SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Sohrabuddin Case
Another Gujarat IPS officer under scrutiny

New Delhi, July 30
The Sohrabuddin fake encounter case today took a new turn in the Supreme Court with the state government admitting that the role of another IPS officer of SSP rank Narendra Ameen was under scrutiny and he will be placed under suspension. Senior advocate K.T.S Tulsi, counsel for Gujarat government, which is already under pressure in the case, told a Bench comprising Justices Tarun Chatterjee and P.K. Balasubramanyan, that he was making a statement on instruction that Ameen would be removed from the CID and placed under suspension immediately.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Guidelines
All states, UTs report amendments in conduct rules

New Delhi, July 30
Ten years after the Supreme Court issued sexual harassment prevention guidelines for the workplace, all states and union territories have reported amendments in their conduct rules and  regulations. In compliance reports sent to the National Human Rights Commission recently, all states and UTs have claimed amendments in their conduct rules and regulations to adhere to the Supreme Court guidelines of 1997. 




EARLIER STORIES




Rising fake encounters, custodial deaths in the country
SC notices to Centre, states

New Delhi, July 30
Taking note of growing number of fake encounters and custodial deaths in the country, the Supreme Court today issued notices to the Centre and all states, seeking their replies why there was a sharp rise in such incidents.

Confirmation of Additional Judges of High Courts
CJI’s decision comes under SC scrutiny

New Delhi, July 30
The Supreme Court today sought to examine the validity of the action of Chief Justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan and some of his predecessors on the confirmation of Additional Judges (AJs) of the high courts as permanent judges without the approval of the Collegium.

N-Tests
Fuel supplies will not be cut off, says Mulford

New Delhi, July 30
Gone are the days of the Tarapore humiliation when India had to suffer the ignominy of the USA walking out of its agreement for supply of nuclear fuel to the Tarapore nuclear plant in 1974.

Monsoon
Nothing to worry, says Met office

New Delhi, July 30
The Met office said that the monsoon is currently passing through a weak phase in most parts of the country, barring a select few, but it is not yet time to get worried as the situation is likely to improve in the first week of August.

Left parties protest Andhra firing
Hyderabad, July 30
The embers from the Mudigonda police firing continued to smoulder as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy came under the increasing opposition heat.

PM speaks to Andhra CM
New Delhi, July 30
Having come under increasing pressure from the Left parties and his partymen, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and reviewed the situation following the police firing in Khammam district.

12-hr bandh at Nandigram causes uproar in Assembly
Kolkata, July 30
The Nandigram issue again caused uproar in the state Assembly today when both the opposition and even some ruling left front MLAs criticised the state government for its failure in restoring peace and normalcy at Nandigram.

6 teams to check Gujarat electoral rolls
New Delhi, July 30
While deciding to postpone the byelection to the Ballia parliamentary constituency due to flood situation, the Election Commission today deputed six teams to check the electoral rolls in the BJP-ruled Gujarat, where assembly polls are due later this year.

 
Convict’s family owes it to ‘Governor sahib’
Dehra Dun, July 30
A decade ago, four minor school going Bhatt siblings of Hardwar were clueless as to what befell them when their father Ashok Bhatt, a tea vendor was convicted for a life term in a murder case that was reopened after 18 years. Equally shattering it was for their mother Anita Bhatt, a housewife who believed her husband was implicated in the case that took place much before their marriage.


Sisters Kopal and Komal Bhatt with Uttarakhand Governor Sudarshan Agarwal. — Photo by writer
Sisters Kopal and Komal Bhatt with Uttarakhand Governor Sudarshan Agarwal

Indo-Pakistan trade talks from today
New Delhi, July 30
India and Pakistan will try to resolve issues that stand in the way of closer economic engagement, when commerce secretaries of the two countries hold two-day talks beginning here tomorrow.

Notices to Centre, ASI
Dance party in front of Taj Mahal
New Delhi, July 30
A special Bench of the Supreme Court, monitoring the case pertaining to protection of Taj Mahal from the adverse environment impact, today issued notices to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Centre on organising of a dance party just in front of the monument by IT major Microsoft to promote its commercial interests.

V-P poll sans fireworks
New Delhi, July 30
After the high-pitched and bitterly contested Presidential election, the campaign for the August 10 Vice-Presidential poll has failed to generate the same kind of excitement. 

2 pleas on Prez poll dismissed
New Delhi, July 30
Two petitions on the laws relating to presidential election were today dismissed by the Supreme Court.

