SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


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

123 Deal
PM might seek Japan’s support
at NSG

New Delhi, August 20
India is going ahead with talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the Indo-US nuclear deal despite the Left parties showing a red card to the 123 agreement. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will take up the nuclear deal issue with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe during the latter’s visit to India which begins tomorrow. Japan is a member of the NSG.

Contempt of Court
Volte-face by Goa speaker

New Delhi, August 20
Goa assembly speaker Pratapsingh Rane, who had refused to accept Supreme Court notice on the petitions of three MLAs debarred from voting in the July 30 trust vote by the Digambar Kamat government, today retracted his stand and submitted before it that his statement was not “justified”. The shift in the stance by the speaker came during a hearing of a petition by two MGP MLAs on which the court reserved its verdict after discussion.


EARLIER STORIES




Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta (left) with Vice-Admiral Russ E. Shalders of Royal Australian Navy during a ceremonial welcome in New Delhi
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta (left) with Vice-Admiral Russ E. Shalders of Royal Australian Navy during a ceremonial welcome in New Delhi on Monday. — Tribune photo by Manas Ranjan Bhui

12 students killed in mishap
Alwar, August 20
Fourteen persons, including the principal and 12 students of Sharma Modern Girls B Ed Training college, Patten Ahir were killed in an accident involving a truck and a Tempo at Dasoli, about 25 km from here, under Kishangarh Bass police station today.

15 suspected Al-Qaida activists held in Manipur
Imphal, August 20
Fifteen suspected Al-Qaida activists, who entered India from Bangladesh and were on their way to Myanmar, have been detained by security forces at the border town of Moreh in Manipur’s Chandel district, official sources said today.

Q issue raises storm in LS
New Delhi, August 20
With the stand-off on the Indo-US N-deal continuing, the Left and the NDA attacked the UPA in the Lok Sabha today for its alleged "inaction" leading to Bofors pay-off acused Ottavio Quiattrocchi being released from Argentina.

RS adjourned for day 
New Delhi, August 20
The Rajya Sabha witnessed four adjournments today over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Once foe, Karunanidhi attends Cong function
Chennai, August 20
In what can be described as a political irony, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who was once accused by the Congress of being responsible for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, today participated in the 63rd birth anniversary of the slain leader at the Congress’ state headquarter here.

Manmohan invites Nitish to dinner with Japan PM
Patna, August 20
After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently hosted a dinner in honour of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in Delhi, it is the turn of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Behave like Indians: Speaker to members
New Delhi, August 20
Members from Tamil Nadu and Kerala clashed in the Lok Sabha today over the creation of a railway division, prompting Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to disapprove their behaviour asking them to “behave like Indians”.

Justice Sathasivam may be sworn in today
New Delhi, August 20
Justice P Sathasivam of the Punjab and Haryana High Court is expected to be sworn-in as a judge of the Supreme Court tomorrow. President Pratibha Patil today issued the warrant of his appointment.

Britons return to remember 1857 heroes 
Lucknow, August 20
While India is yet to get its act together for remembering those who raised the first battle cry against the British in 1857, the descendents of the British, who defended the jewel in the British crown, are visiting India in small groups to map some of the memories of India’s First War of Independence.

Armed forces short of 14,264 officers
New Delhi, August 20
India’s armed forces are short of a staggering 14,264 officers - the bulk of them in the army - and several steps are being taken to plug the gap, Parliament was informed Monday.

Rajiv remembered
New Delhi, August 20
President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and a host of Congress leaders today paid homage to former Premier Rajiv Gandhi on his 63rd birth anniversary.

Govt nukes BJP’s demand on JPC
New Delhi, August 20
Asserting that any discussion on the nuclear deal cannot be a “family affair between the UPA and the Left”, the NDA today demanded the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to look into the concerns of the deal.

NSCN rebels face public ire
Guwahati, August 20
Both the Naga rebel groups-the NSCN-IM and its rival NSCN -K - are facing increasing resistance from the people against their rampant extortion operations throughout the hill state.

Secretariat appoints ex-aides in Raisina Hills
New Delhi, August 20
After his presence in Rashtrapati Bhavan triggered a controversy, an IAF officer, who had worked with Pratibha Patil during her tenure as Rajasthan Governor, was appointed as an officer on special duty with the President's office.

BJP blasts UPA on Q
New Delhi, August 20
The BJP today charged the Congress-led UPA government with colluding with the accused and subverting the CBI to ensure that the truth in the Bofors case was given a judicial burial.

Ansari’s no to debate under Rule 168
New Delhi, August 20
Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari today rejected BJP’s demand for a discussion on the India-US nuclear deal under Rule 168, which entails voting.

Basu rules out snap poll
Kolkata, August 20
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Jyoti Basu today ruled out any possibility of mid-term polls in the country. He said the party was united on the issue.

Wait till debate, Kapil to Left
New Delhi, August 20
The UPA government was precariously balanced as the ruling combine and Left parties were unable to meet each other half-way in resolving their differences over the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement today.

HC guidelines in child sex abuse cases
New Delhi, August 20
The Delhi High Court today laid out guidelines to be followed by various executive organs while working in cases involving sexual abuse of children.

