SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Declaration of Assets
Shekhawat’s better half better off
New Delhi, July 13
The NDA-backed “Independent” presidential candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat today tried to score points over Pratibha Patil by publicly declaring of his assets and liabilities, which showed that he holds a bank balance of Rs 25.60 lakh, Rs 1 lakh in cash and no dues to banks or to any government department.

Shekhawat’s move a political melodrama: Cong
New Delhi, July 13
The Congress today dismissed Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s move to declare his assets as political melodrama, but remained non-committal on whether the UPA-Left presidential candidate Pratibha Patil will emulate the example set by her rival.

Hannah Foster Murder
SC refuses to stay Kohli’s extradition
New Delhi, July 13
The Supreme Court today virtually gave a green signal to the government to proceed with the extradition formalities against NRI Maninder Pal Singh Kohli to the UK to stand trial in the British schoolgirl Hannah Foster rape and murder case when it refused to stay the order of the extradition magistrate and the Delhi High Court in this regard.





EARLIER STORIES




Women power sends goon to hospital
Mumbai, July 13
After putting up with years of harassment by a local goon, women from the backward Chandan Nagar area in Nagpur decided to lynch him.

New missiles cleared
New Delhi, July 13
The Cabinet Committee on Security, in a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late-last night, has cleared a Rs 10,000 crore project to develop a new generation medium range surface-to-air missiles for the Indian Air Force.

Communal tension: SP suspended for not acting
Lucknow, July 13
Superintendent of police from Shravasti, Luv Kumar, was suspended today by the Mayawati government. The suspension came in the wake of houses belonging to members of a minority community being attacked by those of another community.

5 jail superintendents suspended in UP
Lucknow, July 13
Five jail superintendents were suspended and four more served with show cause notices following large-scale irregularities in their jails during simultaneous raids on 54 prisons across the state on June 23 informed principal secretary J.N. Chamber yesterday.

Pratibha visits Kolkata to garner support
Kolkata, July 13
The Left-supported UPA presidential candidate, Pratibha Patil today spent about five hours in Kolkata campaigning for herself.

Advani comes under fire for ‘objectionable language’
Dehra Dun, July 13
Congress’ Uttarakhand observer for the presidential poll, Mohan Prakash, today demanded that Opposition leader LK Advani express regret for using ‘objectionable’ language against UPA candidate Pratibha Patil and the Prime Minister in a handwritten letter to all MPs and MLAs while seeking their support for independent candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Cross-voting talks do rounds in UP
Lucknow, 14 July
Central minister of state for home Shriprakash Jaiswal today hinted at the possibility of cross voting during the presidential election in Uttar Pradesh on 19 July.

Lecturer in soup over anti-Islam remarks
Hyderabad, July 13
A political science lecturer of a reputed women’s college here has landed in trouble for allegedly making anti-Islam remarks.

SC can’t regulate mercy plea pending before Prez
New Delhi, July 13
The Supreme Court today rejected a petition seeking fixation of a time limit for execution of condemned criminals, whose mercy petitions were pending before the President, saying it did not have power to regulate the procedure of mercy petitions moved before the Head of the State.

2nd IBSA Summit
PM to visit Johannesburg in October
New Delhi, July 13
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be visiting South Africa this October to attend the second IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) summit in Johannesburg.

PM asks Karnataka to up security
New Delhi, July 13
In the backdrop of the failed Glasgow bombing, the investigation of which has brought Bangalore into focus, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asked Karnataka to take effective security measures and strengthen intelligence network to curb terrorist activities.

Sunken ONGC vessel
4 bodies recovered
Mumbai, July 13
The Coast Guard today confirmed the recovery of the bodies of four employees of the ONGC who were drowned when the supply vessel of the company, Samudrika 10, overturned in the high seas three days ago.

Sonia seeks info on Ambani house
Mumbai, July 13
Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi has sought more information on the controversy surrounding a multi-storey palatial house being built by Reliance Industries boss Mukesh Ambani on land allegedly belonging to the Wakf Board.

Left opposes proposed joint naval exercise
New Delhi, July 13
The fissures between the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh and the outside supporting ally, the Left parties, seems to be growing by the day, with the CPM today expressing serious concern over the joint naval exercise in Bay of Bengal in September and describing the move as “a serious development.”

