SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Petition against Pratibha’s nomination
Commission’s rejection challenged in SC

New Delhi, July 12
The Election Commission (EC) order of rejecting a petition for cancellation of presidential candidate Pratibha Patil’s nomination on the question of her alleged “insolvency” was challenged in the Supreme Court today.

CPM changes tack for V-P poll
Contribution, not political background, wanted
New Delhi, July 12
Harping a different tune for the Vice-Presidential election, the CPI (M) today said the ruling UPA’s candidate for the August 10 election need not be a person with political background.

West Bengal Assembly
Singur causes an uproar, again
Kolkata, July 12
The Singur-Nandigram issues led to uproar during the discussions on the police budget in the Assembly today. Demanding the death penalty for the accused CPI (M) leaders in the Tapashi Mallick murder case, the Trinamool Congress and Congress (l) jointly protested.



EARLIER STORIES


Cheema meets Sonia
New Delhi, July 12
Punjab Congress vice-president M.M. Singh Cheema met party president Sonia Gandhi yesterday to apprise her of the political situation in the state and issues concerning the state unit.

Sonia inaugurates hospital train
New Delhi, July 12
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi today inaugurated a new hospital train as part of a 1991 rail medical service for the poor living in remote rural areas of the country. The new 'Lifeline Express', a project of the Indian Railways and NGO Impact India, is a five-coach hospital train having a sophisticated main operation theatre, a medical store, an office and a six-bed post-operative ward.
In video (56k)


UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi at the inauguration of Lifeline Express hospital train, in New Delhi on Thursday. — Tribune Photo by Manas Ranjan Bhui

UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi at the inauguration of Lifeline Express hospital train, in New Delhi

Law on girl’s marriageable age
SC notice to Centre, NCW
New Delhi, July 12
Making Haryana teenager Puja’s runaway marriage a test case for resolving the conflict in various laws on definition of child, the Supreme Court today issued notices to the Centre and National Commission for Women on a petition by her father seeking to bring uniformity in the definition of the marriageable age of a girl.

Sohrabuddin case: CID finds no political link
Ahmedabad, July 12
The Gujarat CID, probing the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which over a dozen policemen including IPS officers have been arrested, has not found any political link to the stage-managed murder, a senior official of the agency said today.

CM prefers actor’s function to meeting on terror
Bangalore, July 12
Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has been too busy since the past two days to preside over a high-level meeting called by him to review the Bangalore link in the UK terror attacks but could take time off to release a biography of an actor and even address people agitating about a piece of land which they claim has been appropriated by the government.

Maoists go on arson spree
Hyderabad, July 12
Close on the heels of killing 25 policemen in Chhattisgarh, the Maoists went on a rampage in Andhra Pradesh, attacking three government buildings including an electricity sub-station leading to power blackout in several villages.

PM promises justice in Mumbai blasts
New Delhi, July 12
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh today assured the nation that all the accused in last year's serial blasts in Mumbai's local trains would be punished. Taking stock of the investigation into the bomb blasts in Mumbai's trains, Dr Manmohan Singh said, “All those against whom cases have already been registered and all those who are wanted in this case will be brought to justice.

Opposition to sex education troubles Ramadoss
New Delhi, July 12
Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss is troubled over the mental block that we Indians have over talking about sex. Speaking at a function on World Population Day today, the minister expressed anguish over the opposition of sex education in India, saying “were not ready to discuss it.”

States asked to save tiger
New Delhi, July 12
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has directed the states to fill vacancies of frontline staff in sanctuaries to save the big cat and has called for time-bound action to relocate 270 villages in the critical areas in the sanctuaries by offering the people attractive packages to ensure their rehabilitation.

PDS sugar intake low in region
New Delhi, July 12
Less than 2 per cent households consumed sugar in Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh under public distribution system (PDS), while over 55 per cent of rural households used PDS kerosene in all major states, except Punjab and Haryana, says a survey of NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation).