DST step to boost crop management
New Delhi, July 30
Crop management is set to acquire a new dimension in the country with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) developing a capability to monitor crop health in real time.

2 held for grabbing Dalit land
Lucknow, July 30
The Uttar Pradesh police has arrested two people and was in search of ex-Samajwadi Party city president Fakir Siddique in connection with grabbing a Dalit land in the state capital.

Research fellows’ grant enhanced
New Delhi, July 30
The government has substantially raised the fellowship amount for research fellows and associates in science with effect from April 1 this year, science and technology minister Kapil Sibal announced today.

16 feared drowned in boat capsize
Lucknow, July 30
As many as 16 persons were feared drowned as an overcrowded boat ferrying pilgrims capsized in the Ganga near Ramna Ghat under Lanka police station in the religious city of Varanasi today. At least eight bodies were recovered and search was on for another eight. According to SSP Varanasi S.B Shirodkar the accident occurred around 1130 when a boat ferrying around 27 persons from Chota Mirzapur Ghat of Mirzapur district to Ramana Ghat in Varanasi sank midstream.

Assam floods cause havoc
Guwahati, July 30
The devastation caused by floods and landslides in the region has claimed 25 lives so far in Assam and Meghalaya while the flood situation continued to remain grim in Assam where rivers are still on spate.

 
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Sohrabuddin Case
Another Gujarat IPS officer under scrutiny
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 30
The Sohrabuddin fake encounter case today took a new turn in the Supreme Court with the state government admitting that the role of another IPS officer of SSP rank Narendra Ameen was under scrutiny and he will be placed under suspension.

Senior advocate K.T.S Tulsi, counsel for Gujarat government, which is already under pressure in the case, told a Bench comprising Justices Tarun Chatterjee and P.K. Balasubramanyan, that he was making a statement on instruction that Ameen would be removed from the CID and placed under suspension immediately.

Ameen was allegedly involved with senior officers D.G. Vanzara, Pandian and M.N. Dinesh in the conspiracy to eliminate Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausarbi in November, 2005. Kausarbi’s body was allegedly cremated in his supervision on November 29.

Tulsi also sought permission of the Bench to file special leave petition (SLP) directly in the apex court against the trial court order granting anticipatory bail to Ameen instead of challenging it in the high court.

The court fixed hearing on Gujarat government’s plea for Monday for granting such permission. “We want custodial interrogation of Ameen but during the hearing of his bail petition the public prosecutor though opposed his bail but took a wrong route of law as a result our plea against his bail was rejected,” Tulsi said.

Additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam, appointed as amicus curiae in the case by the apex court, while trying to dig several loopholes in the chargesheet filed by the Gujarat police against Vanzara and his team and Rajasthan IPS officer Dinesh, said doubts had been raised about elimination of one Kalimuddin in the same encounter.

Apart from not making Ameen an accused in the case, Subramaniam said though seven cops of Andhra Pradesh who were also present at the spot when Sohrabuddin, his wife and Kalimuddin were taken out of the bus on November 24, 2005, but none of them were made accused.

There was doubt whether the third person killed was Tulsi Ram or Kalimuddin, the chargesheet was not clear and it only said a third person, possibly Kalimuddin “was disposed of”, Subramaniam pointed out.

Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Sohrabuddin’s brother Rubabbudin who brought the matter before the apex court, also raised doubt over the functioning of the trial court for the manner Ameen was granted anticipatory bail by hailing him as a “honest, dedicated and sincere” officer.

Attorney General Milon Banerjee, Subramaniam and Dave said the apex court should not dispose of the petition and continue to monitor the case as the “conduct of the entire police force in Gujarat and the state government was under scrutiny”.

Earlier, Tulsi said the despite the chargesheet being filed in the case, the probe was not yet complete and a supplementary chargesheet would be filed after further investigation.

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Sexual Harassment Prevention Guidelines
All states, UTs report amendments in conduct rules
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
Ten years after the Supreme Court issued sexual harassment prevention guidelines for the workplace, all states and union territories have reported amendments in their conduct rules and regulations.

In compliance reports sent to the National Human Rights Commission recently, all states and UTs have claimed amendments in their conduct rules and regulations to adhere to the Supreme Court guidelines of 1997. The NHRC has been monitoring adherence to the apex court guidelines.

The commission has held consultations with government departments, private institutions/agencies and non-government organisations to evolve a complaint mechanism.