Healing touch for Iraqi kids
New Delhi, July 13
Thirty-eight Iraqi children in need of cochlear implants, open heart surgeries and orthopaedic problems, will return hale and hearty to their home country after experiencing the much needed healing touch at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital here. Most of the children are from places in and around Baghdad and are in the age group of 10 months to 18 years.



Ten month-old Iraqi child patient Rasil with his father during a press interaction, after being operated on at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, in New Delhi on Friday. Some 80 Iraqi children aged between 10 months to 18 years have been successfully operated on for various disorders, particularly congenital heart disease and hearing loss. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal
Ten month-old Iraqi child patient Rasil with his father during a press interaction, after being operated on at the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, in New Delhi on Friday.

Haneef family thanks PM, Aussies
Bangalore, July 13
After days of hiding from the media, family members of Mohammed Haneef, who was detained by the Australian police on suspicion of being involved in the failed UK terror plot, today shook away their fear to reclaim his innocence and celebrate his eminent release.

Delimitation panel term extended
New Delhi, July 13
The government has extended the term of the Delimitation Commission set up to redraw the boundaries of the Lok Sabha and the legislative Assembly constituencies in the country by one year.

Go green drive from Aug 15
New Delhi, July 13
India today decided to come out with a national strategy to address climate change related challenges and launch a countrywide afforestation campaign “Green India”, aimed at converting six million hectares of degraded forest land into green areas.


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Declaration of Assets
Shekhawat’s better half better off
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
The NDA-backed “Independent” presidential candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat today tried to score points over Pratibha Patil by publicly declaring of his assets and liabilities, which showed that he holds a bank balance of Rs 25.60 lakh, Rs 1 lakh in cash and no dues to banks or to any government department.

The declaration, however, showed that his wife Suraj Kanwar was richer than him, as she owned Rs 25.86 lakh in fixed deposits, Rs 1.25 lakh in cash and Rs 5,849 in a savings bank account.

Shekhawat, who has been Chief Minister of Rajasthan three times, owns jewellery worth Rs 1 lakh while his wife’s gold ornaments amount to Rs 5.25 lakh and silver utensils are worth Rs 3.90 lakh.

Kanwar owns an ambassador car of 1980 make while her husband has an Army disposed vehicle registered in his name.

Vice-President Shekhawat owns less than one hectare, that too ancestral, in a Sikar district village of Rajasthan, but his wife has 6.28 hectares in a Jaipur district village.

The declaration, which the Vice-President made on his own after the Election Commission rejected senior BJP leader L.K. Advani’s plea that presidential candidates should be asked to disclose their assets, showed that Shekhawat has got a 1/16th share in an ancestral house in Khachariawas village in Rajasthan.

His wife, however, owns a 1,000-sq yard plot in Jaipur, whose present value is estimated at Rs 1.54 crore. There is another 650-sq yard plot, worth Rs 55 lakh, in Jaipur, which has been put in a disputed claim category in her name.

Cases are pending in Rajasthan courts over 22.8 bighas listed in Kanwar’s disputed claims column in the declaration.

The significant aspect of the declaration was that they owe no dues to banks or to any government department. The BJP has been alleging that Pratibha Patil was an undischarged insolvent because the Sant Muktai sugar factory of which she was the founder-member and then chairperson owed Rs 17.7 crore to the Mumbai District Co-operative Bank.

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Shekhawat’s move a political melodrama: Cong
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
The Congress today dismissed Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s move to declare his assets as political melodrama, but remained non-committal on whether the UPA-Left presidential candidate Pratibha Patil will emulate the example set by her rival.

While brushing aside the opposition’s campaign, the Congress pointed to the line-up in the electoral college for the presidential election to predict a huge victory for its nominee.

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi, however, ducked all questions on Patil’s plans to declare her assets and instead maintained that the NDA-backed candidate and his representatives had merely played out a farce before the nation.

Singhvi told reporters that the present law does not require a presidential candidate to declare his or her assets, adding that even if a person wanted to do so, these documents would not be accepted by the returning officer. He said it is ironical that the BJP never thought of amending the law when it was in power and has woken up to this demand only now.

