SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

No criminality in most Kargil purchases: CBI
New Delhi, August 13
After two years of investigation, the CBI today informed the Supreme Court that no criminal intention has been found in majority of the Kargil war purchases made during the NDA regime for registration of FIRs.

Yearlong events to mark 60th anniversary
New Delhi, August 13
Yearlong official functions have been planned in different parts of the country to mark the 150th anniversary of the 1857 First War of Independence and the 60th anniversary of Independence.

A Slice of History
In this picture taken on August 15, 1947, crowds of revellers gather to celebrate Independence from the British around Raisina Hill in New Delhi.
In this picture taken on August 15, 1947, crowds of revellers gather to celebrate Independence from the British around Raisina Hill in New Delhi. — AFP






EARLIER STORIES




IN THE POWER ARENA

Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan BJP MP Hema Malini
Samajwadi Party MP Jaya Bachchan and (right) BJP MP Hema Malini outside Parliament House on Monday. — Tribune photos by Mukesh Aggarwal

Kidney racket busted
Bangalore, August 13
Bangalore may be the IT capital of India but its rural areas are witnessing farmers selling off their kidneys to clear debts. The Bangalore police yesterday saved three farmers and two silk weavers from falling victim to the organ trade and arrested three persons who have been carrying out this trade for the past five years.

Ansari vows to be evenhanded
New Delhi, August 13
The newly elected Vice-President Hamid Ansari today pledged that he would do his best to discharge his duties as the Rajya Sabha chairman with fairness and impartiality.

UPA, Left hunt for middle ground
New Delhi, August 13
Even as the face-off between the UPA government and the Left parties over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal continued today, both sides are hunting for a middle ground which will ensure that the Congress-led coalition lasts its full term without making the two key players step back from their extreme positions.

Sonia to spell out stand today
New Delhi, August 13
Congress president Sonia Gandhi will spell out her stand on the nuclear deal when she addresses the customary meeting of the Congress parliamentary party tomorrow.

Godhra
Suspended BJP MLA comes clean
Ahmedabad, August 13
Suspended BJP MLA Gordhan Zadafia today said he was equally responsible along with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the happenings in the state after the Sabarmati Express train carnage in Godhra in 2002.

Sohrabuddin case
SC quashes bail of Gujarat DSP
New Delhi, August 13
The Supreme Court today ordered the cancellation of the anticipatory bail granted to Gujarat deputy superintendent of police Narender K. Amin, allegedly involved in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

Panel favours one personal law for all
New Delhi, August 13
The government should enact uniform personal laws for all religious communities, a parliamentary committee said today. This could trigger another controversy for the UPA coalition.

IIM Directors
Appointment process on under norms: Arjun
New Delhi, August 13
Amidst controversy regarding appointment of directors to the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), the government today said the process had begun under the laid down norms.

Sreedharan for better transport system in Amritsar
Ludhiana metro in 5 years
New Delhi, August 13
There is some good news for the people of Ludhiana. If all goes as per plan, the congested industrial city will get a metro rail within the next four or five years.

Proposal to induct pilots approved
New Delhi, August 13
To enable the Indian Air Force to tide over shortage of pilots, the government has approved a proposal to induct these under the short service recruitment.

Tulbul Navigation Project
Indo-Pak talks on Aug 30-31
New Delhi, August 13
India and Pakistan will hold talks on the Tulbul Navigation Project under the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP) here on August 30-31.

India to launch reusable rocket in 2010
Bangalore, August 13
India will launch a reusable rocket for the first time in the history of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2010, ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said today.

Rain cripples life in Bengal; Army called in
Kolkata, August 13
Torrential rain paralysed life in this metropolis and several other parts of south Bengal today. A cycle-rickshaw puller was electrocuted when he came in contact with a live wire while ferrying a passenger in a waterlogged area of the posh satellite township of Salt Lake here.

Bihar floods: 17 hurt in clash
Bettiah, August 13
Not satisfied with the flood relief, hundreds of relief-seekers today turned violent in Bettiah, headquarters of West Champaran, and ransacked the block office, leading to clash between them and the police in which 17 persons, including five policemen, were injured.