Katara murder case
Witness claims he was poisoned
Ghaziabad, July 12
In a new twist to the Nitish Katara murder case, a key witness today alleged that he was poisoned by some persons but the police and doctors denied his claim. Ajay Katara, who is not related to the victim, got himself admitted to a private nursing home here this afternoon claiming that he was fed some poisonous substance late last night by five persons after calling him to nearby Mohan Nagar.
Ajay Katara speaks to media from hospital. Police says it could well be a case of food poisoning
Ajay Katara speaks to media from hospital. Police says it could well be a case of food poisoning. — PTI photo

TV reporter arrested for asking money
Mumbai, July 12
A reporter working for a lesser-known TV news channel was arrested for allegedly trying to extort Rs 2 lakh from a trader by threatening to expose some illegal construction by him, the police said today.

Couple killing in Kaithal
NHRC asks chief secy for report
New Delhi, July 12
The National Human Rights Commission has asked the chief secreatry, Haryana, to send within two weeks a report on the killing of Manoj and Babli, a young couple in Kaithal district. The commission has also asked the state police to provide adequate protection to the family members of Manoj.

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Petition against Pratibha’s nomination
Commission’s rejection challenged in SC
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 12
The Election Commission (EC) order of rejecting a petition for cancellation of presidential candidate Pratibha Patil’s nomination on the question of her alleged “insolvency” was challenged in the Supreme Court today.

However, a Bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran refused to give an early hearing to advocate Manohar Lal Sharma, when he made a special mention of his special leave petition against the EC’s July 5 order.

The Court told Sharma that the petition would be listed for hearing in a routine manner.

Sharma had moved the EC after the apex court on July 3 rejected his PIL seeking cancellation of Patil’s nomination, stating that due to the April 2007 liquidation proceedings against Pratibha Mahila Sahakari Bank (Pratibha Women Cooperative Bank), in which she had financial interests, Patil had become “insolvent”.

Insolvency has been laid down as a disqualification in the Constitution for contesting any elections, Sharma had contended.

While rejecting his PIL on July 3, the SC told Sharma that he should move the “appropriate forum”, seemingly the EC.

However, the EC rejected his petition on the ground that it was not the “appropriate forum” for deciding the question of “insolvency”.

In view of the EC stand, Sharma again moved the apex court today, but this time in an appeal against the poll panel’s order.

In his SLP, Sharma said Patil could not escape from the provision of the law as she was a director of the bank as well as a sugar factory till November 8, 2004 when appointed Rajasthan Governor. The Mumbai Central District Cooperative Bank had issued several notices on her sugar factory for recovery of the outstanding loan of Rs 17.70 crore, he claimed. He said the liquidation proceedings against the bank had already been completed in which Pratibha Patil was also one of the respondents in April this year.

“Her sugar factory was sealed (in January 2006) due to default of loan payment but was reopened after the board of directors headed by G N Patil, a younger brother of Patil, requested for an opportunity to improve the performance of the mill,” the SLP said.

The RBI in its 28-page inspection report had noted: “Patil, who is the founder member of the bank, is a politically influential personality. She has made all her relatives directors of the bank and it is being run as a family business,” Sharma said.

Patil’s close relatives were also defaulters to the tune of Rs 2 crore, which includes her niece Anjali Dilip Singh Patil (29.85 lakh), another niece Kavita Arvind Pavtil (Rs 8.59 lakh), sister-in-law Rajkaur Dilip Singh Patil (Rs 2.47 lakh), the SLP quoted the RBI report.

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HC adjourns petition against Patil’s husband

Nagpur, July 12
The Bombay High Court bench here today adjourned for two weeks a petition filed against Devisingh Ramsingh Shekhawat, the husband of UPA-Left presidential candidate Pratibha Patil, in connection with a case of alleged abetment of suicide.

Justice C.L. Pangarkar adjourned till July 26 the hearing on a petition filed by a woman named Mangala Kisan Dhage, who blamed Shekhawat for her husband allegedly committing suicide.

Dhage, a teacher in a school run by the Vidya Prasarak Shikshan Mandal headed by Shekhawat, ended his life on November 15, 1998. In a suicide note written on a stamp paper, Daghe had blamed Shekhawat for harassing him. Police, after an investigation, filed a report in the designated court, registering the matter as a case of accidental death.

