SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Sethusamudram Project
VHP men block roads, stop trains
New Delhi, September 12
Road and rail traffic was disrupted but there was no major violence during a blockade by thousands of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists across the country today in protest against constructing a sea lane which, it says, will destroy a mythological bridge.

JD (U) distances itself from BJP stir
Patna, September 12
With “Ram” back on the political agenda of the Sangh Parivar, the coalition partner of the BJP in the ruling NDA of Bihar, JD (U), today apparently distanced itself from the three-hour ‘chakka jam’ organised across the state by the BJP-VHP against the Centre’s decision to go ahead with the Sethusamudram project.

CSM joins BKU protest against land acquisition
New Delhi, September 12
Members of the Chandigarh Sanjha Morcha (CSM) marched with farmers from northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal and Rajasthan in a rally organised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union. CSM members are protesting against forcible land acquisition in their city.

President of Bhartiya Kisan Union Mahendra Singh Tikait with farmers during their rally against the alleged anti-farmer policies and forcible land acquisition by the government in New Delhi on Wednesday. President of Bhartiya Kisan Union Mahendra Singh Tikait with farmers during their rally against the alleged anti-farmer policies and forcible land acquisition by the government in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Manas Ranjan Bhui

Boatmen refuse to carry supplies for LTTE
Chennai, September 12
Tamil nationalist leader P. Nedumaran, known to be a staunch supporter of the LTTE, today failed to ship medicines and other essential commodities to northern Sri Lanka from the shores of Nagapattinam, 350 km from here, as boatmen refused to ply.


Indian actor and brand ambassador of the forthcoming Sunfeast Tennis tournament Shah Rukh Khan listens as tennis star Sania Mirza speaks during the unveiling of the Sunfeast Open 2007 trophy in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Stars in her eyes: Indian actor and brand ambassador of the forthcoming Sunfeast Tennis tournament Shah Rukh Khan listens as tennis star Sania Mirza speaks during the unveiling of the Sunfeast Open 2007 trophy in Mumbai on Wednesday. — AFP

EARLIER STORIES


Disproportionate Assets Case
HC reserves order on acquittal of Lalu, Rabri
Patna, September 12

Former union minister and noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani today strongly argued before the Patna High Court in favour of railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife, former Chief Minister Rabri Devi opposing the Bihar government’s appeal challenging their acquittal in the disproportionate assets (DA) case, an off-shoot of the multi-crore fodder scam.

Cyber Crime
Global anti-crime centre mooted at Interpol conference
New Delhi, September 12
Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Nobel today favoured the setting up of a ‘Global Anti-Crime Centre’ to respond to emergency alerts and to forge a strong alliance between public and private sector to check cyber crime the world over.
Interpol secretary-general Ronald K Noble (right) addresses the media as CBI Director Vijay Shankar listens after the inaugural session of the seventh International Conference on Cyber Crime in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Interpol secretary-general Ronald K Noble (right) addresses the media as CBI Director Vijay Shankar listens after the inaugural session of the seventh International Conference on Cyber Crime in New Delhi on Wednesday. —Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

Cybercafes may install key logging software
Mumbai, September 12
The Mumbai police may soon ask cybercafes in the city to install key-logging software which would keep track of all material typed in by Internet users.The measure is being seen as one of the many proposals suggested by counter-terrorism experts of the police department. Under this proposal, the key-logging software installed at cybercafes will record every single stroke typed in by a user.

Karat urges PM to help notify tribal bill
New Delhi, September 12
Firing yet another salvo on the tribal issue at the Manmohan Singh government, the CPM today criticised the Congress-led coalition for the “inexplicable” delay in notifying a bill passed last year granting forest rights to  tribesmen.

PM assures to provide livelihood security for farmers
New Delhi, September 12
At a time when agricultural growth is a cause of concern, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the government is committed to provide livelihood security to the farming community in the country.

Declining water table
Bring critical blocks to safe category: Soz
New Delhi, September 12
Keen to make rainwater harvesting and water conservation a national goal, the advisory council for Artificial Recharge of Groundwater has called for launching a special campaign for information dissemination in educational institutions.

Karnataka bans cells in schools
Bangalore, September 12
Children under the age of 16 will be banned from using mobile phones in educational institutions in Karnataka due to health concerns. However, the state government, which is bringing about a notification in a few days to enforce this ban, is still contemplating on how to enforce it.

‘J-K, N-E be treated at par with rest of India’
Guwahati, September 12
Magsaysay Awardee social activist Sandeep Pandey today lent his voice to the protests against continued imposition of the ‘draconian’ Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and other ‘black laws’ in the conflicts-ridden North East India and Jammu and Kashmir.