Shekhawat vacates residence
New Delhi, August 13
Former vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has vacated the official accommodation allotted to him on the Maulana Azad road and shifted to Rajasthan House.

2 militants killed in Assam
Diphu, August 13
Two Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF) militants were killed in an encounter with the security forces today in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district where tension prevails after the killing of 29 Hindi-speaking persons by ultras during last week.

Central team in Assam
Guwahati, August 13
A high-level official team of the Central government led by special secretary, ministry of home affairs (internal security), today visited the violence-ravaged Assam to review the situation with senior police, paramilitary and Army officials.

Srikrishna Report
Maharashtra to set up special courts 

Mumbai, August 13
The Maharashtra government today decided to set up special courts to deal with "around two dozen serious cases" mentioned in the Justice Srikrishna Commission report, which probed the 1992-93 riots here.

Taslima Case
Govt not soft on AIMIM MLAs: Reddy
Hyderabad, August 13
Denying the charge that the Congress government was “soft” towards the legislators of the “friendly” All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), who attacked controversial Bangladesh writer Taslima Nasreen, state Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy today asserted that his government “will fulfill its Constitutional obligation”.

Arrest of Arjun Singh’s relatives stayed
Allahabad, August 13
The Allahabad High Court today stayed the arrest of the grandson, son and three other members of human resource development minister Arjun Singh's family in an alleged dowry harassment case.

Immolation bid by taxi driver
Lucknow, August 13
A taxi driver, Babban Singh, sprinkled kerosene on himself and attempted self-immolation in front of the Vidhan Sabha today.


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No criminality in most Kargil purchases: CBI
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 13
After two years of investigation, the CBI today informed the Supreme Court that no criminal intention has been found in majority of the Kargil war purchases made during the NDA regime for registration of FIRs.

Out of a total of 25 cases of Kargil purchases, referred to the CBI by the ministry of defence (MoD), FIRs had only been registered in two - aluminum caskets and terminally guided ammunition cases - while preliminary enquiries (PEs) were registered in five others, additional solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam told the court.

In the five cases of PEs also “no criminality” was found by the agency and all of them had been sent back to the MoD for further instruction. The ministry had again asked the CBI to register FIRs at least in one or two matters, he told a Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran, while placing before it the status report on the investigation so far.

Similarly, in respect of 12 Tehelka expose cases, the CBI found material for registration of FIRs only in three cases and PEs in three others. Registration of PE is only an internal mechanism of the agency to streamline its probe to find out whether a prima facie case is made out to register the FIR.

The five PEs pertaining to Kargil purchases are special ammunition for 40 mm L-70 guns, special woolen socks, kolos tyres, spares for 155mm guns and hand held thermal imagers. The agency though had referred these cases to MoD for department action against the officials, indicted by the comptroller and auditor general (CAG).

In the remaining 18 Kargil purchases, the CBI found no basis for registering even the PEs and sent them back to MoD for appropriate departmental action as per the CAG recommendation, also endorsed by the CBI.

Former defence minister George Fernandes was under attack by the UPA alliance partners, including the Left, Kargil purchases and when in its 2005 affidavit the MoD had virtually given him a clean chit of his role in sanctioning the purchases in violation of the rules, Pranab Mukherjee who then headed the MoD had come under severe attack from within the alliance.

However, regarding the 12 Tehelka expose cases, the CBI stated that FIRs had been registered in three of them - Barak missiles, armoured recovery vehicles and upgrading of 130mm field guns to 155mm - and investigation was continuing.

After recording the details in its order, the court directed the government to submit a status report within two months on the follow up action, and posted the matter for further hearing on October 8.

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Yearlong events to mark 60th anniversary

New Delhi, August 13
Yearlong official functions have been planned in different parts of the country to mark the 150th anniversary of the 1857 First War of Independence and the 60th anniversary of Independence.

A list of 65 suggested events has been prepared, commencing from Independence Day and concluding on August 11 next year, officials connected with the celebrations told IANS.

Five events have been planned for August alone. These include the commemoration of the August 22, 1907, event when Madam Bhikaji Cama hoisted the national flag at a conference in Stuttgart, Germany. A function will be held on the day in Mumbai.

On August 28, functions will be held in Imphal and Kohima in memory of Jadonang, who fought against the British rule, and was executed on August 28, 1931.