Mangala then approached a court in Jalgaon-Jamod in Buldhana district with a private complaint on July 25, 2000, challenging police's decision not to book Shekhawat for her husband's suicide. — PTI

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CPM changes tack for V-P poll
Contribution, not political background, wanted

New Delhi, July 12
Harping a different tune for the Vice-Presidential election, the CPI (M) today said the ruling UPA’s candidate for the August 10 election need not be a person with political background.

CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat told a news channel that the Vice-President should be a person who has an “exemplary record in some field and should have the widest acceptance”.

“We have said that the candidate need not have a political background. According to us, it should be someone who has made a contribution,” Karat said.

“That is the role of the Vice-President. He is not to make rules or policies. He can belong to any party,” he added.

Karat said his party was adopting a different stand for Vice-Presidential election compared to Presidential poll. On the third alternative, Karat said his party has been working in this regard for the past two years.

He said the third alternative could not include the Congress. “The meaning of the third alternative is exactly that. There will be non-Congress, non-BJP parties. The alternatives is based on certain principles,” he said. The third alternative would be a force against communalism, he added. — PTI

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Jain is Shekhawat’s poll agent
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 12
NDA-backed “Independent” candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has appointed Satya Pal Jain, former MP and a member of the national executive committee of the BJP, as his authorised representative for the forthcoming presidential polls.

Shekhawat has conveyed in writing to the returning officer (secretary-general, Lok Sabha) about naming Jain as his authorised representative for the July 19 polls.

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West Bengal Assembly
Singur causes an uproar, again
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 12
The Singur-Nandigram issues led to uproar during the discussions on the police budget in the Assembly today. Demanding the death penalty for the accused CPI (M) leaders in the Tapashi Mallick murder case, the Trinamool Congress and Congress (l) jointly protested. They also called for the arrest of Haldia MP Lakshman Seth.

CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee stated that the Nandigram trouble arose unnecessarily following the sudden serving of land acquisition notices by chairman of Haldia Development Authority, Seth, who had no legal authority to do so. This caused flutter and led to filibuster from the opposition bench. The MLAs of TMC and Congress (l) also came into the well of the House and raised slogans demanding the resignation and arrest of the CPI (M) MP.

They also demanded the death penalty for Suhrid Dutta and Debu Mallick who have been held in connection with Tapashi’s death. Bhattacharjee, however, rejected both the demands, stating that the government could not take any action at this stage as the matters were sub judice.

The CBI officials produced the arrested CPI (M) leader at the Chandangar Court today. However, he was refused bail and remanded to police custody till July 26.

The CBI today published the sketch portraits of four other suspected CPI (M) workers involved Tapashi’s murder on the basis of interrogation and polygraph tests done on Debu Mallick, declaring a reward of Rs 1,00,000 on each person.

However, state advocate general Balai Roy stated in the Calcutta High Court that they were now dismissing the CBI probe into Tapashi murder as they felt that the state police was competent to properly handle the case. The chief justice’s division bench, however, rejected the demand.

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Cheema meets Sonia
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 12
Punjab Congress vice-president M.M. Singh Cheema met party president Sonia Gandhi yesterday to apprise her of the political situation in the state and issues concerning the state unit.

Cheema urged the Congress president to end uncertainty in the PPCC over the appointment of new PCC chief following resignation tendered by Shamsher Singh Dullo from the post over the results of the last assembly polls.

He said some conflicting reports had appeared in the media attributing remarks to party leaders and there was a need to end the uncertainty. Cheema said dedicated party workers should be given due respect while reorganising the party for future electoral battles.

Cheema apprised Sonia Gandhi of the political scenario in view of the forthcoming local bodies election in the state. He said coordination committee that had been formed for the state should have included more leaders from Majha and Doaba regions where the party performed poorly in the last Assembly polls.

He said Congress in the state was not getting credit for the grants being given by the Centre for Punjab, though; the party had been articulating demand for more funds and projects to the state.

Cheema also apprised the Congress president of "harassment" and "political vendetta" against Congress workers in Amritsar and Gurdaspur.