India for global pressure for Dawood’s extradition
New Delhi, September 12
India said today that the international community should mount pressure on the country that is “harbouring global terrorist Dawood Ibrahim” so that he could face trial in India.

Dawood’s extradition will be considered: Bhutto
New Delhi, September 12
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has said she will look into India's request for extradition of Mumbai serial blasts accused Dawood Ibrahim, who is believed to be in Karachi.

N-deal not necessary: Magsaysay winner
Guwahati, September 12
Left parties’ tirade against the Indo-US nuclear deal has found a staunch supporter in Magsaysay award recipient and social activist Sandeep Pandey who termed it unnecessary in Indian context.

Bulgaria indicates support for N-deal
New Delhi, September 12
Bulgaria, a member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), today indicated its support to the Indo-US nuclear deal as and when the issue comes up for the NSG’s consideration.

Joint anti-terror exercise begins in Russia
Mumbai, September 12
The Indian defence services have commenced a 10-day long anti-terrorism exercise in tandem with the Russian counter-terrorism agencies in the Pskov region, according to defence officials here.

M’rashtra to have new tiger reserve
Mumbai, September 12
The Maharashtra government is all set to create a new tiger reserve in the rugged Sahyadri ranges of the state after a recent census discovered the presence of more than 20 tigers in the region.

Siachen glacier thrown open to public
New Delhi, September 12
Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield and an inhospitable terrain, has been thrown open to public. Trekkers can now go up the the icy heights of the second largest glacier in the mighty Karakoram range in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, a dreaded place till four years ago because of continuous shelling from Pakistan.

Court charges Pandher with rape, murder
Ghaziabad, September 12
A special court here charged Moninder Singh Pandher on Wednesday with rape and murder of a young woman even as it questioned the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for exonerating him while probing the killings of at least 20 children and young women in Nithari village.

SC questions inclusion of more castes in OBC list
New Delhi, September 12
A constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, hearing OBC quota case, today put probing questions to the government on the ever-increasing number of castes being included in the Other Backward Classes list.

HC stays award to Hussain
Kochi, September 12
The Kerala High Court today restrained the state government from conferring its prestigious ‘Raja Ravi Varma’ Award to renowned painter M.F Hussain at a function scheduled on September 17.

Chidambaram, Pawar to get award
New Delhi, September 12
President Pratibha Patil will present the outstanding parliamentarian awards to union ministers P. Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar and Mani Shankar Aiyer here tomorrow.

Earthquake in South Bengal
Kolkata, September 12
An earthquake rocked various parts of South Bengal claiming two lives and damaging properties today.

Nithari: Court charges Pandher with rape, murder
Ghaziabad, September 12
A special court here charged Moninder Singh Pandher on Wednesday with rape and murder of a young woman even as it questioned the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for exonerating him while probing the killings of at least 20 children and young women in Nithari village.


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Sethusamudram Project
VHP men block roads, stop trains

New Delhi, September 12
Road and rail traffic was disrupted but there was no major violence during a blockade by thousands of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists across the country today in protest against constructing a sea lane which, it says, will destroy a mythological bridge.

The police resorted to lathi-charge and fired in the air at some places as hundreds of activists of the VHP were arrested when they tried to enforce a three-hour “chakka jam” during morning peak hours from 8 a.m., affecting school and office-goers. Activists of the RSS, BJP and ABVP also joined the protest rallies from Jammu to the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Activists targeted trains at several places, leaving them stranded leading to delays by one to two hours. The Delhi-Dehra Dun Shatbadi and Howrh-Barbil Shatabdi was detained at Saharanpur and Tatanagar stations, respectively, for a couple of hours. A Patna report said agitators smashed the windscreen of the engine of Dehri-Patna inter-city express at Jehanabad.

Activists squatted on the railway tracks at several stations and also at stretches of major arterial roads at many places. About 20 activists entered the Indore railway station and made a vain bid to disrupt the movement of trains.

Jammu witnessed a partial bandh, as shops, schools and business establishments were closed. Activists also closed the Pathankot-Jammu-Srinagar highway.