A function will be held September 9 in Amritsar to commemorate revolutionary Bhagat Singh’s founding of a revolutionary group, HSRA, on the same day in 1928.

On September 28, the birth centenary celebrations of Bhagat Singh (born in 1907) will be held in Amritsar.

The birth anniversary celebrations of Madam Bhikaji Cama (born in 1861) will be held in Mumbai the next day.

The indigo peasants’ resistance that took place in Nadia on September 13, 1859, soon after the British overcame the uprising in 1857 and established their empire in India, will be observed in West Bengal.

On November 7, the day in 1862 the last Mughal king Bahadur Shah Zafar, who led the Independence war against the British, died in Yangon in British captivity, will be observed in New Delhi.

On November 28, a function will be held in Kanpur in the memory of the defeat that British general Windham suffered on that day in 1857 at the hands of the Gwalior contingent at Kanpur.

One event has been planned for October in Kolkata, seven for November and one in December to mark the December 28, 1896, singing of Vande Mataram at the Indian National Congress session in Calcutta.

Five events have been lined up for January, three for February, six for March and three functions listed for July, including the commemoration in Chennai of the mutinous seizure of Vellore Fort on July 10, 1806. August 9 has traditionally been celebrated as Quit India Day. The main function is held in this connection in Mumbai.

But the celebrations will be extended to Midnapore in West Bengal and Ballia in Uttar Pradesh. Another event planned for the same day is the martyrdom of Kakori train raiders that took place on August 9, 1925, in Lucknow.

The celebrations would end with observing the martyrdom of Khudi Ram Bose in Muzaffarpur. Bose was hanged on August 11, 1908. — IANS

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Kidney racket busted
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, August 13
Bangalore may be the IT capital of India but its rural areas are witnessing farmers selling off their kidneys to clear debts. The Bangalore police yesterday saved three farmers and two silk weavers from falling victim to the organ trade and arrested three persons who have been carrying out this trade for the past five years.

Ironically, the trade in human organs was done “lawfully” with the gang getting the transaction done through the authorisation committee, a regulatory body set up under the Human Organ Transplantation Act (1994), which forbids transplantation of human organs for commercial gain.

Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy while reacting to the development today said stringent action would be taken against the guilty. He said a detailed probe would be ordered into the matter in due course.

While three persons, identified as Mahadeva, Mohan Kumar and Ravi have been arrested, two others, who are believed to be the kingpins, are still absconding. The gang was busted when one of the farmers who was being groomed for a kidney donation escaped from the house where he was being kept with four other prospective donors in Neelamangala, around 30 km from the city.

The farmer, Narasimha (26), said he had come into contact with one of the accused Mohan when he was looking out for a loan. “I was told Mohan and his friends had given money to some farmers to help them clear their debts”.

He said when he came to Mohan’s house the latter started lecturing him about kidney donation and told him it was as simple as blood donation. “I felt humiliated and managed to escape from the house and informed the police”, he said. Following this a police team headed by DSP A.G. Dharmaraj raided the house and rescued the five persons.

According to police investigations, the gang has been operating from the past seven years during which period it had fooled all government agencies regulating the process of kidney transplantation with fake documents. The gang created false government certificates like ration card, family tree and income certificates with the help of touts. The documents were submitted to the authorised committee.

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Ansari vows to be evenhanded
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
The newly elected Vice-President Hamid Ansari today pledged that he would do his best to discharge his duties as the Rajya Sabha chairman with fairness and impartiality.

Acknowledging the warm welcome extended to him by the House of Elders, Ansari said, “Even though I’m a newcomer to this august body, as a citizen I am not unaware of its deliberations.”

Reminding the members of the rules of procedures and conventions developed by the House over the years for the conduct of business, he said the assigned duty of the Chair was to ensure that all concerned played by these rules.

He said, “The referee in a game of hockey or football does carry coloured cards in his shirt pocket; a good game, however, is one in which the need to use these cards does not arise. It is my fervent hope that with your cooperation, the latter mode would characterise our common endeavour.”