Congress sources maintained that BJP’s tactical move, which comes a few days before the July 19 presidential poll, is meant to mount pressure on the UPA-Left candidate and pin her down on a commitment. Although the Congress is in no mood to succumb to this pressure and has decided to keep the opposition guessing, it is also aware that an outright no will further erode Pratibha Patil’s credibility.

Dismissing the opposition campaign, the Congress cited figures to predict a comfortable victory for Patil. Giving a detailed break-up of the votes of various political parties, parliamentary affairs minister and Patil’s official representative Priyaranjan Dasmunsi said their nominee will poll over six lakh votes out of a total of 10.98 lakh votes.

Dasmunsi said that in addition to the committed votes of the UPA allies, the Left parties and the BSP, which account for nearly five lakh votes, the ruling combine has also got support from a host of independent and unattached members and smaller regional parties which has helped push up their victory margin.

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Hannah Foster Murder
SC refuses to stay Kohli’s extradition
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 13
The Supreme Court today virtually gave a green signal to the government to proceed with the extradition formalities against NRI Maninder Pal Singh Kohli to the UK to stand trial in the British schoolgirl Hannah Foster rape and murder case when it refused to stay the order of the extradition magistrate and the Delhi High Court in this regard.

“It is not a case which deserves any stay,” a Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran said, though admitting Kohli’s appeal against the High Court’s July 6 order upholding a judgement of extradition magistrate clearing his deportation.

The court also refused to grant an urgent hearing to the appeal even as his counsel Rajesh Srivastava during a special mention of it made a strong plea for listing the case on July 16. He expressed the fear that the government might take steps to deport Kohli even when his appeal is pending before the apex court.

The Bench, however, said that the case had been examined in detail by two courts which came to the conclusion about his extradition after examining voluminous documents.

“We are not expressing any opinion (against the orders),” the Chief Justice said, telling Srivastava that Kohli’s movements after the crime had been captured on close circuit TV cameras and the DNA test had confirmed his involvement in the alleged crime.

Besides taking into account the statements of various witnesses, the extradition magistrate had relied heavily on the forensic reports on blood samples of Foster collected from a van of a food company driven by Kohli and on the CCTV footage about his movements in the area from where the teenage school girl was allegedly abducted, raped and murdered by him on March 14, 2003.

The extradition magistrate had accepted the deportation request of British Government on the condition that no death penalty should be awarded to Kohli even if he was found guilty after completion of the trial proceeding in UK.

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Women power sends goon to hospital
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 13
After putting up with years of harassment by a local goon, women from the backward Chandan Nagar area in Nagpur decided to lynch him.

Police said a large number of women from the area caught hold of Naresh Meshram, 25, when he arrived in the area Thursday night in a drunken condition. After he allegedly teased or molested a woman, scores of women in a well-planned move descended on the goon and thrashed him.

Police rescued Meshram after the women left him for dead. He is now fighting for his life in a local hospital.

Police said they have taken several women for questioning. However, no one has been arrested.

Women in the Chandan Nagar area subsequently told local reporters that Meshram used to harass them even after they pleaded with him to leave them alone. They further said the local police did not file complaints against Meshram despite several attempts by them.

Police later said today that Meshram was a bad character with some 27 cases of assault and rape registered against him. He had been made to leave Nagpur by the local police, but had secretly sneaked into the area, police said.

The women are now hoping that Meshram does not survive the beating. “If he survives and returns, he won't spare us,” one woman told local television channels.

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New missiles cleared
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
The Cabinet Committee on Security, in a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late-last night, has cleared a Rs 10,000 crore project to develop a new generation medium range surface-to-air missiles for the Indian Air Force.

The missiles would be jointly developed and produced by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), IAF, and Israel’s Aerospace Industries. The missile would have an effective range of 70 km and would replace the Russia-made Pechora missiles.

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Communal tension: SP suspended for not acting
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, July 13
Superintendent of police from Shravasti, Luv Kumar, was suspended today by the Mayawati government. The suspension came in the wake of houses belonging to members of a minority community being attacked by those of another community.

In a response delayed by three days 10 persons were also arrested after an FIR against unknown persons was formally registered late last night said secretary Home Department Mahesh Gupta.

R.K. Srivastava is to be the new SP of the district.