Japan PM to address Parliament tomorrow
New Delhi, August 20
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who arrives here tomorrow on a three-day India visit, will address a joint session of Parliament on Wednesday.

India ready to counter ill-effects of N-attacks: Antony
New Delhi, August 20
The country is prepared to counter the ill-effects of nuclear attacks on the country which is a continuous process in view of the threat perception, defence minister A K Antony said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

Sonia leaves for South Africa
New Delhi, August 20
In the midst of the political crisis over the Indo-US nuclear deal, Congress President Sonia Gandhi tonight left for South Africa on a four-day visit as scheduled.

Bill on AIIMS, PGI directors introduced
New Delhi, August 20
The government today introduced a Bill that seeks to empower the Centre to terminate the services of the directors of AIIMS and the PGI, Chandigarh, with a three-month notice or salary and allowance for the period.

Kafeel’s identity not confirmed: Police
Bangalore, August 20
Over a fortnight after the Glasgow airport terror plot suspect Kafeel Ahmed succumbed to third degree burns, the police were yet to receive any “official” communication on his identity, a senior police official said.

NDA, UNPA boycott Ansari meeting
New Delhi, August 20
Members belonging to the NDA and the United National Progressive Alliance today boycotted the meeting called by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to ensure the smooth conduct of proceedings. The meeting was called following repeated disruptions by the Opposition today.

Kakodkar to attend IAEA meeting
Mumbai, August 20
Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar will be attending an IAEA conference in Vienna next month but it is not clear whether he would discuss India-specific safeguards agreement with the nuclear watchdog in view of the Left parties’ opposition.

Nitish predicts mid-term poll
Patna, August 20
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today predicted mid-term Lok Sabha poll in the backdrop of the ongoing confrontation between the UPA and the Left on the “operational aspect” of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Advani predicts fall of UPA govt 
New Delhi, August 20
Former Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani today predicted the early downfall of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. This government cannot last till May, 2009, Advani told a farmers rally while attacking the UPA government over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

 
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123 Deal
PM might seek Japan’s support at NSG
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
India is going ahead with talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the Indo-US nuclear deal despite the Left parties showing a red card to the 123 agreement. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will take up the nuclear deal issue with Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe during the latter’s visit to India which begins tomorrow. Japan is a member of the NSG.

Also, Prime Minister’s special envoy Shyam Saran is currently in South America, on a mission to get approval from NSG members Brazil and Argentina. He has already visited Russia and Germany, also NSG members. Saran’s mission is to go to each member country of the 45-nation NSG to seek support for the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Saran was in Europe when the Left parties declared their “either us or nuclear deal” approach. The fact that government has not asked saran to come back conveys the government’s stand.

PM Manmohan Singh is expected to take up the issue with Abe on August 22.

Foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon today confirmed that the nuclear deal would be discussed between the two Prime Ministers, though he clarified that India would not be seeking Japan’s support on the nuclear deal.

That is because Tokyo had earlier taken a negative view of the nuclear deal but has, of late, fallen in line and is expected to vote for the deal at the NSG meeting.

It was one of the first countries to have imposed sanctions on India in the wake of Pokhran II nuclear tests by India in May 1998.

The Left parties have warned the government of “serious consequences” if the 123 agreement is operationalised. They don’t even want the government to continue its negotiations with the IAEA (for signing an India-specific safeguards agreement) and the NSG (for an India-specific waiver in nuclear commerce though India has not signed the NPT).

The Manmohan Singh government, it is understood, is not going ahead with talks with IAEA and the NSG to mock the Left. Sources say it is doing so to ensure that its international obligations and duties are performed duly.

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Contempt of Court
Volte-face by Goa speaker
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 20
Goa assembly speaker Pratapsingh Rane, who had refused to accept Supreme Court notice on the petitions of three MLAs debarred from voting in the July 30 trust vote by the Digambar Kamat government, today retracted his stand and submitted before it that his statement was not “justified”.

The shift in the stance by the speaker came during a hearing of a petition by two MGP MLAs on which the court reserved its verdict after discussion.

A Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices C.K. Thakker and R.V. Raveendran put straight question to Rane’s counsel T.R. Andhyarujina on speaker’s refusal to take the service of the notice.

“That is not justified… excuse me for that. I am here to explain… we can’t take this stand,” Andhyarujina said.

The court had drawn the attention of Rane’s counsel to a two-page affidavit placed before it on August 13 in which the speaker had stated that “out of deference of Hon’ble Court’s order of August 6, without accepting service of the same (notice) or without accepting the jurisdiction of the court to determine the matter arising within the house, I would only like to state that the allegations in petitions were actuated by a bias or that I had passed the order mala fide.”

But he had said he reserved his right to file an affidavit if so desired at a later stage.

Andhyarujina was grilled by the court, as to why the speaker had not issued notices to the three MLAs debarred from voting if application for their disqualification was pending before him.

The court expressed surprise that the speaker had given notice to an MLA who filed the disqualification application, but did not think it proper to serve similar notice to those against whom the complaint was intended to.

The speaker in an ex parte interim order had restrained the three MLAs from voting. This was described by petitioners counsel Mukul Rohtagi and Soli J. Sorabjee as not only against the natural justice but violative of the provisions laid in Tenth Schedule of Constitution to deal with disqualification of legislators.