Welcoming Ansari to the Rajya Sabha, the Prime Minister and leader of the house, Dr Manmohan Singh, stressed the need to restore dignity and decorum expected of the Upper House. Expressing concern over repeated disruptions of proceedings in recent years, the PM said, “I hope all of this can be put behind us.”

The PM said, “I say with all sincerity that you come in a long line of distinguished chairpersons and you come with great distinction. You have had a distinguished service as a diplomat representing our country in important capitals of the world and the United Nations. More recently, you have also served the cause of education as the vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University.”

Clad in a light brown sherwani and white churidar, Ansari was all ears to the words of caution.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Jaswant Singh, said high constitutional offices should be above contention. He said one of the most essential condition of the working of a parliamentary system was that for the government to have its way, the Opposition should have its say.

CPM member Sitaram Yechury expressed the hope that the Rajya Sabha chairman would run the House in an impartial manner.

In his maiden speech, CPI member D. Raja hoped that the House would voice the concerns of the weaker, marginalised and exploited sections of society.

Rashtriya Janata Dal member Ramdeo Bhandari said the Rajya Sabha was being run at great expenditure and it should be run with great dignity.

Najma Heptulla who lost out to Ansari in the election displayed exemplary sportsman spirit by assuring him full cooperation.

Dr Karan Singh, deputy leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha and chairman of the ethics committee, drew the attention of the members to the code of conduct framed by the committee.

National Conference member Farooq Abdullah reminded the members to mind their p's and q's in the House. “There are people who shout and shout so severely. I pity those schoolchildren who see us fighting on television as if we were in a fish market.

Trinamool Congress member Dinesh Trivedi said there were “only three occasions when there was pindrop silence in the House --- when we welcome a member, when we bid farewell to a member and the third is the sad occasion of obituaries.”

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UPA, Left hunt for middle ground
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
Even as the face-off between the UPA government and the Left parties over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal continued today, both sides are hunting for a middle ground which will ensure that the Congress-led coalition lasts its full term without making the two key players step back from their extreme positions.

To begin with, the debate on the Indo-US nuclear agreement, which was earlier slated for this week, has been postponed till after August 20, giving time to the two sides to evolve a consensus.

External affairs minister and Lok Sabha leader Pranab Mukherjee had a preliminary round of discussions with CPM leader Sitaram Yechury in his Parliament House office today.

Mukherjee told mediapersons that Congress wants the government to last its full term but this does not mean it is willing to compromise on its basic principles. However, he was not sure if the face-off between the UPA and the Left will blow over or take a serious turn. He cited past instances when the Chandra Shekhar government was unseated on a trivial issue while the NDA government was pulled down by the 17-member AIADMK led by Jayalalitha. “I am not saying it is going to happen this time but you never know,” he added.

About the Left parties’ demand for a Constitutional amendment requiring ratification of international treaties by the Parliament he said, “There is no provision in the Constitution for ratification of international treaties by the Parliament and we have no intention of creating such a precedent.”

Responding to CPM general secretary Prakash Karat’s comment that their common minimum programme makes no mention of a strategic alliance with the USA, Mukherjee said this document has spelt out that the government will pursue an independent foreign policy, which is what the UPA is doing. 

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Sonia to spell out stand today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
Congress president Sonia Gandhi will spell out her stand on the nuclear deal when she addresses the customary meeting of the Congress parliamentary party tomorrow.

Although the Congress working committee has already endorsed the deal, Sonia Gandhi has not said anything on this issue so far. This will also be her first comment following the rift between the UPA and the Left parties on the deal. The Congress president refused to say anything on the matter today though she was quizzed by mediapersons about the Prime Minister’s challenge to the Left to withdraw support if it disagreed with the agreement.

Asked about her views on the PM’s statement, she merely said she could not reply to such a question. The Congress president, who spent about 30 minutes in the Central Hall along with Rahul Gandhi, also evaded questions about the possible political repurcussions of the ongoing stand-off between the ruling combine and its Marxist allies.

She did, however, say that such situations had been witnessed in the past as well.

Rahul Gandhi will participate in the debate on the deal.

Sonia Gandhi said organisational changes in the AICC were overdue but said this exercise would be undertaken in conjunction with a Cabinet reshuffle which, she said, had to be decided by the PM.