The Supreme Court judgement, popularly known as the Vishakha guidelines, came on a petition filed by women organisations under the collective platform of Vishakha.

The petition, provoked by the gang rape of a 50-year-old social worker of Rajasthan who tried to fight the practice of child marriage, sought the Supreme Court’s intervention for action against sexual harassment faced by women at workplace. In this case, the trial court had acquitted all the five accused.

According to the Supreme Court guidelines, sexual harassment includes any unwelcome physical contact or advances, demand or request for sexual favours, sexually colured remarks, display of pornographic material and other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

As per the judgement, it is mandatory for all employers or responsible heads of institutions to take preventive measures to stop sexual harassment at workplace. The guidelines direct employers to set up in house complaints committees headed by women.

The idea behind having such committees is to ensure that harassed women can report the matter. In setting up such committees, organisations are expected to ensure that at least half its members are women and they have a third-party representative conversant with the issue of sexual harassment.

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Rising fake encounters, custodial deaths in the country
SC notices to Centre, states
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
Taking note of growing number of fake encounters and custodial deaths in the country, the Supreme Court today issued notices to the Centre and all states, seeking their replies why there was a sharp rise in such incidents.

In 2004-05, 66 encounter deaths were recorded in UP, nine in Delhi and five each in MP and Maharashtra

The notices were issued by a Bench of Chief Justice K.G.Balakrishnan and Justice R.V.Raveendran on a PIL, moved by M.R.Reddy, stating that as per the 2004-05 data available with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), 122 cases of encounters had been recorded in that year alone.

The court also issued notice to the NHRC, seeking its further report, if any, on the available data for subsequent years.

Besides, the NHRC data for the 2004-05 indicated 136 deaths in police custody and 1,357 deaths of inmates in different jails of the country due to various reasons.

As per the report, maximum number of 66 encounter deaths had been recorded in UP, nine in Delhi, five each in MP and Maharashtra. Since the report related to 2004-05, it had not included latest cases of Gujarat, which recently is under human rights organisation’s attack for alleged fake encounters.

The petitioner sought to set up a monitoring committee of experts to examine all encounters in the past 10 years to find out as how many of these were stage-managed.

While seeking firming up guidelines for adherence by the police to deal with such cases, the PIL sought to enforce the guidelines already laid down by the court in earlier judgements and the NHRC.

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Confirmation of Additional Judges of High Courts
CJI’s decision comes under SC scrutiny
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 30
The Supreme Court today sought to examine the validity of the action of Chief Justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan and some of his predecessors on the confirmation of Additional Judges (AJs) of the high courts as permanent judges without the approval of the Collegium.

A two-judge Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat and D.K. Jain sought a reply from the Centre on two counts: (a) how many AJs had been made permanent since 1999 only on the recommendations of the CJI, and (b) how many AJs were confirmed as permanent judges with the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium.

Additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam, appearing for the Centre, was given six weeks’ time by the court to respond in query in the form of an affidavit.

The question on CJI’s power regarding appointment of judges was brought before the court by noted lawyer and former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan in a PIL.

Describing it as an issue of “great public interest”, senior advocate Anil Dewan arguing on behalf of Shanti Bhushan, said the nine-judge constitution Bench verdict of 1998 on a “special reference” case on the issue, had clearly laid down that it was “obligatory” on the CJI to place all matters relating to judges’ appointment before the Collegium for its approval.

The PIL referred to alleged bypassing the Collegium by CJI Balakrishnan while confirming the appointment of Justice Ashok Kumar as a permanent judge in the Madras High Court on Febraury 2 last. He was sworn-in next day.

It made Justice Ashok Kumar’s appointment as a test case for examining the powers of the CJI to confirm the appointment of AJs as permanent judges after their initial appointment had been approved by the Collegium.

The CJI taking decision independent of the Collegium, has not been contemplated in the law, Dewan said adding “we have no pleasure in it (filing PIL) but this (ignoring Collegium) is disturbing.”

“It is a matter of public interest that the appointment of the high court judges be made according to the law as laid down by the Supreme Court itself. It is a matter of grave public concern if the law so laid down is contravened,” Dewan said.

Justice Ashok Kumar was appointed AJ in the Madras High Court in April, 2003 and his tenure in the same capacity was extended from time to time. But the apex court Collegium in August, 2005, comprising the then CJI R.C. Lahoti, Justice Y.K. Sabharwal and Ms Justice Ruma Pal refused to recommend his appointment as permanent judge due to some “adverse reports” but he again was given extension as AJ.