Congratulating Sonia Gandhi on nominating Pratibha Patil as the presidential candidate, he said it boosted the morale of women and was a step towards fulfillment of Rajiv Gandhi’s vision.

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Sonia inaugurates hospital train

New Delhi, July 12
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi today inaugurated a new hospital train as part of a 1991 rail medical service for the poor living in remote rural areas of the country.

The new 'Lifeline Express', a project of the Indian Railways and NGO Impact India, is a five-coach hospital train having a sophisticated main operation theatre, a medical store, an office and a six-bed post-operative ward.

In her brief remarks after the inauguration, the Congress chief praised the project as a successful outcome of public private partnership as she described the hospital train as a "harbinger of hope" for the poor.

The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, she said, has been the single biggest supporter of the project that, according to railway minister Lalu Prasad, has served 4.5 lakh patients over the past 16 years.

Prasad said the train would be put on a display at the rail museum here for the next four days before it is sent to remote areas where no medical service is available.

He also spoke about plans to run a Red Ribbon Express train as part of the AIDS awareness programme.

Surgeons on the Lifeline Express conduct, free of cost, cataract, inner ear, cleft-lip and limb operations. — PTI 

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Law on girl’s marriageable age
SC notice to Centre, NCW
S. S. Negi/Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 12
Making Haryana teenager Puja’s runaway marriage a test case for resolving the conflict in various laws on definition of child, the Supreme Court today issued notices to the Centre and National Commission for Women (NCW) on a petition by her father seeking to bring uniformity in the definition of the marriageable age of a girl.

The court directed the Centre and NCW to submit their replies on the question why suitable amendments should not be effected in the laws relating to the marriageable age of a girl to bring them in conformity with one another and what should be minimum age for her to give consent for sexual relations.

A Bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice R V Raveendran also issued notice to the DGP, Haryana, and Mandeep Singh Malik, the boy with whom Puja had allegedly eloped.

The main reason for the dispute between the families of Puja and Mandeep was stated to be their castes as the girl belonged to a Brahmin family and the boy was a Jat. The girl’s father Manoj Sharma had registered a case of kidnapping against Mandeep.

After protracted litigation on the question of bail and quashing of the FIR sought by Mandeep’s family in the Sessions Court of Bhiwani, the high courts of Punjab and Haryana and Delhi, the case finally reached the apex court raising the issue of various complexities arising out of the conflict in the laws.

While seeking restoration of Puja to her parents, D K Sharma, counsel for her father, said ironically there was utter confusion on the marriageable age of a girl and the legal age for her to give consent for sexual relations.

In this context he said the Juvenile Justice Act defined the age of a child below 18 years, the Child Marriage (Restraint) Act, fixing the marriageable age for girls and boys at 18 and 21 respectively adding the Indian Penal Code recognised the age of consent for sexual relations as 16 by a girl under Section 375 defining ‘rape’. While the Hindu Marriage Act fixes the marriageable age for a girl at 18 years, the Shariat Law fixes it at 15 years for Muslim girls, Sharma pointed out.

The NCW, which has been taking up the issue of uniformity of laws on the marriageable age for girls, had already filed a petition in the apex court earlier in the wake of a controversial Delhi High Court ruling of 2005 upholding the validity of a runaway marriage of a girl of 15 years due to the conflict in various laws.

The high court had more gone by the logic that if the marriage was dissolved, it would have a disastrous effect on three persons, the girl, her husband and the child born out of their wedlock though admitting that the laws on the issue needed to be reformed.

Similar views were taken by the Himachal Pradesh High Court in the runaway marriage of a 15-year-old girl.

While referring to these cases as only a few examples among thousands of runaway marriages by teenagers every year in the country, Sharma said the two high courts had “expressly felt that the existing laws though permit the alarming practice of minors’ marriage but it was a cause of serious concern.”

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Sohrabuddin case: CID finds no political link

Ahmedabad, July 12
The Gujarat CID, probing the fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which over a dozen policemen including IPS officers have been arrested, has not found any political link to the stage-managed murder, a senior official of the agency said today.