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Godhra
Suspended BJP MLA comes clean

Ahmedabad, August 13
Suspended BJP MLA Gordhan Zadafia today said he was equally responsible along with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the happenings in the state after the Sabarmati Express train carnage in Godhra in 2002.

“I was the minister of state for home in the cabinet headed by Chief Minister Narendra Modi when the statewide riots broke out in the aftermath of Sabarmati Express train attack,” Zadafia said over telephone from Botad in Bhavnagar, where he had gone to attend a meeting of BJP rebels.

“Irrespective of my differences with Modi on a large number of issues, I have no hesitation in saying that I did support the chief minister then because as a minister I was performing my constitutional duties,” he stated.

“Therefore, I am equally responsible as much as others and ready to face the consequences for the same,” said the BJP rebel, who was suspended by the party in July.

Zadafia is considered close to former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who is a rival of Modi. His name cropped up several times during the hearing of Nanavati-Shah Commission. — PTI

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Sohrabuddin case
SC quashes bail of Gujarat DSP

New Delhi, August 13
The Supreme Court today ordered the cancellation of the anticipatory bail granted to Gujarat deputy superintendent of police Narender K. Amin, allegedly involved in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

A Bench headed by Justice Tarun Chatterjee quashed the anticipatory bail on a special leave petition filed by the Gujarat Government.

A Sessions court in Ahmedabad had earlier granted anticipatory bail to Amin, who along with 12 other officers, was reportedly involved in the killing of Sheikh and two others. — PTI

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Panel favours one personal law for all
R. Suryamurthy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
The government should enact uniform personal laws for all religious communities, a parliamentary committee said today. This could trigger another controversy for the UPA coalition.

“The government should consider the enactment of uniform personal laws for all religious communities on marriage/divorce, maintenance, property rights, etc and incorporate special provisions in them with regard to NRI marriages,” the committee on empowerment of women observed in its report.

Although the report talks of the need for uniform personal laws to provide legal assistance to women deserted by NRI husbands, the recommendation could spur a political debate on communal lines.

The controversy over the uniform civil code versus the personal laws of various religious groups has often led to polarisation of opinion.

In the Shah Bano case and later in the Sarla Mudgal case, the Supreme Court, too, has come out strongly in favour of the enactment of a uniform civil code, but political consideration weighed on the government to implement Article 44 which is one of the directive principles.

Krishna Tirath, chairperson of the committee, observed that India should take steps to become a signatory to The Hague conventions, especially the ones relating to NRI marriages. Since the private international law is not the same in all countries, the government should examine the feasibility of entering into a reciprocal bilateral treaty with countries where India diaspora is in large number.

The committee observed that the financial assistance scheme of $1,000 as legal assistance for attorney was insufficient to meet legal expenses. 

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IIM Directors
Appointment process on under norms: Arjun

New Delhi, August 13
Amidst controversy regarding appointment of directors to the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM), the government today said the process had begun under the laid down norms.

Union minister for human resource development Arjun Singh told the Rajya Sabha that the government had initiated the process for selection of directors of IIMs at Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Kolkata, as these posts were due to fall vacant in October and November.

Process had also begun to appoint the first director of the newly established Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Management, Shillong.

“The appointment of director of an IIM is made by the appointments committee of the cabinet (ACC) out of the panel recommended by the search-cum-selection committees constituted for the purpose,” he said. — PTI

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Sreedharan for better transport system in Amritsar
Ludhiana metro in 5 years
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
There is some good news for the people of Ludhiana. If all goes as per plan, the congested industrial city will get a metro rail within the next four or five years.

The Punjab government today approached Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) chief E. Sreedharan to seek his help in setting up a mass rapid transport system (MRTS) for Ludhiana and Amritsar.

Founding his observation on the preliminary feasibility report prepared by the Railway Institute of Technology and Engineering Services (RITES), Sreedharan gave a positive response to the state government’ delegation. He said a light rail transit (LRT) system, as proposed by in initial study of the institute, appeared to be a good option for Ludhiana.

According to DMRC spokesperson Anuj Dayal, the DMRC chief told the Punjab delegation, led by SAD working president Sukhbir Badal, that once the RITES report was updated with current traffic figures and detailed engineering of routes, the DMRC would be able to examine and give the best option for Ludhiana for the next 100 years.