The opinion of CJI in confirming Justice Ashok Kumar as permanent judge, “was not formed in the manner required because he neither consulted the two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court nor other judges who are conversant with the affairs of the high court concerned,” the PIL claimed. 

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N-Tests
Fuel supplies will not be cut off, says Mulford
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
Gone are the days of the Tarapore humiliation when India had to suffer the ignominy of the USA walking out of its agreement for supply of nuclear fuel to the Tarapore nuclear plant in 1974.

India has a solemn assurance from the USA that the nuclear fuel supplies to India will not be cut off the moment New Delhi were to conduct a fresh nuclear test. One of the factors that clinched the 123 agreement on Indo-US civilian nuclear cooperation was having a Joint Working Group, an institutionalised mechanism, that will decide on the future course of action in case India conducts fresh nuclear tests.

By the time, the mechanism gets going, the Presidential waiver of the Hyde Act, which stipulates immediate suspension of all cooperation in the event of fresh tests, would materialise. This, in a nutshell, is the basis of Indian optimism on the 123 agreement.

US Ambassador here, David C Mulford, in a way, corroborated this in his tele-press conference with Indian media, conducted by the US embassy today. This is what Mulford said from Arizona: “It is impossible to lay out in concrete terms what might happen (to the nuclear deal). We are assuming that the situation will not occur and India will continue with its unilateral moratorium. However, certain assurances have been given by the President (George W Bush) in March 2006 when he laid out four points. Supply of fuel is laid out very clearly.

“The US has committed to help India in creating a strategic reserve. In that reserve, US fuel might probably be recalled but not other countries’ fuel. So, I think arrangements are very concrete. India has come out with a very secure position.”

When asked what happens to the nuclear deal if Pakistan or China conduct fresh nuclear tests and India follow suit, Mulford gave a long-winded reply. “Both sides will try to engage. The 123 agreement is very clear as the right return required by US laws is clear to India. The President (of the United States) would require the return of fuel and other equipment in such circumstances. India has also understood the Hyde Act. India has declared self-moratorium (on fresh nuke tests). In case, India decides to change the policy, the consequences are clear. The judgement will be based on the situation of that time.”

Mulford said the issue of what happens to the deal in case of fresh nuclear tests by India was not mentioned in the 123 agreement. “This is a civil nuclear agreement. This was not a negotiation over India’s strategic nuclear capabilities and that was the case from day one. There is US law in this matter which has been observed and accepted by India.”

On the uncertainties regarding China and the nod of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group which works by consensus -- China is a NSG member -- Mulford expressed optimism. “The NSG in general is favourable to this agreement. We are confident that we can move this forward.”

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Monsoon
Nothing to worry, says Met office
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
The Met office said that the monsoon is currently passing through a weak phase in most parts of the country, barring a select few, but it is not yet time to get worried as the situation is likely to improve in the first week of August.

At present, the areas of concern clearly are Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, western Uttar Pradesh, north Rajasthan and Chattisgarh where monsoon rains have been elusive for close to three weeks now.

According to IMD director S.C. Bhan, the monsoon trough is currently passing through Ferozepur, Karnal, Hardoi, Gorakhpur, Darbhanga, Dhubri and eastwards to Arunachal Pradesh.

“The IMD has already predicted a deficient monsoon for the Northwest but there is likely to be some improvement on August 1 and 2. After August 4, the northwest region can expect scattered to fairly widespread rains,” he said.

The concentration of rainfall over a particular area depends upon the monsoon trough, a low-pressure area that is established before the monsoon sets in. The trough, in its normal position, extends from Sriganganagar to the Bay of Bengal, passing over Delhi, Allahabad in central Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. After forming in the Bay of Bengal, monsoon systems travel along the trough and give rains to different parts depending upon its position, which keeps oscillating.

IMD’s weather prediction models are indicating a southward shift of the trough from August 2, followed by the formation of a low pressure area over northwest and adjoining west-central Bay of Bengal around August 4. This will result in the monsoon reviving over central and adjoining peninsular India.

Bhan clarifies that even though rains have been highly deficient over northwest and Central India, the present situation cannot be described as a “break monsoon period”.

“It has been raining quite well over Northeast and all along the foothills of Himalayas in Uttrakhand and north Uttar Pradesh, besides of course, the western coast.” he says, adding that it is quite normal for monsoon to get into low activity phases.