The VHP took to the roads to protest against the Centre's decision to go ahead with the Sethusamudram project, which envisages dredging Ram Setu bridge, the mythological bridge mentioned in Ramayana. The geographical feature linking the southern tip of India to Sri Lanka is also known as Adam's bridge, a string of small islands, which according to Hindu mythology, was built by an army of monkeys led by Lord Ram to recapture his wife from demon King Ravana. — PTI

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JD (U) distances itself from BJP stir
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, September 12
With “Ram” back on the political agenda of the Sangh Parivar, the coalition partner of the BJP in the ruling NDA of Bihar, JD (U), today apparently distanced itself from the three-hour ‘chakka jam’ organised across the state by the BJP-VHP against the Centre’s decision to go ahead with the Sethusamudram project.

While the agitating activists of the BJP and the VHP reportedly smashed the windscreen of the Dehri-Patna inter-city express at Jehanabad, rail and road traffic were hit at several places of the state, including Patna, today following the chakka jam programme.

BJP MLA from Patna (west) Nitin Navin along with 200 BJP and VHP workers were detained at the railway station here for blocking the movement of trains. Hundreds of BJP activists led by former union minister C.P. Thakur on the other hand blocked traffic at the busy Dak Bungalow road intersection in Patna for some time.

The Mahatma Gandhi setu, the arterial link between north and south Bihar, was also blocked by the Sangh outfits for about an hour. Traffic on the Grand Trunk road was obstructed at Sasaram.

Sources in the East Central Railway said a good number of trains were detained for a period ranging from 30 minutes to an hour at different places across the state.

After three-hour Chakka jam the state BJP accused the Congress-led UPA government of “blasphemy” by telling the Supreme Court that there was no historical evidence to establish the existence of the Ram Setu in the epic Ramayana.

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CSM joins BKU protest against land acquisition
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
Members of the Chandigarh Sanjha Morcha (CSM) marched with farmers from northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal and Rajasthan in a rally organised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union. CSM members are protesting against forcible land acquisition in their city.

Though Chandigarh is being projected as the next IT hub and world destination, the City Beautiful is torn with strife with the original settlers being forced out of the city, their land snatched from them and handed over to developers. Farmland owners are up in arms over the issue and have obtained stays from the Punjab and Haryana High Court over dispossession of their lands and stalled development proceedings.

Since their petitions to local and central governments to allow them to self develop, lease or pool the land at current market value for projects have fallen on deaf ears, they have been forced to resort to marches, fasts and other modes of protest. The farmland owners have sought and received help from farmers’ organisations such as the Bharatiya Kisan Union.

CSM members are making an effort to meet and present a petition to Dr Manmohan Singh. The farmland owners understand and realise the needs of a growing city but want their interests safeguarded which the administration seems bent upon subjugating. The petition reiterates this and asks that firstly, all acquisition proceedings should be stopped until the R&R (resettlement and rehabilitation) policy is put in place and changes made to the Land Acquisition Act. Secondly, a Regulatory Authority is set up to plan need and viability of projects in the periphery of the city. Thirdly, the farmers should not be separated from the benefits of their land but should be allowed to develop or lease it out themselves.

The farmland owners will continue their struggle to realise the potential value of their lands. The free market and fair trade practice philosophy advocated by economists should be extended to us too, said Jyoti Subramanian, secretary and spokesperson of the morcha.

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Boatmen refuse to carry supplies for LTTE
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, September 12
Tamil nationalist leader P. Nedumaran, known to be a staunch supporter of the LTTE, today failed to ship medicines and other essential commodities to northern Sri Lanka from the shores of Nagapattinam, 350 km from here, as boatmen refused to ply.

Nedumaran and hundreds of his supporters belonging to various parties that back the LTTE’s armed struggle for an independent homeland were arrested as they started an indefinite fast in protest as they were denied to carry humanitarian relief worth Rs 1 crore that they had collected from public.

The Tamil Nadu police initially ignored the protest as Nedumaran and his supporters gathered near the Nagapattinam fishing jetty. The activists were surprised as boatmen refused to supply their boats. Nedumaran alleged that the boatmen were threatened by the police.

A similar attempt by Nedumaran’s supporters in Rameswaram, the closest point in India to Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka, ended with the arrest of about 150 activists before they could engage any boat.

Nedumaran said his organisation, the Tamils National Movement, and other fraternal groups had collected a large quantity of medicines and dry food only because the Sri Lankan government was not allowing essential supplies to reach the Jaffna peninsula, which currently has no road link from southern Sri Lanka.

His attempt to cross the international maritime boundary line (IMBL) was being closely watched by the Indian as well as Sri Lankan navies.

Nedumaran, a personal friend of LTTE chief Velupillai Pirabhakaran, has been a long-standing advocate of ‘Tamil Eelam’. More than two decades ago he had waded into the sea in a bid to ‘swim’ across the Palk Bay to ‘rush’ to the aid of Sri Lankan Tamils. The Navy had brought him back to shore then.