“As of now there is no political link to the murder of Sohrabuddin. The CID has probed into various allegations regarding the role of politicians of both Gujarat and Rajasthan but nothing has emerged in this area yet,” the official told PTI. The agency has also not been able to establish motive behind the killing of Sheikh, an alleged extortionist, here in November 2005 by a joint team of Gujarat ATS and Rajasthan Special Task Force.

Sohrabuddin had criminal cases against him but he was projected by Gujarat and Rajasthan police to be a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist who was in Gujarat to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The official did not elaborate on the findings of CID on the politician-businessman link to the case, saying details would be in the soon-to-be-filed charge sheet.

“The investigation is not over. There are more points to be covered and some more things to be unravelled,” the official said. Regarding the disappearance of Kausar Bi, the CID has already informed the apex court that she had been murdered by the police officials.

“As of now we do not know how she was killed. However, we have gathered evidence from a site where she was seen last and this is being assessed,” the official said.

Kausar Bi is suspected to have been killed by the police officials and her body disposed of in the ravines of Hilol, a town in Sabarkantha district, which is the home town of Vanzara, the main accused in the case. — PTI

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CM prefers actor’s function to meeting on terror
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, July 12
Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has been too busy since the past two days to preside over a high-level meeting called by him to review the Bangalore link in the UK terror attacks but could take time off to release a biography of an actor and even address people agitating about a piece of land which they claim has been appropriated by the government.

The Chief Minister’s office announced on Monday that he would preside over the meeting to review the steps taken by the Bangalore police to investigate the links of Kafeel Ahmed and Sabeel Ahmed, the two accused in the failed UK bombings.

On Tuesday evening even as DGP K.R. Srinivasan assembled in the committee room of the Vidhan Sabha where the meeting was to be held, the Chief Minister proceeded to attend the book release function of a biography of Kannada film star Shivrajkumar. The film star is the son of the legendary Kannada actor Raj Kumar.

The meeting, which was then postponed for Wednesday and it was also announced that the Naxal problem in the state would also be discussed in it, however, did not happen on Wednesday also. The Chief Minister, who was busy in the Assembly during the day, took time out to address members of the minority community who are agitating against what they term as appropriation of land adjacent to a mosque by the Government Bowring Hospital authorities.

No explanation was given for the cancellation of the meeting scheduled for Wednesday with the Chief Minister’s office only saying that since the DGP had briefed the home minister regarding the terrorist issue as well as Naxal threats, it was felt there was no need to hold the review meeting.

This despite the flak received by the government in recent times that it has failed to keep a tab on various extremist bodies functioning in the state and its failure in cracking the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) shootout case.

Today the Chief Minister’s office said he was leaving for Delhi in the evening and is scheduled to meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow to brief him about the progress made by investigators who have seized the hard disk of the personal computer of suspect Kafeel Ahmed and are also questioning his relatives and associates to determine the extent of the alleged conspiracy.

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Maoists go on arson spree
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 12
Close on the heels of killing 25 policemen in Chhattisgarh, the Maoists went on a rampage in Andhra Pradesh, attacking three government buildings including an electricity sub-station leading to power blackout in several villages.

The arson spree took place in the tribal-dominated area of Chintapally in Visakhapatnam district, over 700 Kms from the state capital, late last night.

About 300 armed Naxalites of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) blasted a Doordarshan relay station, an R&B guest house and a power sub-station.

The Maoists also attempted to attack police stations at Chintapally but an alert police teams stopped these attacks. The guerrillas also set afire a large number of tyres at a nearby bus complex.

According to police, the extremists ransacked the house of former legislator P. Balaraju and set afire the furniture and other goods.

The entire area was plastered with a large number of red flags, banners and posters. The leaflets left by the Maoists warned of more attacks to protest the recent killing of two of their key leaders-Rajamouli and Somanna-in police encounters.

The posters also contained a grim warning to the authorities against bauxite mining in the area.

Meanwhile, security has been beefed up in AP in the wake of a top Maoist leader warning of severe reprisals targeting politicians and policemen.

The Naxalite outfit has suffered severe losses in the last two years with several of its top leaders including state secretary Madhav being eliminated by the police.