The southward shifting of the monsoon axis will result in widespread rainfall activity with isolated heavy to very heavy falls over Gangetic plains and northeastern states during next two to three days

As far as the northwest, comprising Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal, Uttrakhand, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, in particular is concerned, rain or thundershowers are likely at many places over west UP and Uttarakhand and a few places over the rest of the region.

“Under the influence of the low pressure area that is likely to form in the Bay of Bengal on August 4, parts of northwest can expect scattered to fairly widespread rains,” Bhan said.

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Left parties protest Andhra firing
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 30
The embers from the Mudigonda police firing continued to smoulder as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy came under the increasing opposition heat.

With the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting the city tomorrow for a day-long review of the state's performance in agriculture, infrastructure and industrial sectors, the Rajasekhar Reddy government finds itself on the back-foot over the unsavoury incident.

On the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit, the opposition parties have stepped up their offensive, gunning for Reddy's head.

While TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu announced that he would stage a day-long hunger strike here tomorrow to protest against the police firing, a delegation of opposition leaders met the Governor Rameshwar Thakur seeking his intervention in instituting a judicial probe into the police firing by a sitting high court judge.

The official sources said the Prime Minister is likely to deviate from the scheduled agenda and review the law and order situation as well in the wake of the Saturday's firing in Khammam district during the Left-sponsored bandh that left six persons dead.

A delegation of opposition parties, including TDP, CPI (M), CPI and Telangana Rashtra Samithi and smaller communist parties, submitted a joint memorandum to the Governor demanding that criminal cases be booked against policemen responsible for the incident.

"The state government is squarely responsible for the unwarranted police firing," the memorandum said and wanted all the proposals of the agitating left parties on distribution of house sites and lands to the poor to be accepted and all cases filed against the agitators be withdrawn.

Accusing the Congress government of miserably failing to resolve the land issue through dialogue, the memorandum said "The government sought to terrorise people by resorting to police action. This repressive approach resulted in the present tense situation."

The TDP urged the Prime Minister to visit Mudigonda for an on the spot assessment of the "police brutality."

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the CPI (M) Politburo held a meeting and endorsed the state unit's demand for Reddy's resignation. It vowed to continue the land struggle for distribution of the lands to the poor.

The BJP and TRS have also sought the Chief Minister's resignation owning moral responsibility for the incident.

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PM speaks to Andhra CM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
Having come under increasing pressure from the Left parties and his partymen, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and reviewed the situation following the police firing in Khammam district.

The CM informed the PM about the steps taken and the decision to institute a judicial inquiry. The PM reiterated the government's commitment to redistribute surplus land and fulfil its commitments to the rural poor, especially the landless. 

Dr Singh is visiting Hyderabad tomorrow to review the state’s programmes on agriculture, infrastructure and investment plans.

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12-hr bandh at Nandigram causes uproar in Assembly
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 30
The Nandigram issue again caused uproar in the state Assembly today when both the opposition and even some ruling left front MLAs criticised the state government for its failure in restoring peace and normalcy at Nandigram.

The Congress (l) and Trinamool Congress members also held the Chief Minister, and the CPI(M) responsible for creating the Nandigram problems by misusing the police and the cadres' muscle powers. The Congress (l) MLAs later staged a walk out from the House.

The Nandigram issue was also raised at the CPI(M)'s state committee held at Alimuddin Street party office in the morning, where several senior leaders, including the veteran Jyoti Basu, expressed dissatisfaction that the peace and normalcy could not be restored after so many months in such a small area in West Midnapore, where even in the recent municipal elections, the front had won in 19 seats of the total 26.

Afterwards talking to mediapersons, Basu said he did not want how long the disturbances would continue at Nandigram. He advised the reporters to ask the Chief Minister for this answer.

Yesterday, violent clashed occurred between the CPI(M) and the Krishi Bachao Committee workers and supporters in the Nandigram area and around in which firearms, bombs and crackers were freely used. One CPI(M) supporter was killed and five others belonging to both the TMC and the CPI(M) were severely injured by the gun-shots fired by the two rival groups against others.

Today, the TMC and the Krishi Bachao Committee observed a 12-hour bandh at Nandigram against the CPI(M)'s planned attack on them on Sunday when the police force stationed there were sitting idle. Today, however, there were no further disturbances.

Home secretary Prasad Ranjan Ray said no untoward incident occurred today at Nandigram, where a large contingent of para-military forces had been deployed.