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Disproportionate Assets Case
HC reserves order on acquittal of Lalu, Rabri
Tribune News Service

Patna, September 12
Former union minister and noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani today strongly argued before the Patna High Court in favour of railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and his wife, former Chief Minister Rabri Devi opposing the Bihar government’s appeal challenging their acquittal in the disproportionate assets (DA) case, an off-shoot of the multi-crore fodder scam.

On its part, the Patna High Court subsequently reserved its order on the maintainability of the Bihar government petition challenging the acquittal of Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi.

Arguing against the state government’s appeal, Jethmalani contended that since the case was probed by CBI, the agency and the Central government alone were competent to challenge the CBI court verdict. "The NDA government’s action to appeal against the acquittal is politically motivated," he said.

To substantiate his stand, Jethmalani pointed out that the right of appeal is not the right of procedural law but right of substantive law." Since the case was investigated by the CBI, which functions under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, either the agency or the Centre and not the state government are the competent authorities to file an appeal," he said.

Justice Ramesh Kumar Datta reserved his order today on the petition filed by the state government on February 19 against Lalu and Rabri’s acquittal by special CBI judge Muni Lal Paswan on December 18 last year after hearing their counsel Ram Jethmalani, solicitor general G. Vahanvati and state counsel and senior Supreme Court advocate Surendra Singh.

The state government had appealed against the CBI court verdict.

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Cyber Crime
Global anti-crime centre mooted at Interpol conference
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Nobel today favoured the setting up of a ‘Global Anti-Crime Centre’ to respond to emergency alerts and to forge a strong alliance between public and private sector to check cyber crime the world over.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the 7th International Conference on Cyber Crime here, the chief of the global umbrella organisation of national crime investigating agencies said “we must integrate our work so that in each country there is one central contact point for emergency cyber-crime related response and avoid preventable duplication.”

“From our perspective, creating a worldwide operational network of national central reference points, using Interpol’s Global Secure Police Communications System, ‘I-24/7’, is a means to enable the police to immediately contact experts and seek their assistance in computer-related investigation because of its time sensitive nature.”

“New forms of crime like phishing, denial of service attacks, identity theft, online bank fraud, online child abuse and above all the use of internet by terrorists, are very real threats facing us,” he said while stressing that specialised training, enhancing capacity and better equipped enforcement community were key to prevent criminals from gaining an upper hand and bringing them to justice.

“If we are honest and look at the risk before us worldwide and the need for training by our police worldwide, Interpol and its member countries will need to raise 100 if not 1,000 times of this amount ($ 20,000 donated by J.P Morgan and Microsoft for its support of several initiatives to fight cyber-crime in the next five years) to keep pace with the cyber-criminals’ threat,” he added.

Speaking at the inaugural session, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil said since the race between law enforcement agencies and perpetrators of crime is going to be a continuous affair, there should be more cross-country training exchange programmes to achieve standardisation of efforts.

“Intelligence and law enforcing agencies must focus on continuous upgradation of skills and expertise, as the criminals too were quite adept at finding the loopholes in the system,” he said addressing as many as 200 delegates from 37 countries, EUROPOL, UNODC and UNICR.

Expressing concern over the increasing level of online child pornography, online trafficking in contraband items and e-commerce frauds, the home minister said these offences should capture the priority attention of law makers and law enforcement agencies.

In the context of cyber law enforcement, Patil suggested that unless domestic efforts are leveraged with international cooperation, combating the crime would be ineffective.

Patil also wanted effective collaboration between public and private entities in investigation of cyber crime.

Union minister of state for personnel Suresh Pachouri said on one hand there is a need to protect the privacy during investigation in the cyber space and on the other there is a need for enforcement agencies to regulate this space for the safety and prevention of crime.

In view of this, he asked the conference to suggest ways of balancing such conflicting requirements.

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Cybercafes may install key logging software
Shiv Kumar

Tribune News Service

Mumbai, September 12
The Mumbai police may soon ask cybercafes in the city to install key-logging software which would keep track of all material typed in by Internet users.

The measure is being seen as one of the many proposals suggested by counter-terrorism experts of the police department. Under this proposal, the key-logging software installed at cybercafes will record every single stroke typed in by a user. This data will then be sent to a central server manned by security agencies where scanning for possible messages by terrorist groups will be done.

The proposal has been mooted by the Foundation for Information Security and Technology (FIST), a city-based organization of software experts.