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PM promises justice in Mumbai blasts
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 12
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh today assured the nation that all the accused in last year's serial blasts in Mumbai's local trains would be punished. Taking stock of the investigation into the bomb blasts in Mumbai's trains, Dr Manmohan Singh said, “All those against whom cases have already been registered and all those who are wanted in this case will be brought to justice. The government will not rest till the guilty are punished.”

The PM's statement has come a day after Leader of the Oppn in the Lok Sabha, L.K. Advani said that not much headway had been made in the train blasts case. Speaking on the first anniversary of the serial train blasts in Mumbai, Advani urged the PM to fulfil promises made to blast victims before Independence Day.

An official release issued here today said that the Prime Minister has also reviewed the steps taken till now for providing compensation to families of victims and those injured in the blasts. The Railway Ministry has been asked to ensure that the Railway Claims Tribunal expedites the disposal of claims for compensation.

According to the release, the Mumbai police has so far charge sheeted 25 persons in this case and the designated court has issued non-bailable warrants against 15 absconders.

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Opposition to sex education troubles Ramadoss
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 12
Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss is troubled over the mental block that we Indians have over talking about sex.

Speaking at a function on World Population Day today, the minister expressed anguish over the opposition of sex education in India, saying “were not ready to discuss it.”

To overcome this block, plans are underway and his ministry is proposing that sex education be taken up in a “subtle way”.

“We have recommended to the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry to make it a compulsory subject,” he said, adding that initial discussions with the HRD ministry had been held for health education to be taught in all schools twice a week.

The minister said his aim was not to create a controversy, but India had 55 per cent population in the reproductive age group among whom awareness needs to be created. “We have to be prepared for changes in our demographic profile. It is important to consider population projections because more than half of the country’s population is in the reproductive age group,” he added.

Regarding his opinion about some states having banned sex education, he was clear that it was for the states to decide whether they want it or not. “We are not forcing anyone. But they will be losers if awareness is not created at the right age. In our closed society, we have to enlighten and create awareness among children,” he said. But he did warn those objecting to sex education, saying “we don’t want to talk about it, that is why we have population of a billion.”

India is the second most populous country in the world, accounting for 16.7 per cent of the world’s population.

As per Ramadoss, 22 per cent of the total population increase is anticipated in Uttar Pradesh alone. In contrast, the contribution of four southern states, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, to the total increase in population size is expected to be 47 million - 13 per cent of total demographic growth of the country.

“More than 40 per cent of the population increase would be contributed by those who have three or more children per family. As many as 188 million couples require contraceptive coverage, but despite being widely available, a vast numbers of people cannot avail the services due to lack of knowledge and access,” he said. A two-day sensitisation programme by Jansankhya Stitrata Kosh was launched on the occasion for 500 youngsters from villages in eight states to familiarise them with population growth and health-related subjects.

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States asked to save tiger
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 12
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has directed the states to fill vacancies of frontline staff in sanctuaries to save the big cat and has called for time-bound action to relocate 270 villages in the critical areas in the sanctuaries by offering the people attractive packages to ensure their rehabilitation.

The PM gave these directions at a meeting held yesterday to review the tiger conservation measures undertaken by the government recently, a PMO statement said today.

The meeting, which was attended by representatives of the MoEF and the Tiger Task Force, suggested measures for anti-poaching activities and conservation of the big cats. The PM was also briefed on measures to keep up the momentum in the national conservation movement.

One of the key suggestions was constitution of a tiger protection force of local people trained under ex-Armymen to save the endangered species. The shortage of staff can be augmented by local residents working under the supervision of ex-servicemen as a TPF in selected sanctuaries, the statement added.

It was felt that the TPF, using locals, mostly tribal residents in nearby villages, would help them earn besides creating a bond between them and the park.

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PDS sugar intake low in region
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 12
Less than 2 per cent households consumed sugar in Punjab, Haryana, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh under public distribution system (PDS), while over 55 per cent of rural households used PDS kerosene in all major states, except Punjab and Haryana, says a survey of NSSO (National Sample Survey Organisation). According to NSSO, the PDS consumption of sugar is most prevalent in Tamil Nadu followed by Assam and Andhra Pradesh. Eighty-one per cent of rural households and 67 per cent of urban households held ration cards. Twenty-six per cent of rural households and 10.5 per cent of urban households held below poverty line (BPL) cards, it says. Among the bottom of the rural households ranked by monthly per capita expenditure (MPCE), an estimated 41 per cent only held BPL ration cards. Among top 5 per cent of the rural population, an estimated 11 per cent households held BPL ration cards.