In the evening, the TMC MLAs and the Krishia Bachao Committee leaders led by Mamata Banerjee led a deputation to the governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi at Rajbhavan and demanded his protection for the lives and properties of the people at Nandigram. Mamata said they had already sent fresh memorandum to Manmohan Singh and the Home Minister, Shivraj Patil seeking their intervention. 

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6 teams to check Gujarat electoral rolls
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
While deciding to postpone the byelection to the Ballia parliamentary constituency due to flood situation, the Election Commission today deputed six teams to check the electoral rolls in the BJP-ruled Gujarat, where assembly polls are due later this year.

The poll panel said considering the flood situation in eastern UP and likely water-logging during the later half of the month of August in a considerable number of polling stations areas falling within the Ballia constituency, it has decided to postpone the elections there.

A fresh schedule for the byelection will be announced later, it added.

It has also rescheduled the byelection to three assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh - Suar Tanda, Gunnaur and Farrukhabad - from August 29 to August 31.

" The EC has deputed six teams, each comprising two officials, to check various aspects of the electoral rolls in Gujarat," an EC spokesman said here. The term of the Gujarat assembly ends on December 26.

The commission has recently published the final electoral rolls for all 182 assembly seats in the state in the run-up to the elections. According to the revised voters list, there are 3.64 crore electors, of which 1.87 crore are men. 

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Convict’s family owes it to ‘Governor sahib’
Raju William
Tribune News Service

Dehra Dun, July 30
A decade ago, four minor school going Bhatt siblings of Hardwar were clueless as to what befell them when their father Ashok Bhatt, a tea vendor was convicted for a life term in a murder case that was reopened after 18 years.

Equally shattering it was for their mother Anita Bhatt, a housewife who believed her husband was implicated in the case that took place much before their marriage. So on the advice of her jailed husband she approached Uttarakhand Governor for remission of his jail term. And the life took a right turn.

The Governor promised to provide necessary monetary help in the form of scholarships. He facilitated their adoption by Him Jyoti Foundation.

While narrating her tale, Anita Bhatt along with her daughters said, "It happened when two brothers of my husband living with us in a joint family turned their backs on us. I started stitching clothes and with some financial help from my brother, managed to support the family. I could not afford school fee of my children but Governor Sahib dissuaded me from discontinuing their studies and promised to pay for it till completion of their professional education," she said.

Elder ones Kopal (23) and Komal (22) now look forward to become earning hands in a few months as both will be completing their one year course in hospitality and aviation management in September, 2007.

The Foundation is bearing the course fee of Rs 1 lakh for each sister. The younger one, Shikha, is pursuing second year of nursing training at Jolly Grant Hospital while the youngest brother Shikhanj is studying in 7th class.

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Indo-Pakistan trade talks from today
S Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
India and Pakistan will try to resolve issues that stand in the way of closer economic engagement, when commerce secretaries of the two countries hold two-day talks beginning here tomorrow.

The two neighbouring countries, during their negotiations, are expected to lay focus on the diversification of the trade basket.

The 12-member Pakistani delegation would be led by commerce secretary Syed Asif Ali Shah, while the Indian side would be led by commerce secretary G.K Pillai. The other members of the Pakistani delegation include Aizaz Ahmed Choudhury, Director General (South Asia and SAARC) and Shahid Hussain Raja, additional secretary.

The agenda for the talks includes trade in goods and services, important issues like tea exports from India, joint registration of basmati rice (GI), discussion on expanding bilateral trade, new items for trade such as cement, etc.

Establishing links between capital markets and liberalising the visa regime for travelling businessmen will also be discussed, official sources said.

Pakistan is likely to once again push for easing norms for export of cement to India. After India cut the excise duty to zero to check spiralling domestic price of cement, Pakistan had expressed its keeness to export the key building material to India.

However, stringent norms of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) have resulted in inordinate delay in cement arrival from Pakistan.

India is likely to again press Pakistan for opening overland routes to Afghanistan and Central Asian republics - a proposal for which Pakistan has not shown much enthusiasm because of its strategic interests in that region.

A meeting of the joint study group will follow the talks on trade on August 2. Despite difference in approach, the bilateral trade between the two countries has grown at an impressive rate during the past two years. Pakistan exports to India have grown from $ 94.97 million (2004-05) to $ 323.19 million (2006-07).

The Indian exports have grown from $ 521.05 million (2004-05) to $1003.22 million (2006-07).