Sources in the cybercrime cell of the Mumbai police say they are in the process of ordering the Cyber Activity Remote Monitoring System marketed by Micro Technologies. The company manufactures the software for corporate houses to track workers online activity.

Once the authorities have shortlisted on the software, cybercafes across Mumbai would be asked to install this on all their computers, says a senior police official of the Mumbai cybercrime cell.

The proposal which has been discussed on Internet user groups and blogs has drawn flak from a number of people. Net users fear that sensitive information like bank details, share transaction information and credit card data may fall into the hands of corrupt police officials who may then pass these on to racketeers.

However, experts feel that the authorities must first institute a process whereby there is no misuse of confidential data.

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Karat urges PM to help notify tribal bill
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
Firing yet another salvo on the tribal issue at the Manmohan Singh government, the CPM today criticised the Congress-led coalition for the “inexplicable” delay in notifying a bill passed last year granting forest rights to 
tribesmen.

“The delay is inexplicable. I request you to urgently intervene on this issue so as to ensure that an important achievement of the UPA government is not weakened or even subverted by the non-notification of the Act,” CPM general secretary Prakash Karat wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister.

He alleged that the government’s delay in issuing a notification of the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill 2006 was “inexplicable” as it was passed by both houses of Parliament in December last year.

Karat pointed out that a committee for drafting the rules for legislation was formed in March this year and it submitted the draft rules in two months.

The legislation is meant to protect the rights of India’s tribal people to the forestland they have been living on for generations and to forest resources that have been their traditional means of livelihood.

According to the legislation, the Scheduled Tribes living in forests and other tribesmen, who have been dwelling in forests for three generations, will be entitled to have the right to four hectares of land where they can cultivate. They will have access to and ownership of minor forest produce, rights of grazing and access to traditional seasonal resources.

“These (rules) were put up on the website for public comment on June 19, 2007. The last date decided by the ministry was July 31, 2007. It was expected that the rules would be finalised and the act notified,” Karat said, adding that nothing had been done yet.

He said the announcement of the act without its notification had led to a serious situation for tribesmen in many areas. “Forest officials who have been responsible for denial of tribal rights have taken advantage of the delay between the act and its notification to evict tribesmen from many areas.”

Karat said the land cultivated by tribesmen for decades was being dug up for plantation by the forest department in some states in “an obvious attempt to pre-empt the recognition of tribal rights on that land.

At the same time, there are reports of connivance between the land mafia and officials to take illegal possession of land.

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PM assures to provide livelihood security for farmers
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
At a time when agricultural growth is a cause of concern, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the government is committed to provide livelihood security to the farming community in the country.

“The government is committed to ensuring livelihood security for the farming community and food security for all,” Manmohan Singh told a delegation of Bharatiya Kisan Union and the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement led by Mahendra Singh Tikait.

Receiving their memorandum, which demanded higher minumum support price and lower interest rate for agri-production, the Prime Minister said the welfare of the farmers was the topmost priority for the UPA Government.

The average GDP growth rate was 7.6 per cent during the Tenth Plan (2002-07) which is the highest in any plan period. In the last four years, the average growth achieved has been around 8.6 per cent and last year it was 9.3 per cent, he said.

The weaknesses in agriculture after 1996 were highlighted in the Mid-Term Appraisal of the Tenth Plan. The government has worked out a strategy to accelerate agricultural growth to 4 per cent per year, which is virtually doubling the growth rate from the previous ten years.

This will come partly from a continuing growth in foodgrain production at a modest rate, may be 2 per cent or so a year, and a much faster growth in non-foodgrain production - horticulture, livestock, dairy and fisheries which reflects the process of diversification of agriculture.

The Prime Minister told the delegation that in the past three years the UPA government has ensured remunerative prices and has affected significant increase in the Minimum Support Price, reversing the neglect of the farming community and the policy of minimal increase in MSP under the previous NDA government.

He reiterated the government’s commitment to offering insurance to farmers against risk and said the government is considering a loan insurance scheme to mitigate risk for indebted farmers.

The PM assured the farmers’ delegation that the government is committed to increased investment in agricultural research so that the productivity of indigenous seeds and the productivity of land and water utilization can be increased.

Prime Minister stated that the government will safeguard the interests of Indian farmers in the WTO negotiations and will not accept any obligations that will hurt our farmers’ interests.

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Declining water table
Bring critical blocks to safe category: Soz
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
Keen to make rainwater harvesting and water conservation a national goal, the advisory council for Artificial Recharge of Groundwater has called for launching a special campaign for information dissemination in educational institutions.