An apparent case of inter-religious marriage in the district bordering Nepal took an ugly turn when the family of the woman - Vandana Pandey - attacked the Dhanni Deeh village from where the man Shabban hails from.

Shravasti district magistrate Saroj Kumar Tiwari said, “Prima facie there seems to be no truth in the charge that women from the village were gang-raped. The medical examination of the women has not shown any signs of gang-rape”, he maintained.

The incident occurred on July 10 when members of a community ran amok destroying the houses of the minority community. However, no FIR was registered in the case till the night of July 12.

The district administration and the state government swung into action only after the local Samajwadi Party (SP) leaders took up the issue and staged a noisy protest inside the Vidhan Sabha earlier in the day.

As soon as the House assembled, SP MLA from Bahraich, Dr Waqar Ahmad Shah, sought permission to raise the issue as an adjournment motion. He charged that four women from the minority community had been gang-raped allegedly at the behest of a BSP minister from the area.

Minister for parliamentary affairs Lalji Verma asked for an hour’s time to present a comprehensive report on the incident. When they SP MLAs did not cooperate the speaker adjourned the house thrice.

When the house re-assembled at 12:30 pm the SP members continued their dharna in the well shouting slogans even as the speaker kept urging them to return to their seats as the parliamentary affairs minister was ready to make a statement.

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5 jail superintendents suspended in UP
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, July 13
Five jail superintendents were suspended and four more served with show cause notices following large-scale irregularities in their jails during simultaneous raids on 54 prisons across the state on June 23 informed principal secretary J.N. Chamber yesterday.

The jail superintendents and jailors of Basti, Saharanpur, Faizabad, Mirzapur and Azamgarh were suspended while show-cause notices were served on the staff of Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad, Ghazipur and Gonda prisons.

According to chambers the move came in response to serious lapses discovered during the raids on the jails by the district magistrates and superintendents of police.

The DGP(Prisons) has been asked to fix accountability against the erring staff of another 19 district jails, including Lucknow, where relatively less serious irregularities were discovered, informed the principal secretary.

The conducting the raid was surprised to find two cell phones, one SIM card, pornographic CDs, a CD player and cash at Basti jail.

In Saharanpur, a blade was recovered from an inmate as well as gas cylinders, food articles, pornographic magazines and drugs.

Similarly, in the other jails many prohibited items mainly cell phones, cash, knives, lighter and even marijuana was recovered.

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Pratibha visits Kolkata to garner support
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 13
The Left-supported UPA presidential candidate, Pratibha Patil today spent about five hours in Kolkata campaigning for herself.

During her brief stay in the city she addressed a joint meeting of the MLAs of the Congress (l), the CPI (M) and other left parties in the Assembly Hall in asking their supports in the presidential polls against the NDA-supported Independent candidate and current vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

She alleged that a slanderous campaign had been launched against her, which was motivated and malicious and the charges were false and baseless.

Patil assured the countrymen she would uphold the dignity and prestige of the country's highest post and she would serve the nation in the best possible way.

Upon arrival, she drove straight to the Assembly via Raj Bhavan, where she met the speaker, Hashim Abdul Halim. Afterwards, she addressed the joint meeting of the Congress (l) and left parties’ MLAs after CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharya introduced her to them.

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Advani comes under fire for ‘objectionable language’

Dehra Dun, July 13
Congress’ Uttarakhand observer for the presidential poll, Mohan Prakash, today demanded that Opposition leader LK Advani express regret for using ‘objectionable’ language against UPA candidate Pratibha Patil and the Prime Minister in a handwritten letter to all MPs and MLAs while seeking their support for independent candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

In an informal chat with mediapersons here on the eve of Patil’s visit to Uttarakhand as part of her election campaign, Prakash alleged that Advani had shown himself as a political parasite and not as leader of the Opposition by using words like ‘tainted’ for Patil and ‘handpicked’ for PM Manmohan Singh. He said the usage of such language was highly objectionable and lowered the dignity of the presidential election.

He said the BJP’s stand on the presidential poll was not only irresponsible and insincere, it also went against the Indian culture of holding women in high esteem. — TNS

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Cross-voting talks do rounds in UP
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, 14 July
Central minister of state for home Shriprakash Jaiswal today hinted at the possibility of cross voting during the presidential election in Uttar Pradesh on 19 July.