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Notices to Centre, ASI
Dance party in front of Taj Mahal
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 30
A special Bench of the Supreme Court, monitoring the case pertaining to protection of Taj Mahal from the adverse environment impact, today issued notices to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Centre on organising of a dance party just in front of the monument by IT major Microsoft to promote its commercial interests.

Terming it as violation of various orders passed by the court and ASI rules on heritage monuments, a Bench of Justices S.B. Sinha, S.H. Kapadia and D.K. Jain sought replies from the government and the ASI, which is custodian of the Taj Mahal.

The court took cognisance of the matter after a news report, appearing in a national daily on January 31 about the dance and other programmes organised by Microsoft to launch its VISTA window in India, was placed before it.

It was a simultaneous programme organised by Microsoft at New York, Tokyo and Taj Agra to promote its business interests, advocate Vijay Panjwani, who placed the news report before the court, informed the court.

The court sought affidavits from the Ministries of Tourism and Culture, Environment and Forest and the ASI as to how this had happened.

As per the newspaper report, Microsoft required $6 billion investment to promote VISTA, which was the first major release from the IT major since launch of Windo XP in 2001.

The Microsoft Windows software runs on 95 per cent of the world’s computers, the report said.

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V-P poll sans fireworks
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
After the high-pitched and bitterly contested Presidential election, the campaign for the August 10 Vice-Presidential poll has failed to generate the same kind of excitement. 

There are three candidates in the fray, UPA-Left’s Hamid Ansari, NDA’s Najma Heptulla and the Third Front’s Rasheed Masood, but their campaign has gone unnoticed since the result is a foregone conclusion. Hamid Ansari’s installation as Vice-President is a mere formality. 

Consequently, there are no high-decibel press briefings by the different political parties and no charges and counter-charges flying thick and fast. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, who was the NDA-backed Presidential candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s spokesperson, has been retained to assist Najma Heputalla along with her colleague S.S Ahluwalia.

But, as Swaraj herself admits, the Vice-Presidential campaign is “more like a picnic”. They all meet every evening at Heptulla’s Teen Murti Lane residence to chart out their “strategy” over hot pakoras and sweets. 

Although the numbers are not in their favour, Heptulla and Swaraj are soldiering on bravely. Heptulla has called up all members of the electoral college who, as she says, are known to her personally since she was Rajya Sabha vice-chairperson for 17 years.

In addition, she has dispatched a two-page letter, along with her bio-data, appealing to all MPs of both Houses of Parliament to vote for her to “uphold democratic ideals.” 

Justifying their decision to contest the Vice-Presidential election, Swaraj said the NDA decided to field its candidate as it wanted to establish its identity and make a political point. Besides, it did want to hand over the post to the UPA on a platter as it failed to hammer out a consensus with the Opposition on either of the two top posts. Swaraj was also at pains to explain that Heptulla has not been fielded because she “is woman and a Muslim” but purely because of her capabilities, adding that she would obviously be the party’s Vice-Presidential candidate if the NDA gets an opportunity to field its nominee in the future. 

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2 pleas on Prez poll dismissed
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 30
Two petitions on the laws relating to presidential election were today dismissed by the Supreme Court.

While the first petition questioned continued observance of 1971 census as the base for calculating the vote values of MPs and MLAs of electoral college to elect the President, the second had raised the issue of permitting jailed MPs and MLAs to vote.

A Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G Balakrishnan said even if the composition of the electoral college was made on the basis of latest census figures, it would have not made any difference on the Presidential election.

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DST step to boost crop management
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 30
Crop management is set to acquire a new dimension in the country with the Department of Science and Technology (DST) developing a capability to monitor crop health in real time.

Under the initiative, announced today by science and technology minister Kapil Sibal, the department has built a capacity to assess per hectare production for rabi crops of wheat, mustard, gram and kharif crops of rice and cotton. The initiative, developed for Haryana initially, will be extended to the entire country in six months.

Several states, including Punjab and Gujarat, have already envinced keen interest in the initiative, which would cover more crops.

The trigger for the initiative was a hailstorm in Rewari earlier this year. Burdened with unverified claims of compensation, the Haryana government was keen on a scientific assessment of the actual loss to crops. While several agencies were approached, it was the DST which took up the task.

A small team of scientists from the DST juxtaposed the relevant data form satellites with information on weather and topography. They used these inputs to churn out a "bio-metric index model", which is specific to every crop.