At its second meeting here today, which was presided over by water resources minister Saiffudin Soz, the council decided to implement programmes in coordination with the state governments concerned to bring critical blocks in safe category.

The council said the Central Ground Water Board would give greater attention to water quality issues and prepare a National Ground Water Quality Hot Spot Map. It decided to make coordinated efforts to bring out a white paper on the impact of climate change on India's hydrological cycle. For success of village demonstration programmes to get more crop per drop of water, the council recommended selection of independent monitors in the six zones.

It said that Directorate of Film Festivals would be requested to have a separate section on water in the film festivals and steps would be taken for wider dissemination of the work done by national award winners to motivate stakehokders.

Expressing happiness over the work done by THE CGWB for developing web-enabled ground water information system, the council said that best practices adopted by various urban bodies in the country would be mapped and the information shared with the stakeholders.

The Artificial Recharge of Ground Water Advisory Council, which was set up to popularise artificial recharge amongst various stakeholders, aims at prioritising areas for recharging groundwater, development of area-specific techniques of recharging, coordination among central and state agencies and stakeholders and capacity building.

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Karnataka bans cells in schools
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, September 12
Children under the age of 16 will be banned from using mobile phones in educational institutions in Karnataka due to health concerns. However, the state government, which is bringing about a notification in a few days to enforce this ban, is still contemplating on how to enforce it.

Health concerns are apparently behind the move. According to minister for primary and secondary education Basavaraj Horatti, his department had received a recommendation in this regard from the health department stating that use of mobile phones by children is likely to have an adverse effect on their physical and mental growth.

Health minister R. Ashok said a formal order in this regard would be issued after discussion with legal experts. He said besides banning use of mobile phones in educational institutions, shops dealing with the sale of handsets would also be issued directions not to sell them to children.

The government would take proactive steps like pasting notices in this regard in shops selling handsets besides roping in the police to enforce the orders by penalising shops not adhering to the directions. “How this is to be done is still being worked out”, he added.

As far as the ban goes, all educational institutions up to the pre-university level will be asked to implement the order. Even private schools, affiliated with the CBSE and the ICSE, will be covered under the ambit of the ban. Educational institutions will be directed to confiscate cell phones being used on their premises as a deterrent.

Meanwhile, Horatti said besides being a health hazard resulting in hearing and memory loss, use of mobile phones had become a nuisance in educational institutions with school managements complaining that students were not using the phone for communication alone but also as a source of entertainment.

The latest government move is, however, likely to be challenged in court like its earlier order banning sale of aerated drinks in educational institutions. The cell phone industry has claimed that there is no evidence to prove that their use is detrimental to the health of children.

While the teaching community and a large number of parents have welcomed the move, parents of teenagers feel the government should allow the schools managements to use their discretion on use of mobile phones. A parent Meenu Mangala said teenagers in metro cities like Bangalore often went for tuitions or sporting activities directly after school and needed to be in constant touch with their parents.

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‘J-K, N-E be treated at par with rest of India’
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, September 12
Magsaysay Awardee social activist Sandeep Pandey today lent his voice to the protests against continued imposition of the ‘draconian’ Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and other ‘black laws’ in the conflicts-ridden North East India and Jammu and Kashmir.

Talking to the media here, Pandey sang praises for Manipuri lady Irom Sharmila who has been on a fast since December 2002 protesting continued imposition of the AFSPA that provides even a non-commissioned officer of the security force to shoot a person on mere suspicion, conduct search and arrest without warrant.

Pandey who is also the convenor of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), was here en route to Imphal where he will take part in a three-day solidarity fast beginning tomorrow along with several other noted personalities and rights activists in support of Irom Sharmilla. The fasting iron lady is being kept by the government in Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal under observation of doctors.

He observed that continued heavy presence of the military in the N-E and J-K which have suffered a lot because of crisis of identity and violence, led to further alienation of people and called upon the government to opt for a political solution to the conflict instead of depending heavily on its military to tackle the problem.

“Incidents of violence and extortions are not only confined to North East and J-K but are common all over the country. Why the government of India has not imposed these black laws in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where there is high incidence of kidnappings extortions and encounter killings often take place ? The discriminatory attitude towards J-K and N-E should be done away with,” he said.

He expressed anguish over the failure of the government to respond to recommendations by two of its own commissions - Veerappa Moily Administrative Reforms Committee and Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission - for repeal of the AFSPA that had led to gross violation of human rights by security forces in the conflict ridden region.