Speaking to mediapersons hours before UPA presidential candidate Pratibha Patil was to make a flying visit to the state capital to garner support, Jaiswal said, “The Congress, the BSP, the RLD and the Jan Morcha are expected to support Patil. But something unexpected can also happen.”

The UPA presidential candidate, who made a brief stopover in the city, is scheduled to meet Chief Minister Mayawati at her 13 Mall Avenue residence.

Later, the CM is expected to host a dinner at the Taj hotel to formally introduce Pratibha to the MLAs and MPs from the BSP, the Congress, the Rashtriya Lok Dal and the lone Jan Morcha MLA.

The state’s electoral college with 83,824 votes is considered crucial for the victory of any candidate. Of this, the BSP has an overwhelming 62,862 votes. 

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Lecturer in soup over anti-Islam remarks
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 13
A political science lecturer of a reputed women’s college here has landed in trouble for allegedly making anti-Islam remarks.

Hundreds of slogan-shouting Muslim students of St Ann’s College at Mehdipatnam came out of their classrooms today, surrounded the principal’s room and demanded action against Prashanthi for allegedly insulting Islam and Prophet Mohammed.

They alleged that during her lecture, Prashanthi made certain remarks that amounted to insulting Islam and the Prophet. As the protests gained momentum, the college authorities called the police. Tension prevailed on the campus as students refused to relent from their demand of Prashanthi’s arrest even after she tendered an apology for her alleged observations. Sensing trouble, the police whisked her away.

Full-throated slogans of “Allah-o-Akbar” (God is great) reverberated the college premises as agitated students, holding placards, laid siege to the principal’s room.

The issue took a political turn when Majlis-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (MIM) legislators Afsar Khan and Ahmed Pasha Khadri, along with their supporters, rushed to the college and stormed the principal’s room where they demanded immediate action against the lecturer.

Later, Telangana Rashtra Samithi legislator Habeeb Abdul Rehman also arrived at the scene to express solidarity with the students.

Prashanthi, who had joined the college about a year ago, was said to have made the controversial observations while taking a BA (final) class. St Ann’s, a Christian missionary institution, is one of the biggest and most reputed women’s colleges in the city.

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SC can’t regulate mercy plea pending before Prez
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 13
The Supreme Court today rejected a petition seeking fixation of a time limit for execution of condemned criminals, whose mercy petitions were pending before the President, saying it did not have power to regulate the procedure of mercy petitions moved before the Head of the State.

“Do you want the court to give a direction for hanging? Can the court give such a direction?” a Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran asked, while dismissing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) moved by C.P. Bhartiya.

By putting such posers to Bhartiya’s counsel Chief Justice Parmanand Katara apparently made it clear that the apex court did not have powers under the Constitution to issue any direction for regulating the proceedings related to mercy petitions before the President, who had an absolute discretion to take a decision on them.

Bhartiya in his PIL said mercy petitions of 22 condemned prisoners recommended by the Government after completing legal formalities had been pending before the President for past several years, and therefore, a “time bound limit” for their disposal should be laid down as the Constitution and any other statute was “silent” on the issue.

“This legislative gap is unfortunate as it forces the condemned prisoners to languish in dark cells for an indefinite period, which has even extended up to a decade or more,” the PIL said.

Apart from explaining the constitutional position, providing for no role to the apex court, in the matter after it has given the final verdict in any case of capital punishment, the bench also questioned the petitioner’s “locus stand” to move such a PIL petition, which is directly related to the human rights of the convicted persons.

“Have you sought consent of the 22 condemned prisoners,” the bench asked petitioner’s counsel, not agreeing with his argument that the court could use its vast powers under the Article 32 of the Constitution to entertain a PIL on the subject and issue a writ of mandamus to the President.

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2nd IBSA Summit
PM to visit Johannesburg in October
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be visiting South Africa this October to attend the second IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) summit in Johannesburg.

A foreign minister-level preparatory meeting of the three-nation grouping will being held here on July 17. The meeting is taking place close on the heels of the Indian Cabinet giving its nod yesterday to a draft pact for trilateral cooperation in public administration and governance among the IBSA countries.