The per hectare estimates generated by the department were tallied with crop-cutting data for 6,000 villages in Haryana and assessment was accurate for 95 per cent of the villages.

Scienists of the DST team said it was possible to mark out areas which were under stress either due to heat conditions or lack of water. They said data on rainfall, temperature and soil moisture were being provided Haryana for trial so that these parameters can be monitored to the level of village.

The DST is also providing Haryana an estimate of sown area under different crops in the current kharif season. Normally, such data is available later in the season after land surveys have been done.

DST scientists said such estimates can be provided on a fortnightly basis and first estimates up to July 19 have already been given. They have delineated areas under different crops for all districts in the state. Firm estimates of cropped area will be available in the next fortnight and production estimates will be provided before harvesting, the scientists said.

They said the DST initiative will make crop insurance more meaningful.<p>"The capablity will not only monitor onset of drought in real time but also provide capabilty to assess crop damage. Support can be provided to alternative insurance products such as weather insurance," they said.

Methodology for assessment of crop diseases will also be built into the programme. 

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2 held for grabbing Dalit land

Lucknow, July 30
The Uttar Pradesh police has arrested two people and was in search of ex-Samajwadi Party city president Fakir Siddique in connection with grabbing a Dalit land in the state capital.

SP (Trans-Gomti) Umesh Singh said here that Fakir was absconding after police team went for his arrest.

The two other arrested were Naval Kumar Gupta, a business partner of Fakir and Javeed Siddique, nephew of the SP leader. Police said the SP leader had grabbed, through illegal means, the land of a Dalit near Munshipulia in Indira Nagar locality.

Fakir had contested the last Assembly Elections on SP ticket from Lucknow east constituency and was defeated only by a slender margin of about 400 votes. — UNI

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Research fellows’ grant enhanced

New Delhi, July 30
The government has substantially raised the fellowship amount for research fellows and associates in science with effect from April 1 this year, science and technology minister Kapil Sibal announced today.

A junior research fellow (JRF) or a senior research fellow (SRF) who qualifies through the National Eligibility Test (NET) or its equivalent for admission in Ph.D will now get a monthly fellowship of Rs 12,000 instead of Rs 8,000, Sibal said.

A JRF/SRF (Professional) will get Rs 14,000 instead of Rs 9,500. The fellowship amount for research associate (1) has been raised from Rs 11,000 to Rs 16,000, for research associate (2) from Rs 11,500 to Rs 17,000 and for research associate (3) from Rs 12,000 to Rs 18,000.

All eligible candidates admitted to Ph.D will be covered under a suitable fellowship programme in a phase-wise manner. — UNI

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16 feared drowned in boat capsize
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, July 30
As many as 16 persons were feared drowned as an overcrowded boat ferrying pilgrims capsized in the Ganga near Ramna Ghat under Lanka police station in the religious city of Varanasi today. At least eight bodies were recovered and search was on for another eight. According to SSP Varanasi S.B Shirodkar the accident occurred around 1130 when a boat ferrying around 27 persons from Chota Mirzapur Ghat of Mirzapur district to Ramana Ghat in Varanasi sank midstream.

As many as 11 persons, including the boatman Sitaram swam to safety, while the remaining 16 passengers were feared drowned.

As the river is in spate it has made the rescue operation difficult. Yet both the PAC and local divers were searching for the missing passengers in the rising river.

According to SSP Varanasi the eight bodies fished out by local people along with the PAC divers till 1800 were identified as those of Pooja (12), Pyari Devi (55), Urmila (10), Malati Devi (40), Lalati (35), Sita Devi, Jyoti (12) and Rahul (8), all belonging to Kurauni village of neighbouring Mirzapur district.

Boatman Sitaram, who had swum to safety is absconding. ''A case will be lodged in Varanasi against the absconding boatman, who overloaded the boat despite strong protests by the passengers,'' said SSP Varanasi.

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Assam floods cause havoc
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 30
The devastation caused by floods and landslides in the region has claimed 25 lives so far in Assam and Meghalaya while the flood situation continued to remain grim in Assam where rivers are still
on spate.

Floods claimed 15 lives in Assam - four in Dhubri district, one in Tezpur, one in Sivasagar (Disangpani), one at Bokakhat, two in Karbi Anglong district and one each at Tihu, Barak Valley, Bojali, Philobari, Morigaon and Baramboi. Earlier, 10 deaths had been reported from West Garo Hills district of Meghalaya due to landslides and floods. 

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