As far as Amritsar was concerned, Dr Sreedharan said he conceded with the recommendation made by RITES that strengthening the road transport system would be a better option as the Amritsar population was comparatively “light”.

To be able to kickstart the project as early as possible, the DMRC will now send a letter of intent with terms of reference for preparing a detailed project report for Ludhiana.

It will then prepare the report in the next five or six months, clarifying to the state government the time and the money required for the project to take off and its completion.

“The Punjab government is very keen. In fact, it wants the project on ground as soon as possible. But, we have told them that to actually see it on ground will take at least four or five years. The first step will be the project report that will help them make decisions regarding investments and approaching the central government and other funding agencies for raising funds for the project,” Dayal explained.

The Punjab delegation, comprising principal secretary to local government D.S. Bains and other senior state government officials, gave a detailed presentation about the traffic situation and transportation problem in Ludhiana to the DMRC chief.

According to Dayal, the presentation states that the Ludhiana population, which was currently around 13.5 lakh, was expected to rise up to 32.96 lakh by 2021.

While the present population density in Ludhiana was very high, almost 8,755 persons per sqm, the peak hour peak direction traffic was expected to be 10,000 in 2011, clearly beyond the capacity of the road system in the industrial township, according to the RITES’ report.

“The preliminary feasibility report done by RITES five years ago proposed light rail transit system with a peak hour traffic up to 25,000 that will run at an average speed of 30 km per hour covering a 31.6-km network in Ludhiana,” Dayal said. Only after the DMRC completes its own detailed report, it will be decided that what kind of metro rail, elevated or underground, will best suit city’s needs, he added.

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Proposal to induct pilots approved

New Delhi, August 13
To enable the Indian Air Force to tide over shortage of pilots, the government has approved a proposal to induct these under the short service recruitment.

“The induction under the revised scheme would be done in a phased manner commencing January 2008,” defence minister A.K. Antony told Lok Sabha in a written reply.

He said as on July 2, 2007, IAF had a shortage of 683 pilots and the new scheme would ensure optimal utilisation of these trained pilots.

Antony said under the short service recruitment, women were eligible for recruitment as pilots to fly transport aircraft and helicopters. — PTI

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Tulbul Navigation Project
Indo-Pak talks on Aug 30-31

New Delhi, August 13
India and Pakistan will hold talks on the Tulbul Navigation Project under the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP) here on August 30-31.

Secretaries of the Ministries of Water Resources will meet for yet another round of negotiations to resolve the decades-old problem about the project on the Jhelum in Jammu and Kashmir which India calls Tulbul Navigation Project and Pakistan Wullar Barrage.

India proposed to build the barrage in 1984 on the Jhelum near Sopore in North Kashmir. — UNI

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India to launch reusable rocket in 2010

Bangalore, August 13
India will launch a reusable rocket for the first time in the history of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in 2010, ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair said today.

Talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a function here, he said the facility to study aerodynamics of such rockets was coming up near Thiruvananthapuram and ISRO had already designed a demonstrator to measure the parameters of the vehicle.

Nair said the reusable rocket would have a rocket that can propel the launch vehicle at a speed of Mach five or upwards and then drop into the sea later.

“We will now take up exercises to impart air breathing modules that can be integrated into the reusable rockets,” he added.

ISRO had asked its space scientists to focus their attention on mission to Mars that could happen by 2012.

“The atmosphere on Mars is very interesting. The scientists are coming up with some ideas and suggestions,” he added. — UNI

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Rain cripples life in Bengal; Army called in
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, August 13
Torrential rain paralysed life in this metropolis and several other parts of south Bengal today. A cycle-rickshaw puller was electrocuted when he came in contact with a live wire while ferrying a passenger in a waterlogged area of the posh satellite township of Salt Lake here.

Heavy showers that began last night were continuing till the filing of the report in the evening, rendering most of the places in Kolkata, including the Chowrignhee, Esplanade, the BBD office area, Ballygunge, Gariahat, Bhownaipore in the south and Shambazar, Bagbagan, College Street, Sealdah, etc. in the north waterlogged.