When external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee engages his Brazilian and South African counterparts, Celso Amorim and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, respectively, in trilateral discussions on July 17, New Delhi would be looking at a strategic objective too, apart from strengthening the grouping.

Both Brazil and South Africa are members of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) whose nod is mandatory for making operational the Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement.

The Indo-US negotiations on the bilateral 123 agreement are all set to reach the last lap next week. A core team of Indian officials, headed by National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, will leave for Washington on July 15 for giving a final push to the 123 agreement. Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon and Department of Atomic Energy chairman Anil Kakodkar will also be accompanying Narayanan for the three-day talks beginning July 16.

Meanwhile, India is keeping its bargaining chips intact vis-a-vis the nuclear deal. This became clear yesterday when the crucial proposal for India joining the Container Security Initiative (CSI), an American initiative, was taken off the Union Cabinet’s agenda at the last minute.

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PM asks Karnataka to up security
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
In the backdrop of the failed Glasgow bombing, the investigation of which has brought Bangalore into focus, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asked Karnataka to take effective security measures and strengthen intelligence network to curb terrorist activities.

The Prime Minister conveyed this to Karnataka Chief Minister H. D. Kumaraswamy when the latter called on him here, sources said.

Earlier, Kumaraswamy met the Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and apprised him about the security situation in the State and discussed on various issues linked to security.

Though, the Karnataka Chief Minister, during his meetings with the Prime Minister and the Home Minister, is understood to have insisted that the state police and intelligence wing is capable of handling the situation, sources said the Centre is keen that the Intelligence Bureau takes over the surveillance at the Bangalore International Airport.

Sources said the Intelligence Bureau has found certain gaps in airport surveillance maintained by the local security agencies.

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Sunken ONGC vessel
4 bodies recovered

Mumbai, July 13
The Coast Guard today confirmed the recovery of the bodies of four employees of the ONGC who were drowned when the supply vessel of the company, Samudrika 10, overturned in the high seas three days ago.

The search to recover the bodies of the remaining four missing men is still on.

Relatives of some of the deceased have questioned the decision of the ONGC and Sical Logistics Limited to permit the captain, who was well past the retirement age, to operate the ship.

Sical Logistics maintains the company’s 17 vessels. Incidentally, the vessel had 17 people on board though its manifest only listed names of 14 personnel. ONGC officials now say they would take action against Sical Logistics for not maintaining proper records. — TNS

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Sonia seeks info on Ambani house
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 13
Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi has sought more information on the controversy surrounding a multi-storey palatial house being built by Reliance Industries boss Mukesh Ambani on land allegedly belonging to the Wakf Board.

The multi-crore rupee construction at the posh Altamount Road in South Mumbai has run into controversy after allegations and counter-allegations that office-bearers of the Wakf Board may have bent the rules to sell the property to Mukesh Ambani.

The property was purchased from the Currimbhoy Ebrahim Khoja Orphanage Trust, a Wakf Board institution, by Antilla Commercial Private Limited, a company floated by the Ambani family in 2002.

However, following objections from the Muslim community, the Wakf Board sought to stay the deal in 2004. Subsequently, the trust filed a plea before the Board which subsequently upheld the transfer of the property to the Mukesh Ambani company.

Now the Maharashtra Government has begun to probe into the deal and issued a notice to the Maharashtra State Wakf Board chief M.A. Aziz questioning him over the deal. Aziz hit back blaming Maharashtra Wakf minister Anees Ahmed of targeting him.

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Left opposes proposed joint naval exercise
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
The fissures between the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh and the outside supporting ally, the Left parties, seems to be growing by the day, with the CPM today expressing serious concern over the joint naval exercise in Bay of Bengal in September and describing the move as “a serious development.”

“The UPA government has been forging a close strategic military cooperation with the US without any public debate or explanation,” the CPM Politburo said in a statement.

The CPM said it considers these steps as “harmful to India’s strategic interests.”

The Politburocalled upon all patriotic sections to come out in opposition against this growing military tie-up with the US. The proposed joint naval exercise, comprising India, the US, Japan, Australia and Singapore, in the Bay of Bengal comes in the wake of the recent visit of the US Nimitz to Chennai.

The announcement of the joint naval exercise is part of the implementation of the “New Framework for Defence Relationship” signed by the UPA government in July 2005.