Andhyarujina said the speaker had acted in “bona fide manner” by keeping the urgency of situation required in a small assembly like Goa where defection by even one or two members could seal the fate of the government.

But Sorabjee and Rohtagi argued that saving the government was not speaker’s job. “The order of this nature has serious consequences… the urgency for the speaker was nothing but to save the government. Such tendency should not be encouraged, as it will create lawlessness,” Sorabjee argued.

Andhyarujina claimed that Rane had acted in accordance with a Bombay High Court verdict, which said the speaker had the power to pass interim order.

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12 students killed in mishap

Alwar, August 20
Fourteen persons, including the principal and 12 students of Sharma Modern Girls B Ed Training college, Patten Ahir were killed in an accident involving a truck and a Tempo at Dasoli, about 25 km from here, under Kishangarh Bass police station today.

The only student, who survived the accident, was battling for her life at the district hospital.

According to the police, the dead included the jeep driver. While 10 persons died on the spot, four succumbed to injuries at the hospital. — UNI

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15 suspected Al-Qaida activists held in Manipur

Imphal, August 20
Fifteen suspected Al-Qaida activists, who entered India from Bangladesh and were on their way to Myanmar, have been detained by security forces at the border town of Moreh in Manipur’s Chandel district, official sources said today.

The sources said Assam Rifles personnel, on a tip-off, rounded up the foreigners from a house and a hotel at Moreh after cordoning the area in the wee hours of August 17.

They said five of them came from Arakan region of Myanmar by sea route before entering Bangladesh where 10 others joined them.

Then they all entered India and reached Manipur via Silchar in south Assam, the sources said, adding that they were on their way to Myanmar and Thailand.

Five of them - Md. Naser (42), Faizu Rehman (17), Slade Salam (21), Md. Rehan (18) and Abud Husein (42) - were suspected members of the publicity and finance wing of Al-Qaida and were Bangaldeshi nationals.

The rest were identified as Mahabu Basar (22), Md Junet (28), Basir Ahmad (21), Md Salim (23), Sabir Ahmad (31), Md Rohid (17), Abdullah (32), Md Abdul (18), B. Ahmad (18) and Sali Ahmad (32), all Myanmarese nationals.

The detainees were bring interrogated and would be handed over to the police today, the sources said. US dollars along with Bangaldeshi and Myanmarese currencies were seized from them, they said.

While one of the activists had a work permit of Thailand, the officials recovered identity cards, hospital cards, income tax cards and a receipt of a Kuala Lumpur bank from others, the sources said. — PTI 

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Q issue raises storm in LS
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
With the stand-off on the Indo-US N-deal continuing, the Left and the NDA attacked the UPA in the Lok Sabha today for its alleged "inaction" leading to Bofors pay-off acused Ottavio Quiattrocchi being released from Argentina.

The Opposition barring the Trinamool Congress walked out of the Lok Sabha on the issue. Although the Left parties did not walk out, both CPM member Suresh Kurup and CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta asked the government to come clean on the issue.

"It is a shame on the government (that the Italian businessman walked to freedom). It shows that the government is hand in glove with the person who had cheated the country," Kurup contended.

He failed to understand why the government did not appeal for Quattrocchi's extradition or take steps to get him arrested.

Quattrocchi left Buenos Aires for Milan on August 15 barely five days after New Delhi reportedly withdrew its appeal against an Argentine court's rejection of its extradition petition.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, BJP deputy leader V K Malhotra alleged that the Prime Minister was in the dock for the government's failure to pursue the case against Quattrocchi in the Supreme Court of Argentina. The BJD's B Mahtab alleged that Argentine lawyers had been asked to withdraw India's appeal at the court in that country.

"India has lost its case because we did not issue fresh warrants against him," Mahtab said. He asked if the government was serious to pursue the case against Quattrocchi and the Interpol red corner notice was still valid.

Prabhunath Singh of the JD (U) and SP's Mohan Singh alleged that the Italian businessman had been let off, thanks to his connection "in high places" in India.

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RS adjourned for day 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
The Rajya Sabha witnessed four adjournments today over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Trouble began when Leader of the Opposition Jaswant Singh drew the attention of the House to Prime Minister’s statement that those opposed to the deal are traitors. He took the floor after BJP’s demand for a discussion on the deal under Rule 168 was rejected by Chairman Hamid Ansari.

Unwilling to accept Jaswant Singh’s remark, Congress members challenged him to substantiate his allegations and demanded expunction of unparliamentary expression.

While Congress member Santosh Bagrodia insisted on making a point of order, Ansari asked the Congress members to allow Jaswant Singh to complete his submission. Sensing that the Congress members would not yield, Ansari said: “I’m aware of the rule which is sought to be invoked. If it has been infringed, the Chair will look into it and take corrective action.”

Realising that he had wasted enough breath in asking the members to calm down, Ansari said: “I’m afraid the House has to be adjourned for another 10 minutes.”

After three adjournments, Deputy Chairman K. Rehman Khan presided over the proceedings. He asked Sinha to let members of the treasury benches have their say.