Army and the civil defence personnel were engaged in rescue operations in the flood-hit districts. In the city also Army boats were deployed for rescuing people to safer places.

The state government’s headquarters at Writers’ Buildings and the police control room at Lalbazar remained waterlogged throughout the day. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the Civil Defence were jointly pressed into the service to drain out the accumulated water. But the effort was of little help given the city’s poor drainage and sewerage system.

In several south Bengal districts like Burdwan, Bankura, Purulia, Birbhum, Hooghly, Malda and Murshidabad, the rain wreaked havoc, rendering hundreds of people homeless.

At least seven embankments near the Farakka barrage got breached and many villages washed away in the current of the floodwaters.

According to the state relief department, over 500,000 people were directly affected due to the floods and many of the flood-ravaged people, particularly in Malda, South 24-Pargans, Bardwan and Hooghly had been shifted to nearby camps and other safer places.

However, no death has been reported in the past 24 hours. The Alipore weather office, which recorded a total rainfall of 120 mm in the city and its surroundings in the past 24 hours, has forecast heavy showers and thunderstorms in the next 48 hours in the gangetic West Bengal, particularly, in and around Kolkata, Orissa and the region under the Bihar plateau. The fishermen had been warned against venturing in the deep sea tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the state government sanctioned additional Rs 200 crore for the relief and the rescue operations. Food grains, tarpaulins, medicines and other relief material had been dispatched to flood-hits areas.

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Bihar floods: 17 hurt in clash

Bettiah, August 13
Not satisfied with the flood relief, hundreds of relief-seekers today turned violent in Bettiah, headquarters of West Champaran, and ransacked the block office, leading to clash between them and the police in which 17 persons, including five policemen, were injured.

The police had to wield batons to disperse the agitators.

Hundreds of flood-hit people, mostly women, belonging to Banauli, Amawa Majhar and Barwat panchayats assembled at the Bettiah block office in the town this morning and started raising anti-administration slogans, charging the authorities with discriminating against them in giving relief materials, sources said.

The agitated people overpowered officials and beat them up with sticks they were carrying, the police said. — PTI

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Shekhawat vacates residence
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 13
Former vice-president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat has vacated the official accommodation allotted to him on the Maulana Azad road and shifted to Rajasthan House.

Shekhawat, a former Rajasthan Chief Minister, moved to the state’s official accommodation in Delhi on the day his successor assumed office as the chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Sources said Shekhawat had been allotted a bungalow on the Aurangzeb road. The house was under renovation.

Ansari is staying at Haryana Bhawan at present. He shifted there after taking oath as the vice-president on August 11 and is likely to stay there till he moves to the official accommodation.

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2 militants killed in Assam

Diphu, August 13
Two Karbi Longri National Liberation Front (KLNLF) militants were killed in an encounter with the security forces today in Assam’s Karbi Anglong district where tension prevails after the killing of 29 Hindi-speaking persons by ultras during last week.

The police said a joint team of the police and the BSF tried to catch a group of six KLNLF militants when they were fired upon by the militants at Mouzadarbasti under Bokajan.

An encounter followed lasting nearly half an hour in which two KLNLF were killed and the remaining four managed to escape.

The security forces recovered one pistol and 700 gm of RDX from the militants.

Meanwhile, tension prevails in the district following the killing of 29 Hindi-speaking people by ULFA and KLNLF militants in joint attacks during the last weekend.

Patrolling by both army and police have been intensified throughout the district and the government has set up four relief camps at Bokajan, Bokakhat, Santipur and Bokolia for panic-stricken Hindi-speaking people, sources added. — PTI

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Central team in Assam
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, August 13
A high-level official team of the Central government led by special secretary, ministry of home affairs (internal security), today visited the violence-ravaged Assam to review the situation with senior police, paramilitary and Army officials.

According to an official source, the team first attended the meeting of the strategic group of the three-tier Unified Command which is engaged in counter-insurgency operation in the state, to review the law and order situation and take note of the efforts made by the state government to check escalation of violence. The team later met officials of the Army, BSF and CRPF to gather views of the forces on the prevailing situation.

