prominent CPM leader was arrested following interrogation of the prime accused Debu Mallick, a party worker.

Then the inquiry had revealed the involvement of two other prominent CPM leaders in the district, namely Balai Sapui and Pradip Sarkar.

The inquiry into Tapashi's death, which had taken a new turn following the alleged involvement of the CPM leadership, might not proceed further after today’s development, feared the Krishi Bachao Committee, the Trinamool Congress and the Congress.

Dutta had been taken to the CBI headquarters in Delhi two days ago to undergo the tests. He was asked to sit for the lie-detector test but he refused.

He had already disclosed to the CBI about the involvement of Sapui and Sarkar under whose orders Tapashi (17), who was an active participant in the farmers’ agitation, had been brutally murdered.

Dutta had filed a petition at the Patiwalla Court in Delhi alleging that he had been wrongly implicated.

The CBI was told not to force Dutta to take the test, which would stand in the way of making further inquiries by the CBI.

Tapashi had allegedly been raped and then burnt alive inside the Tata Motors plant site. Her body had been found on the morning of March 18.

TMC leaders Sovandeb Chatterjee and Saugata Roy alleged the interference of Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh into the CBI inquiry which resulted in the present development in the case as the CPM’s support was necessary for the UPA government's survival.

They alleged that Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Prakash Karat had persuaded Gandhi and Singh to intervene in the case.

Mamata and the Krishi Bachao Committee workers had organised the “bhukha michil” in the capital on July 2 against the gruesome killing of Tapashi and the CPM's forcible acquisition of farm lands.

She had also met the President and the Prime Minister and had alleged to them that the CPM was trying to force the CBI to stop the probe.

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Mansion Trouble
Notice to Mukesh Ambani

Mumbai, July 5
The Maharashtra Wakf Board today issued notice to Mukesh Ambani’s Antilia Commercial Private Limited, asking it to explain within seven days why the plot where he was building his mansion should not be restored to the board as it was acquired “in contravention of Wakf rules”.

The move came two days after the state government termed as “illegal” the deal by the firm to acquire the 4,532 sq m plot where Ambani is building a 27-storey skyscraper and directed the Wakf Board to “take back the possession” of the property.

Wakf Board chief executive officer A.R. Shaikh told PTI on phone from Aurangabad: “We have issued notices to Antilia and four other parties, against whom the state government had asked us to initiate proceedings under Section 52 of the Wakf Act for the restoration of the land to us”. The notice asks Antilia to explain within a week why the plot on the Altamount Road in south Mumbai should not be restored to the board as it was acquired in contravention of Section 51 of the Wakf Act, Shaikh said.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who returned here today after a 10-day visit to the USA, told reporters that he was yet to study the latest government order seeking the restoration of five properties to the Wakf Board.

Asked if his government would initiate a CID probe into irregularities in the Wakf Board as recommended by an inquiry committee, Deshmukh said, “We will order a CID probe if needed”.

Deshmukh dismissed reports that his younger brother Dilip, a former minister, had acquired Wakf properties in Aurangabad.

“He is not connected with this. He did not acquire any Wakf properties. Even the Supreme Court has given a ruling on the matter,” he said.

Asked about the recent order about the five properties, Deshmukh said, “As far as I know, the Wakf Board had given a no-objection certificate (for the land deals)”. — PTI

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Provide safe drinking water: Centre to states

New Delhi, July 5
The government is concerned over the presence of arsenic, fluoride and iron in water resources in various parts of the country and has initiated steps to provide safe, adequate drinking water at an affordable price to all, rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said today.

Dr Singh, who chaired the valedictory session of the two-day state ministers conference on ‘Sustainability in Rural Drinking Water Supply Systems and Sanitation for All’, said villages near the banks of Ganges in West Bengal, Bihar and Assam were major areas of concern. Steps were being initiated to deal with the problem and provide quality drinking water, he added.

West Bengal had demanded Centre’s approval for setting up an International Institute for Arsenic Mitigation. It has also demanded more funds to the state in view of the specific problem, he added.

Dr Singh urged the states to seek an effective convergence of various government programmes for protecting and strengthening the existing water sources and creating new water bodies. He asked the states to explore the possibilities of using non-conventional energy to cut down the cost of water supply systems.

The minister called for constructing community toilets and covering all anganwadis and schools on priority basis under the Sanitation-For-All programme.

Dr Singh said rural sanitation could be converged with the National Rural Health Mission for better health and sanitation in rural areas.

The states demanded revising the funding pattern for special category states in northeast and the hilly regions. — UNI

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Maya not committed to anti-tobacco law
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, July 5
The Mayawati government is in no mood to bring any law to curtail the sale of tobacco, gutka, paan masala or cigarettes in the state, declared medical education and parliamentary affairs minister Lalji Verma in the Vidhan Sabha today.