While Khan was inclined to make a ruling after the lunch, the Opposition members raised slogans saying they had not been given a chance to speak.

The Deputy Chairman said the NDA’s demand for a copy of the ruling is against tradition of the House. When the BJP members did not relent and came to the well of the House, Khan adjourned the House till tomorrow.

Earlier during question hour, members belonging to the United National Progressive Alliance disrupted proceedings demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the deal. Members belonging to the TDP and the AIADMK also demanded a JPC to look into the agreement.

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Once foe, Karunanidhi attends Cong function
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, August 20
In what can be described as a political irony, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who was once accused by the Congress of being responsible for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, today participated in the 63rd birth anniversary of the slain leader at the Congress’ state headquarter here.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president not only unveiled a portrait of Rajiv Gandhi in the presence of party leaders but also delivered a special address.

During his first-ever visit to an office of another political party, Karunanidhi, whose party was also part of the former NDA regime at the Centre and now a constituent of the UPA government, heaped praises on Rajiv Gandhi and said: “Let us all traverse the same path of democracy and take pledge not to deviate from this journey.”

He said Rajiv had sacrificed his life for the country’s unity and social integrity.

However, he remarked: “I am not going to change my ideology and policy after the visit to Sathyamurthi Bhavan (Congress office). Likewise, Congress men need not change their principles on visiting Anna Arivalayam (DMK headquarters). It is our social custom to protect and preserve our ideological moorings and principles.”

The chief minister announced that the Old Mahabalipuram Road, known as the IT corridor because of the presence of software companies, would be renamed Rajiv Gandhi Salai in the memory of the leader.

The octogenarian leader’s presence at the Congress function was not a mere goodwill visit. It had political significance, too, particularly when one of its main allies - the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) - was heading to leave the DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA) in the state.

With only 95 MLAs in the 234-member state assembly, Karunanidhi is heading a minority government and the support of 35 Congress legislators has been crucial for the survival of his 14-month-old government.

With the PMK, with its 18 MLAs, out of the DPA, Karunanidhi needs to strengthen his ties with the Congress.

Though many state Congress leaders are unhappy with the present DMK regime and want to share power, they are helpless in view of Karunanidhi’s personal equation with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

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Manmohan invites Nitish to dinner with Japan PM
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, August 20
After Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently hosted a dinner in honour of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya in Delhi, it is the turn of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Sources in Chief Minister’s secretariat disclosed to The Tribune that Nitish Kumar will attend the dinner to be hosted by Manmohan Singh in honour of his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during the latter`s three-day India visit beginning August 21. The dinner, preceded by a meeting, is slated for August 22.

It is learnt that Singh wanted Nitish to discuss the opening up of the proposed Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Bihar with Japanese collaboration at his meeting with Abe.

The Japanese Government is said to have already expressed its desire to provide technological and fund support in opening the IIT in Bihar. Besides, banks in Japan are also interested in investing for infrastructural development in Bihar.

While the Centre has sanctioned the opening of the IIT in Bihar, the Nitish government has also allotted land at Bihta on the outskirts of Patna. A central team had recently visited the site of the proposed IIT to study the feasibility of the new project.

Sources justified the interest shown by Japan for Bihar in connection with the opening up of the proposed Nalanda International University.

Japan is already collaborating in opening of the international university in Nalanda and it has its temples and monasteries in Bodh Gaya of Bihar which are frequently visited by Japanese tourists.

Besides the setting up of the IIT, Nitish is scheduled to discuss the modalities in the opening of the university in Nalanda with Abe.

Sources, however, could not confirm whether the famous "litti-chokha" of Bihar would figure in the dinner menu of Prime Minister, like he arranged the famous "jhinga-posta" and other Bengali delicaies for Buddhadeb.

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Behave like Indians: Speaker to members

New Delhi, August 20
Members from Tamil Nadu and Kerala clashed in the Lok Sabha today over the creation of a railway division, prompting Speaker Somnath Chatterjee to disapprove their behaviour asking them to “behave like Indians”.

The clash on the issue, the subject of a calling attention motion by Kerala members, led to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad steering clear of the sensitive matter saying he would urge the Prime Minister to convene a meeting of the two Chief Ministers and others to resolve the problem.

“I will request the Prime Minister to call both the Chief Ministers and sort out the issue. I will also be there,” he said dismissing as “imaginary” reports that he planned to inaugurate the new division next month.

“I am the Railway Minister and I don’t know about any such inauguration,” Prasad said suggesting that any forward movement in the matter was possible only after cooling off tempers and settling of the issue.

With Tamil Nadu MPs, cutting across party lines, objecting to the motion and clashing with those from Kerala, the Speaker chided them saying “sorry, we are not thinking of ourselves as Indians. We are Indians first. Is this the assembly of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.” — PTI

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Justice Sathasivam may be sworn in today
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 20
Justice P Sathasivam of the Punjab and Haryana High Court is expected to be sworn-in as a judge of the Supreme Court tomorrow. President Pratibha Patil today issued the warrant of his appointment.

Justice Sathasivam, hailing from Tamil Nadu, will be administered the oath of office by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan.