Union minister of state for home Sriprakash Jaiswal is scheduled to visit the state tomorrow. He would visit violence-affected Ampathar, Dolomara Rang Teron and Diphu. He would also meet the families of Hindi-speaking persons killed by the militants.

Meanwhile, 15 additional companies of the CRPF today arrived in the state. The state government has sought 15 more companies of the paramilitary forces.

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Srikrishna Report
Maharashtra to set up special courts 

Mumbai, August 13
The Maharashtra government today decided to set up special courts to deal with "around two dozen serious cases" mentioned in the Justice Srikrishna Commission report, which probed the 1992-93 riots here.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh gave this assurance to a delegation of Muslim organisations and NGOs, which met him at the state secretariat.

Following the assurance, the organisations announced that they are postponing their August 20 rally planned here to seek speedy implementation of the nearly decade-old report.

"We are postponing the rally to October 25 following the Chief Minister's assurance," filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who was part of the delegation, told reporters.

"We pointed out to Deshmukh that of the 253 total cases mentioned in the Srikrishna report, around two to three dozens were serious ones as they deal with offences under Section 302 (murder) of IPC," said social activist Teesta Setalvad.

“Deshmukh told us the government was very serious on the issue and would write to the High Court for setting up three to four special courts to deal with the serious cases and also appoint special public prosecutors,” she said.

Sources in the Chief Minister's Office said the proposal to set up special courts would be put for approval before the Cabinet, after which, the government would write to the High Court.

Deshmukh also assured the delegation that stringent action would be taken against newspapers publishing inflammatory articles.

“He assured us the government would monitor such newspapers,” Setalvad said.

The special courts would also deal with cases "which are not mentioned in the Srikrishna report or in police records", sources said.

There may be a couple of such cases, they said.

Deshmukh, who is under pressure to act on the panel's findings, has already directed the Law and Judiciary Department and police to probe lapses in implementation of the report.— PTI

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Taslima Case
Govt not soft on AIMIM MLAs: Reddy

Hyderabad, August 13
Denying the charge that the Congress government was “soft” towards the legislators of the “friendly” All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), who attacked controversial Bangladesh writer Taslima Nasreen, state Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy today asserted that his government “will fulfill its Constitutional obligation”.

Talking to mediapersons here, he said cases had been registered by the police against the legislators, as also Nasreen, based on their complaints filed against each other.

The police would take appropriate action after investigating the cases, he added.

“Mere registration of cases does not mean that the government has acted this way or the other,” he said.

Dr Reddy dismissed as “hypothetical” the question about what the government would do if the AIMIM chose to carry out the fatwa issued against her, if she dared visit Hyderabad again.

“The government will always protect law,” he added.

The chief minister said the police had taken cognisance of the statement of AIMIM legislature party leader Akbaruddin Owaisi.

Owaisi had threatened to carry out the fatwa issued against her by eliminating her if she stepped into Hyderabad again.

Parrying a question whether Owaisi attracted the provisions of Section 307 (attempt to murder), IPC, Dr Reddy said: “I am not a legal expert.”

Meanwhile, Akbaruddin Owaisi has asked the police to arrest Nasreen and seize her passport based on his party’s complaint. — Agencies

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Arrest of Arjun Singh’s relatives stayed

Allahabad, August 13
The Allahabad High Court today stayed the arrest of the grandson, son and three other members of human resource development minister Arjun Singh's family in an alleged dowry harassment case.

Justices Imtiyaz Murtaza and V.K. Verma also asked the Uttar Pradesh government and the complainant Madhvendra Singh to file their counter-affidavits.

Madhvendra Singh had lodged an FIR in Chandausi police station in Moradabad on July 29 alleging that his daughter Priyanka, who is married to the Union minister's grandson Abhijeet Singh, was tortured and harassed for dowry by her husband and in-laws. — PTI

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Immolation bid by taxi driver
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, August 13
A taxi driver, Babban Singh, sprinkled kerosene on himself and attempted self-immolation in front of the Vidhan Sabha today.

However, he was saved by the police, arrested and sent to the Lucknow jail.

A resident of Kotwali Dehat of Bahraich district, Babban attempted to set him self ablaze to draw the attention of the authorities towards reported illegal extortion of taxi drivers by a Bahraich strongman, Sandeep Kalia.

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