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Katara murder case
Witness claims he was poisoned

Ghaziabad, July 12
In a new twist to the Nitish Katara murder case, a key witness today alleged that he was poisoned by some persons but the police and doctors denied his claim.

Ajay Katara, who is not related to the victim, got himself admitted to a private nursing home here this afternoon claiming that he was fed some poisonous substance late last night by five persons after calling him to nearby Mohan Nagar.

He said he knew the names of two of the five persons but mysteriously did not inform the police. He argued that it would have served no purpose and alleged he feared a threat to his life from UP politician D.P. Yadav whose son Vikas and nephew Vishal are the prime accused.

While Ajay Katara was discharged in the evening, police rubbished his claim, saying it could have been a simple case of food poisoning. An investigation has been ordered into the incident.

"Doctors have told us that no trace of poison was found on him. But it could be a case of food-poisoning," superintendent of police Vijay Bhushan said.

Rajesh Bhajaria, the doctor of the nursing home who attended on him, also said that "it is a clear case of food poisoning and there are no symptoms of poisoning." He said Ajay refused to cooperate with doctors when they tried to wash his stomach.

"Neither Ajay nor anyone from his family filed an FIR in the case", Bhushan said.

Ajay Katara is a prime witness in the murder case as, according to the prosecution, he had seen Nitish going in a car along with Vikas and Vishal before being murdered in February 2002. He has already been provided security. — PTI

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TV reporter arrested for asking money

Mumbai, July 12
A reporter working for a lesser-known TV news channel was arrested for allegedly trying to extort Rs 2 lakh from a trader by threatening to expose some illegal construction by him, the police said today.

Iqbal I Tibbi (41), who works as a reporter for “Tehelka Samachar TV News”, was arrested by the anti-extortion cell on July 10 while he had come to collect a negotiated sum of Rs 1.30 lakh from the trader, it said.

“In order to prevent him from filing a police complaint, Tibbi told the trader that he had close links with (fugitive gangsters) Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel and threatened to tell the municipal authorities about an illegal construction made by him,” said a police officer.

The first monetary demand was made on June 26, following which a complaint was filed and Tibbi was arrested on Tuesday. — PTI

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Couple killing in Kaithal
NHRC asks chief secy for report
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 12
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the chief secreatry, Haryana, to send within two weeks a report on the killing of Manoj and Babli, a young couple in Kaithal district. The commission has also asked the state police to provide adequate protection to the family members of Manoj.

The NHRC intervened in the matter after receiving a representation from a delegation of the Democratic Youth Federation.

The representation drew attention to the fact that the Punjab and Haryana High Court had asked the state police to provide security to Manoj and Babli when they got married. The representation further charged the police with harassing Manoj's mother and sisters after lodging a complaint that Babli was a minor. It said that the district judge, Kaithal, had asked the police to provide protection to the couple, but the police left them in Pipli at the mercy of their relatives and villagers.

Manoj and Babli were allegedly killed and their bodies thrown into the canal.

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Chikungunya
NHRC notice to Kerala

New Delhi, July 12
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the Kerala chief secretary on 40 Chikungunya deaths reported in the state. Taking cognisance of media reports that more than one lakh persons had been affected by Chikungunya infection, the NHRC has directed its Investigation Division to assess the situation in the state and submit a report within four weeks. NHRC said that such incidents constitute a violation of the right to health. — TNS

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Underworld Links
Jet Airways boss gets clean chit

Mumbai, July 12
The Union Government today gave a clean chit to Naresh Goyal, chairman, Jet Airways, regarding allegations that he had links with the underworld.

The government counsel today submitted before the Bombay High Court, which was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition against Goyal, that the union home ministry and intelligence agencies, including RAW, had absolved Goyal of having links with the underworld. — TNS

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