With his appointment, the strength of judges in the Supreme Court will go up to 23, which still will be three short of the sanctioned strength of 26. However, it will again go down to 22 with Justice P K Balasubramanyan's retirement on August 27.

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Britons return to remember 1857 heroes 
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, August 20
While India is yet to get its act together for remembering those who raised the first battle cry against the British in 1857, the descendents of the British, who defended the jewel in the British crown, are visiting India in small groups to map some of the memories of India’s First War of Independence.

Sir Mark Havelock-Allen, the great great grandson of Sir Henry Havelock, who recaptured ‘Cawnpore’ (Kanpur) and helped break the siege on the Residency in Lucknow, is visiting the city on September 24 as part of a group of British tourists.

He will not only pay respects at the tomb of his legendary ancestor situated at Alambagh near the Amausi airport, but also take part in a short religious service at the Lucknow Residency on September 25.

Sir Henry Havelock had died of dysentery on November 29, 1857, a few days after the siege was lifted. The illness was in most likelihood brought on by the anxieties and fatigue connected with his victorious march and with the subsequent blockade of the British troops.

Accompanied by historians like Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones and Hugh Purcell, the group of around 20 tourists, all aged above 60 years, would go around the country visiting sites associated with the war in Delhi, Meerut, Jhansi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Gwalior, Agra and finally Kolkata.

Describing the profile of these tourists, an official from Touros Travels said all of them do not have ancestors directly associated with the event like Sir Mark Havelock-Allen does. “However, all of them are keenly interested in history and want to have a first-hand experience of the places that are part of the history of the war and are so deeply engraved in the British psyche.”

For instance, there is a statue of Havelock by William Behnes in Trafalgar Square, London. The plaque on the plinth reads: To Major General Sir Henry Havelock KCB and his brave companions in arms during the campaign in India 1857. Soldiers, your labours, your privations, your suffering and your valour, will not be forgotten by a grateful country.

By the time of his death Havelock's fame had spread around the world. Five North American cities were named after him.Lucknow also has a Havelock Road as well as a Havelock Road Colony near the upmarket Hazratganj.

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Armed forces short of 14,264 officers

New Delhi, August 20
India’s armed forces are short of a staggering 14,264 officers - the bulk of them in the army - and several steps are being taken to plug the gap, Parliament was informed Monday.

The 1.12 million strong Indian Army is short of 11,238 officers against its sanctioned strength of 46,615 officers, defence minister A.K. Antony said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) faces a shortfall of 1,565 officers against its authorised strength of 12,128 while the Indian Navy is short of 1,461 officers against a sanctioned strength of 8,797.

During the past four years, 2,664 army officers had sought early retirement of which 1,496 applications had been approved, the minister said.

In the case of the air force, 565 discharge applications had been approved against 1,026 applications received while the figures for the navy was 637/807.

Detailing the steps taken to fill the vacant posts, the minister said all officers, including those holding short service commissions, were now eligible to hold the substantive ranks of captain, major and lieutenant colonel after two, six and 13 years of service respectively.

Time scale promotion to colonel and equivalent ranks after 26 years of service had also been introduced, while the tenure of short service commission officers had been extended from 10 to 14 years.

“The armed forces have undertaken a sustained image promotion and publicity campaign to create awareness among the youth on the advantages of taking up a challenging and satisfying career,” Antony said.

“Candidate-friendly recruitment procedures to attract more candidates and a focussed publicity drive in various institutions to attract potential candidates have been undertaken,” he added.

Awareness campaigns, participation in career fairs and exhibitions, advertisements in the print and electronic media, and motivational lectures in schools and colleges are some of the other measures taken, the minister stated. — IANS

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Rajiv remembered

New Delhi, August 20
President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and a host of Congress leaders today paid homage to former Premier Rajiv Gandhi on his 63rd birth anniversary.

Vice-President Hamid Ansari, home minister Shivraj Patil, finance minister P. Chidambaram and defence minister A. K. Antony were among those who paid floral tributes to the former Prime Minister.

Sonia Gandhi, along with her son and MP Rahul Gandhi, daughter Priyanka, her husband Robert Vadra and their two children, was among the first to reach Vir Bhumi, the departed leader’s memorial. A cultural programme was held which included rendering of patriotic songs followed by a classical dance recital. — PTI

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Govt nukes BJP’s demand on JPC
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
Asserting that any discussion on the nuclear deal cannot be a “family affair between the UPA and the Left”, the NDA today demanded the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to look into the concerns of the deal.

“It is an issue that concerns the entire nation, therefore, so any debate on it cannot be a family affair between the UPA.… We want the government to set up a JPC, which will have members belonging to various political parties from both Houses of Parliament, to study the agreement,” senior BJP leader V K Malhotra said after a meeting of NDA leaders here.

The BJP leader said the government should put on hold all negotiations pertaining to the nuclear deal till the JPC gave its report.

The UPA government has already rejected the NDA’s demand for a JPC on the deal.

Parliamentary affairs minister P R Dasmunsi rejected the opposition demand for a JPC to go into the deal, saying such committees are constituted to go into scams and how can the deal can termed as a scam?

Meanwhile, adding their voice to the demand for Parliamentary scrutiny of the Indo-US nuclear deal, the UNPA today said a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) should be set up to look into the agreement.

Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, who was accompanied by leaders from TDP and AIADMK, said the deal was a unilateral decision taken by the government. He said the matter was grave and could not be settled only between the allies and supporting parties of the ruling coalition. Singh said the JPC should be set up for an indepth study of the deal.

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NSCN rebels face public ire
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, August 20
Both the Naga rebel groups-the NSCN-IM and its rival NSCN -K - are facing increasing resistance from the people against their rampant extortion operations throughout the hill state.

These two underground outfits who are in truce with Government of India for several years now, are known to collect ‘tax’ from all and sundry in Nagaland as ‘contribution to the revolution’ under the nose of security forces. However, extortion is in gross violation of the ceasefire ground rules.

The rampant extortions by these outfits, who have taken advantage of the truce with Indian security forces, have created tension in the society in the hill state. In some parts of the state, the people have mustered enough courage to confront these dreaded insurgents or UGs as they are called in local parlance.

A mob of locals lynched three extortionists from the NSCN-IM in Tuensang town, about 250 km from the state capital, Kohima, on August 18 last for collecting ‘tax’ in the hill town. Such was the fury of the people that the mob dragged out the extortionists from the police lock- up in the town before lynching them.

This has created tension in the town where the administration has put the police and security forces on high alert fearing reprisal from the NSCN-IM which has stated the ‘uncivilised’ way of killing of its three members is condemnable. The outfit stated that the circumstances that led to mob fury in Tuensang were ‘unfortunate’.

Meanwhile, the rival NSCN-K faction is facing people’s resistance in Nagaland’s capital at Kohima because of the rampant extortions carried out by the outfit’s members there. The Angami tribe from Kohima has asked the NASC-K to hand over one of its activists who allegedly attacked a leader of Angami Students’ Union last week following a dispute over extortion.

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Secretariat appoints ex-aides in Raisina Hills

New Delhi, August 20
After his presence in Rashtrapati Bhavan triggered a controversy, an IAF officer, who had worked with Pratibha Patil during her tenure as Rajasthan Governor, was appointed as an officer on special duty with the President's office.

Squadron Leader Vikrant Dutta, who was the aide de camp of Patil when she was Rajasthan Governor, had become a bone of contention when he was spotted with the President during her campaign.

The Union Home Ministry had written to the Defence Ministry seeking his immediate withdrawal after which he was sent back to his post in Jaipur.

However, he was seen again in the family quarters in the Raisina Hills after Patil won the elections. Later, he was shifted to the guesthouse after an outcry over his presence before he went back to Indian Air Force.

Then, the President's Secretariat wrote to the Defence Ministry to shift the officer to Rashtrapati Bhavan as an officer on special duty.

Former district collector of Jalgaon Ravinder Jalansingh Jadhav has also been appointed in the President's Secretariat as her private secretary and some more appointments including that of officials posted with Maharashtra Protocol department were in offing, the sources said. — PTI

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BJP blasts UPA on Q
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
The BJP today charged the Congress-led UPA government with colluding with the accused and subverting the CBI to ensure that the truth in the Bofors case was given a judicial burial.

“The entire nation is appalled by brazenness of the UPA government in actively colluding with the accused in the Bofors bribery case. The governments headed by Congress have repeatedly subverted the CBI as a premier investigative agency to compel it to actively cooperate and collude with the accused,” BJP leader Arun Jaitley told newspersons here.

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Ansari’s no to debate under Rule 168
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari today rejected BJP’s demand for a discussion on the India-US nuclear deal under Rule 168, which entails voting.

In his ruling, Ansari said, “Since it is not a Constitutional obligation for the executive to have the approval of Parliament on any international treaty or agreement, admittance of these motions which involve approval of Parliament will not be in order. I’m converting the notice under Rule 176.”

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Basu rules out snap poll
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News service

Kolkata, August 20
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Jyoti Basu today ruled out any possibility of mid-term polls in the country. He said the party was united on the issue.

The veteran leader was talking to mediapersons after attending an urgent meeting of the CPI (M) State Secretariat at the party office at Alimuddin Street in the morning.

Basu said the two-day CPI (M) Central Committee meeting in New Delhi on August 22 and 23 would formally endorse the decision against mid-term polls.

Basu said he was happy to learn that the politburo was united on its stand on the nuclear deal. But, he said, the party was not pulling out the support from the Manmohan Singh government at this stage.

He hoped that the present impasse caused over the Indo-US nuclear deal would be resolved and the government would complete the remaining part of the five-year term.

The ailing leader was not present at the politburo meeting held in the capital on August 17 and 18. Party secretary Biman Bose met him at his Salt Lake residence and briefed him in detail about the meeting immediately after returning to Kolkata.

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Wait till debate, Kapil to Left
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
The UPA government was precariously balanced as the ruling combine and Left parties were unable to meet each other half-way in resolving their differences over the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement today.

The Communists remained adamant that the government should not go ahead with the implementation of the deal and that it should desist from taking the next step of negotiating India-specific safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). On its part, the government showed little signs of giving in to the Left’s demand.

Having got the backing of UPA allies yesterday, the government launched its first political defence to counter the campaign unleashed by the Left parties and the Opposition over the nuke deal.