Clearly on a shaky wicket, the government did not give any commitment beyond promising to promptly check the mixing of harmful chemicals like titanium dye and gambier with pan masala and gutka.

The minister also repeated various government orders that were already in place to ban smoking and the use of pan masala in public places or the sale of tobacco or its products within a 100 metre radius of educational institutions.

Responding to a question raised by BJP MLA Shyam Dev Rai Chaudhury, the minister reminded the House that during her previous tenure Chief Minister Mayawati had issued an order on July 27, 2002, banning the use of these injurious products that was struck down by the Supreme Court on October 28, 2002.

Decrying the government for giving priority to revenue over public health, Chaudhury quoted the WHO to underline that tobacco and its products were the single most important factor for the galloping cases of mouth cancer in the country.

Another BJP member Hukum Singh, who was part of the then Mayawati government, pointed out that the Supreme Court had in fact objected on a ‘technical ground’. He recalled that the apex court’s objection was because it considered that such a grave matter should not be taken up by issuing a government order (GO) as the then government had done but by bringing in a law. “What stops your government from bringing in an ordinance?” questioned Hukum Singh.

In reply, the minister categorically stated that the government had no plan of bringing such a law. It was also not planning to restrict the production or sale of tobacco, gutka and pan masala.

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Samajwadi Party protests ‘false’ cases

Kanpur, July 5
Police registered cases of land grabbing and threatening against a former Samajwadi Party legislator and a candidate in the April Assembly polls even as the party termed the action as political vendetta.

A party delegation today met a senior police officer and protested the action.

Former legislator and Samajwadi Party leader Lal Singh Tomar and party candidate in the Assembly election, Mehtab Alam, claimed that false cases have been filed against them.

DIG Harishkal Shukla told PTI that police is not targeting any particular party or individual.

A case has also been registered against former SSP Ramendra Vikram Singh.

Tomar claimed that the incident, alleged to have taken place in 2004 in which he and his nephew Shailendra have been accused of threatening an independent candidate is false. The SP leader also said that his nephew died last year. — PTI

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HC dismisses Natwar’s plea

New Delhi, July 5
The Delhi High Court today dismissed the petitions of former external affairs minister Natwar Singh and his son Jagat Singh seeking direction to the Enforcement Directorate to provide them all documents relating to Iraq’s oil-for-food scam.

Mr Justice B. D. Ahmed, while rejecting the contention of the duo said, the Supreme Court judgements on this issue clearly say that only those documents, which have been relied upon by the government for taking action against the accused, would be supplied to them.

“In the light of the Supreme Court judgements, I cannot hold otherwise,” Mr Justice Ahmed said. The duo had approached the court when the government body had refused to provide all documents collected by it in the oil-for-food scam. — PTI

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Another Prince
Rescue hit as crane slides

Jaipur, July 5
The rescue operation to save Suraj, who fell into a borewell here yesterday, has been hampered as a crane slid down the sand, seriously injuring a labourer today.

Even after 24 hours, the Army and the police have not been able to rescue five-year-old Suraj.

Army jawans have been able to pull an injured jawan who has been taken to the hospital. It is being feared that one labourer is trapped beneath the crane. The Army is trying to remove the crane from the site.

Meanwhile, the Army and the police have not been able to ascertain whether Suraj is alive and safe. Close circuit monitoring has not been able to ascertain his condition. As he had fallen into a pipe, there are less chances of his being buried under earth.

Oxygen is being supplied to Suraj through a pipe. — UNI

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Niece scalds aunt in row over TV

Pune, July 5
Upset over being scolded, a teenage girl poured hot water on her sleeping aunt and hit her with a wooden stick leaving her hospitalised here.

Forty-five year old Kumuda Tripathi, a college teacher, asked her 19-year-old niece Namita to lower the TV volume which triggered a violent reaction from the girl who smashed the remote on Tuesday.

Annoyed by Namita’s reaction, Kumuda gave her a slap.

Seething with anger, the niece collected a bucketful of hot water from geyser yesterday and poured it on the aunt who was sleeping.

Namita then took a wooden leg of a ‘divan’ and hit Kumuda, leaving her writhing in pain, the police said today.

The girl, who had come to stay with the Tripathis’ from Orissa two years ago was looking after household chores of the family, was arrested for attempt to murder. — PTI

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Fake ghee racket busted
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, June 5
With the arrest of six persons from Varanasi and Fatehpur district and recovery of approximately 300 kgs of artificial ghee the STF has managed to bust a major racket selling duplicate ghee of leading brands across the state.

During the statewide raid that STF stumbled upon and sealed an illegal factory being run inside a rice mill in Kanpur. Here duplicate labels; polypacks and tertrapacks of leading ghee brands were found.

The modus operandi was to sell the artificial ghee through small retailers who sold the product to gullible consumers and were promised a handsome incentive in return.

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