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Healing touch for Iraqi kids
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
Thirty-eight Iraqi children in need of cochlear implants, open heart surgeries and orthopaedic problems, will return hale and hearty to their home country after experiencing the much needed healing touch at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital here.

Most of the children are from places in and around Baghdad and are in the age group of 10 months to 18 years.

The hospital has also treated 52 adults suffering from similar problems on the request of a delegation from the Iraqi Health Ministry. The first batch of Iraqi children suffering from hearing impairment arrived here on June 1 for assessment and treatment.

Dr Raja Joshi, Senior Paediatric Cardiac Surgeon, told mediapersons here that six-year-old Mahmood is the third child to have undergone ICE (Intra Cardiac Eco) at Apollo, for a blockage in his heart.

Dr Vikas Kohli, Senior Consultant, Pediatric Cardiology said that one of the patients, Rasul, a ten months old girl from Baghdad, is suffering from Hemangioma, a condition that leads to uncontrolled growth of blood vessels. “We have started here on a two week course of steroids. The treatment involves closure of the feeder vessel.”

Dr Kishore said that most of the children who have been given a cochlear implant are between three to seven years of age. He said the imported implants cost anything between Rs six to Rs nine lakh depending on the make and model the caregivers opt for. Apart from this, about Rs one to Rs two lakh is needed for surgery, postoperative mapping (programming of the implant), regular speech and hearing therapy that is fortunately available in Iraq.

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Haneef family thanks PM, Aussies
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, July 13
After days of hiding from the media, family members of Mohammed Haneef, who was detained by the Australian police on suspicion of being involved in the failed UK terror plot, today shook away their fear to reclaim his innocence and celebrate his eminent release.

Talking to TNS, Haneef’s wife Firdous said she had an inkling of Haneef’s eminent release after he called her last night and assured her that he would be released shortly. “He asked about our baby daughter and told me he was confident that he would get justice as he was not a terrorist”.

The family, which had talked to the media after news of Haneef’s detention had first emerged, had clammed up when the detention period was increased. Haneef’s brother Mohammed Suhaib said this was a conscious decision because of the stress being inflicted on Firdous. Today, the family thanked the media profusely for highlighting their issue. Firdous also thanked the Australian people who she said had stood up against the inordinately long detention of Haneef even though he had not been charged with any crime. “We are thankful to the Australian people and also Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who consoled us in our darkest hour”, Firdous added.

Family members said Haneef would be coming home after his release though they were tight lipped about his future employment plans. He, however, may not go back abroad.

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Delimitation panel term extended
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
The government has extended the term of the Delimitation Commission set up to redraw the boundaries of the Lok Sabha and the legislative Assembly constituencies in the country by one year.

According to a notification issued by the ministry of law and justice, the term of the commission has been extended up to July 31, 2008. This is the second extension given to the commission.

The Delimitation Commission, constituted under the Delimitation Act 2002, was initially given a term of two years to complete its work.

The commission, headed by Justice Kuldeep Singh, became functional in November/December 2002.

The 2009 General Election is expected to be contested on the basis of the new redrawn constituencies.

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Go green drive from Aug 15
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 13
India today decided to come out with a national strategy to address climate change related challenges and launch a countrywide afforestation campaign “Green India”, aimed at converting six million hectares of degraded forest land into green areas.

The “Green India” campaign will be launched on August 15.

The decisions were taken at the first meeting of the newly set up National Council on Climate Change, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and attended by senior Cabinet members and top scientists.

This has come up against the backdrop of Western countries blaming developing countries like India and China for contributing a large portion of green house gas emissions.

The envisaged national policy will be designed in such a way that it not only protects India's developmental goals and interests, but at the same time, also address concerns, both at home and abroad, with respect to global warming and sustainable development.

The high-powered council resolved to bring out a strategy paper on climate change, which will form the basis for the national policy and set up a sub-committee for preparing the draft.

Meanwhile, participants emphasised the need for funding research on impact of climate change, including research on management of impact of droughts and floods on crop production and urban planning, besides the importance of encouraging public transportation in urban areas and reducing dependence on fuel inefficient technologies.

They called for collection of reliable data, funding of research for analysing the data and implementation of practical programmes to improve energy efficiency and reduce wasteful use of natural resources.

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