Realising that its side of the story is not being heard in the ongoing din and fury, the ruling coalition fielded its articulate science and technology minister Kapil Sibal to explain the salient features of the US nuke deal and to underline that the misgivings over this agreement are completely unfounded. He urged the Left parties to take a final call on this matter only after the debate in Parliament when the government will address all its concerns.

Having decided to fight back, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself took the lead today. Though he did not specifically mention the Indo-US nuclear deal in his speech at a function, the PM emphasised that nuclear energy is crucial for India and political parties need to understand its importance. In his spirited defence, Sibal argued that the deal had accommodated India’s demands and that it was much better than the deal United States had signed with China although both were nuclear weapon states.

Responding to the Left’s objections, Sibal was at pains to explain that the 123 Agreement was independent of the Hyde Act and the US administration could not go back on the deal once approved by its legislature. Reading out specific provisions of the agreement, Sibal said it gave India the right to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and nor did it hinder New Delhi’s weapons programme. “The Prime Minister and our negotiators should be congratulated as the agreement has gone beyond the assurances given by the PM in Parliament,” Sibal asserted, while rubbishing the objections to the deal.

Although Sibal was careful not to make any harsh comments about the Left parties, the mood in the two camps suggested that both sides were only buying time as the debate on the nuclear deal has now been postponed till August 29. The ongoing efforts to evolve a compromise formula will continue though there has been no concrete breakthrough so far, indicating that the two are inexorably gravitating towards a snap poll.

A brief ceasefire is on the cards. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is out of the country for the next few days while Prime Minister and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee were going to be busy with the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit over the next two days.

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HC guidelines in child sex abuse cases

New Delhi, August 20
The Delhi High Court today laid out guidelines to be followed by various executive organs while working in cases involving sexual abuse of children.

Hearing a rape case suo motu on the basis of an e-mail, a division bench, headed by Justices R. S. Sodhi and B. N. Chaturvedi, observed: “The statement of the victim shall be promptly and accurately recorded verbatim.” Besides, the officer recording the statement should not be in police uniform, the judges directed adding that the statement should be recorded either at the victim’s residence or any place where the victim could speak fearlessly.

The bench noted that the child victim should not be kept in police station overnight on any pretext, whatsoever, including the medical examination.

According to the guidelines issued by the court, the officer should ensure an early visit of the investigation team to the crime site.

This would expedite the case to be preferably completed within 90 days of its registration. The medical examination of the victim must be done at the earliest, not later than 24 hours.

If necessary, the investigation officer might call for a psychiatrist’s assistance, the judges said.

It may be noted that the court had heard the matter, spurred by an e-mail informing about how a child, subjected to sexual abuse, continued to suffer in neglect and indifference. — UNI

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Japan PM to address Parliament tomorrow
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who arrives here tomorrow on a three-day India visit, will address a joint session of Parliament on Wednesday.

Mr Abe’s address in the central hall of Parliament is scheduled at 10 am and is being held under the auspices of the Indian Parliamentary Group. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had addressed Japanese Parliament during his visit to that country in December.

During his visit, Abe will discuss with Singh the framework for civil nuclear cooperation in the backdrop of Japan’s decision to engage with India in such talks.

The two leaders, meeting for the second time in eight months, will also discuss ways to step up defence cooperation and economic ties besides other aspects of bilateral relations.

Abe will be accompanied by biggest corporate delegation ever, comprising executives from several top companies, including Toyota Motor Corp and Canon Inc.

The visit assumes significance as Japan is keen on tapping growth in the world’s second-fastest-growing economy, India.

Japanese companies until now have shied away from investing in India because of poor infrastructure facilities.

Now, Japanese firms are keen on forming part of the India growth story and also evincing interest in investing in the infrastructure sector.

Japan’s trade with India was worth $ 6.5 billion in 2006, less than 4 per cent of its trade with China.

Between 1991 and 2006, Japanese companies invested $ 2.15 billion, or just 6 per cent of the total foreign direct investments into India, according to a paper prepared by the CII.

Japan is now taking the lead to build a $ 90 billion infrastructure corridor between New Delhi and Mumbai. The project includes freight lines, power stations and improved access to ports and airports. The Japanese Premier, during his visit to India, may pledge 400 billion yen ($ 3.47 billion) of loans for the cargo railway, according to sources in the commerce ministry.

Abe will end the visit on Thursday with a trip to Kolkata, from where he will leave for Malaysia.

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India ready to counter ill-effects of
N-attacks: Antony

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
The country is prepared to counter the ill-effects of nuclear attacks on the country which is a continuous process in view of the threat perception, defence minister A K Antony said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

"The Armed Forces Medical Services has not expressed any apprehension regarding their preparedness for handling the ill-effects of nuclear attacks on the country," Antony noted, observing that the chances of a nuclear war breaking out in the subcontinent were, however, extremely remote.

He drew attention to the nuclear confidence-building measures between India and Pakistan being part of the composite dialogue process. The talks also cover measures to reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons.

Stressing that the ill-effects of any nuclear attack were multi-faceted, the handling of which would require involvement of a large number of agencies, including the AFMS, Antony said a number of quick reaction teams in the Army and quick medical response teams had been established for immediate initial response.

Other measures included identification of serivce hospitals in the metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai and one hospital in each state and union territory as associated medical institutions.

These hospitals, the minister said, would perform multifarious functions like handling mass casualties, training of physicians and paramedical staff and organising training capsules and workshops in specialised institutions to reinforce the training of health professionals.

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Sonia leaves for South Africa

New Delhi, August 20
In the midst of the political crisis over the Indo-US nuclear deal, Congress President Sonia Gandhi tonight left for South Africa on a four-day visit as scheduled.

During her trip, Gandhi will hold talks with President Thabo Mbeki and also pay a courtesy call on former President Nelson Mandela in Pretoria and Johannesburg.

She was invited to the country by South Africa’s Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka during her visit to India last year. Gandhi had last visited South Africa in 1994, when Mandela was installed the first President of the new democratic South Africa.

Gandhi will also deliver a lecture on “The Relevance of Gandhian Philosophy in the 21st Century” at the University of Cape Town and undertake a trip to the Centre for Women Empowerment in Kayalitsha black township. — PTI

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Bill on AIIMS, PGI directors introduced
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
The government today introduced a Bill that seeks to empower the Centre to terminate the services of the directors of AIIMS and the PGI, Chandigarh, with a three-month notice or salary and allowance for the period.

Health minister Anbumani Ramadoss, who has fought a long legal and administrative battle with AIIMS director P. Venugopal to sack him, introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha.

According to the Bill, the term of the director will be five years or till the age of 65, whichever is earlier. The Act will involve expenditure not exceeding Rs 4 lakh from the Consolidated Fund of India.

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Kafeel’s identity not confirmed: Police

Bangalore, August 20
Over a fortnight after the Glasgow airport terror plot suspect Kafeel Ahmed succumbed to third degree burns, the police were yet to receive any “official” communication on his identity, a senior police official said.

“Till date we have not received any official confirmation from the UK police authorities that the man who drove the burning jeep into Glasgow airport was Kafeel Ahmed,” joint commissioner of police (crime) Gopal Hosur said. The person’s body still remains unclaimed at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, he told PTI here today.

Kafeel’s family in Bangalore has also not received any communication that “the man who died of 90 per cent burns in a UK hospital is Kafeel, their son,” he said. — PTI 

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NDA, UNPA boycott Ansari meeting
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
Members belonging to the NDA and the United National Progressive Alliance today boycotted the meeting called by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to ensure the smooth conduct of proceedings. The meeting was called following repeated disruptions by the Opposition today.

Speaking on conditions of anonymity, a leader said all those present at the meeting took serious note of disruptions in the House.

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Kakodkar to attend IAEA meeting

Mumbai, August 20
Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar will be attending an IAEA conference in Vienna next month but it is not clear whether he would discuss India-specific safeguards agreement with the nuclear watchdog in view of the Left parties’ opposition.

The 51st Annual General Conference of the IAEA begins on September 17 and will continue up to September 21, while the pre-conference meetings will be held on September 15 and 16, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) sources said. The General Conference is the highest policy making body of the IAEA.

As a follow-up to the Indo-US nuclear deal, Kakodkar was supposed to discuss with IAEA officials the safeguards agreement and it is not clear whether he would do so during the visit in view of the Left’s demand that no step, including talks with the IAEA, should be taken to operationalise the deal. — PTI

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Nitish predicts mid-term poll
Tribune News Service

Patna, August 20
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today predicted mid-term Lok Sabha poll in the backdrop of the ongoing confrontation between the UPA and the Left on the “operational aspect” of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Talking to mediapersons at his residence here after the weekly janata durbar, Nitish claimed that the honeymoon between the UPA and the Left was over by pushing the country towards mid-term poll. “With the Left rejecting the Indo-US civil nuclear deal and adopting a tough stance, country was naturally heading towards mid-term poll as the minority Congress-led UPA depends on the Left support for survival”, Nitish added.

Even if the Congress and the Left could work out any compromise formula (read experts panel to review Hyde Act) to resolve the crisis for the time being, the country could not evade mid-term poll as the confrontation would continue. “Even otherwise, the present crisis has already put a big question mark on the stability of the UPA government”, Nitish observed.

The Chief Minister claimed that given the situation and the level of confrontation, both the credibility of the Left and the prestige of the Congress were at stake.

Pointing out that the majority view in Parliament, including the NDA, Left and the third front, was against the nuclear deal as most members felt it would severely compromise India’s sovereignty and commitment to pursue an independent foreign policy, Nitish demanded the Centre to review its decision on the “operational aspect” of the agreement. 

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Advani predicts fall of UPA govt 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 20
Former Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani today predicted the early downfall of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government. This government cannot last till May, 2009, Advani told a farmers rally while attacking the UPA government over the Indo-US nuclear deal.

In an apparent reference to the Left’s stance on the deal, he said his party men and sympathisers that the event of the last 10 days had put a serious question mark over the survival of the government.

Don’t hush up thins. Let this government go as soon as possible, roared Advani, who has been desperately trying to seek the Left support for a vote in Parliament over the 123 Agreement.

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