Pandey saluted the guts shown by Manipuri lady Iron Sharmila for her continued lone battle against imposition of AFSPA in the North East and Myanmar’s undisputed leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi for her fight against suppression of democracy.

“Irom Sharmila has been on fast since December 2002 in protest against continued imposition of AFSPA, but no one from the government has gone to meet her over the years to give her assurance that the government is taking note of her protests. The protest of Sharmila represents the most ideal form of peaceful struggle for a democratic demand. Her victory is essential for strengthening of democracy in India and for the respect of human right around the world,” he said.

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India for global pressure for Dawood’s extradition
S. Satyanarayanan/TNS

New Delhi, September 12
India said today that the international community should mount pressure on the country that is “harbouring global terrorist Dawood Ibrahim” so that he could face trial in India.

“We all know where he (Dawood) is. The international community should exert pressure on the country for handing over Dawood Ibrahim to India,” CBI director Vijay Shanker, flanked by Interpol secretary-general Ronald K. Nobel, told newspersons at a press conference on the sidelines of the 7th International Conference of Interpol on Cyber Crime here.

Without naming Pakistan, the CBI director said, “Cooperation should not only be confined to help arrest dreaded criminals like Dawood but also to other such fugitives, who are posing threat to humanity.”

Replying to a question of the efficacy of Interpol Red Corner notices, when a global terrorist like Dawood could not be brought to justice, Shanker said: “In general Assemblies, India has been urging the member countries of Interpol to give legal basis for Red Corner notices.”

The Interpol secretary-general admitted that there was no legal sanctity to Red Corner notices that were sent only to inform the member countries about fugitives.

“I can only say that it is for the judicial order of that country whether it wanted to comply with the notice or not,” Nobel said.

Replying to another question, Nobel said the Red Corner notice against Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, wanted in the multimillion Bofors gun pay-off case here, was still valid.

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Dawood’s extradition will be considered: Bhutto

New Delhi, September 12
Former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has said she will look into India's request for extradition of Mumbai serial blasts accused Dawood Ibrahim, who is believed to be in Karachi.

“We will certainly look into the request by the Indian government,” she told Karan Thapar on his programme “India Tonight” telecast on CNN-IBN.

Bhutto was asked whether she would grant the extradition of Dawood if she is elected to power.

“If he is living in Karachi, it is very wrong. I do not want Pakistan should get a bad name and be seen as a country that harbours criminals from all parts of the world, including India,” she said.

Bhutto, who has been living in self-imposed exile in London, said the militants Pakistan "nurtured" during the Afghan war against the Soviet Union had returned to haunt them.

“Groups like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba have unleashed suicide bombings in Pakistan,” she said adding that it was time "Pakistan put its internal house into order".

Backing the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan, Bhutto said the process "is setting a new pace, setting a new agenda and a new goal." The two-time premier said Kashmir was a core issue between the two countries but not the one that should be allowed to derail the Indo-Pak relationship or the dialogue. — PTI

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N-deal not necessary: Magsaysay winner
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, September 12
Left parties’ tirade against the Indo-US nuclear deal has found a staunch supporter in Magsaysay award recipient and social activist Sandeep Pandey who termed it unnecessary in Indian context.

He said here today that Indian government’s approach towards the nuclear deal with the US should have been more democratic and transparent, pointing out that the government of India didn’t initiate a single discussion on the deal in Parliament while the US Congress discussed it threadbare.

He said the deal would serve the US better by creating jobs in defence sector of that country than serving interests of India, which neither needed any nuclear weapon nor the nuclear energy.

Pandey said: “There are no convincing reasons for India to go ahead with its nuclear energy programme with more vigour when most countries in the world, especially the US, Canada and the UK are phasing out their nuclear programmes. France is setting up its last nuclear energy plant. It is because nuclear energy has turned out to be exorbitantly costly and there is no way to dispose off nuclear wastes that can only be kept aside.”

Quoting official statistics, Pandey said after spending so much wealth during the past 60 years, the Department of Atomic Energy had managed to produce enough nuclear energy that amounted to only 3 per cent of the country’s total energy production whereas the wind energy produced by the private sector accounted for 5 per cent.

According to the Planning Commission data, nuclear energy would provide only 9 per cent of the country’s total requirement of the energy. That belied the need for going for a controversial nuclear deal with the US putting country’s interests at stake, he added.

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Bulgaria indicates support for N-deal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
Bulgaria, a member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), today indicated its support to the Indo-US nuclear deal as and when the issue comes up for the NSG’s consideration.

Visiting Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev conveyed his country’s position to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during their talks here this evening. Stanishev is currently on a six-day state visit to India (September 10-15).

Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar is scheduled to leave for Vienna tomorrow to attend the IAEA’s annual general meeting.

The two prime ministers shared the view that civil nuclear energy can play an important role as a safe, sustainable and non-polluting source of energy in meeting rising global demands for energy. “Bulgaria welcomes India’s engagement in the areas of peaceful use of nuclear energy and is ready to support efforts for civil nuclear cooperation with India,” a joint declaration issued at the end of the India-Bulgaria summit said. Both Prime Ministers agreed to work together for enhancing bilateral investments in various sectors, including in knowledge-based industries.

The two sides agreed to explore the possibilities to enhance transport links between India and Bulgaria. In this context, both sides sought to review the Air Services Agreement of 1992 and also to explore connectivity in sea, overland (Asia-Europe corridor), and banking and financial linkages. The two countries agreed to offer reciprocal support for their bids for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council for 2011-12 and 2018-19 respectively.

Bulgaria reiterated its support for India’s candidature for a permanent seat on an expanded UN Security Council.

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Joint anti-terror exercise begins in Russia
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, September 12
The Indian defence services have commenced a 10-day long anti-terrorism exercise in tandem with the Russian counter-terrorism agencies in the Pskov region, according to defence officials here.

In all more than 160 paratroopers from the Indian Army have been deputed to participate in the joint anti-terrorism exercise which has been codenamed Indra-2007. For the first time, the defence services of the two countries are training for a joint operation in a third country.

The exercise is a simulation of air and ground manoeuvres undertaken jointly by Indian and Russian forces under a United Nations mandate to neutralise international terrorists in a third country, according to information put out by the defence ministries of both countries.

For the first time, the simulated exercise will see the co-ordinated participation of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force along with their Russian counterparts. The Indian forces are training along with the Russian 76 Airborne Division. Both forces will be deploying state-of-art battle equipment from all three services, officials here say.

Apart from fixed and rotary wing aircraft, the IAF is also deploying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). 'The manoeuvres will be conducted in three phases, culminating in a realistic simulated joint operational exercise involving surveillance, acquiring and assessing of intelligence,' the Indian defence ministry statement said.

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M’rashtra to have new tiger reserve
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, September 12
The Maharashtra government is all set to create a new tiger reserve in the rugged Sahyadri ranges of the state after a recent census discovered the presence of more than 20 tigers in the region.

According to sources, the proposed reserve would be spread over 800 sq km and would include areas in Chandoli and Koyna where a major hydroelectric project is situated.The proposal to create the reserve here was mooted some years ago, but was put in cold storage as a census was under way to detect the presence of the big cats here.

Maharashtra's forest officials had earlier declared that there were no tigers in this region stating that all of them had fallen prey to poachers. The Sahyadri Tiger Reserve will become the fourth reserve in Maharashtra after Melghat, Tadoba and Pench and the first in the Western Ghats.

Claims by the forest officials were always ridiculed by trekkers and wildlife enthusiasts who often found pug marks of the tiger over the past several years. Now experts say as many as 20 tigers are present in the area. For the first time, the findings were made on the basis of actual sightings and not on account of their pug marks alone.

The rugged Sahyadri ranges is said to be the home of several species of plants and animals that are yet to be even discovered, according to environmentalists.

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Siachen glacier thrown open to public

New Delhi, September 12
Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield and an inhospitable terrain, has been thrown open to public. Trekkers can now go up the the icy heights of the second largest glacier in the mighty Karakoram range in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, a dreaded place till four years ago because of continuous shelling from Pakistan.

A group of 20 intrepid civilians -- teenage girls, NCC and military academy cadets, housewives and corporate executives -- would form the first batch to tread the glacial heights, where snow never melts, from September 19, Army officials said here today.

Though the Indian and Pakistani troops are at points across the 72-km long glacier, almost at eyeball to eyeball confrontation, peace has prevailed in the snowy heights for the past four years ever since a cease-fire is in force.

The group sponsored by the Army adventure cell and the Indian Mountaineering foundation would trek from the Base to Kumar camp located at a height of 16,000 feet, on the mid-glacier.

On their four day trudge across the glacier, the civilian trekkers would be guided by 10 Army glacial experts. Though guns have fallen silent danger does lurk in the form of giant crevasses and shifting ice formations.

“We plan to open the glacier to similar civilian trekkers on a regular basis from next year”, Army officials said. — PTI

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Court charges Pandher with rape, murder

Ghaziabad, September 12
A special court here charged Moninder Singh Pandher on Wednesday with rape and murder of a young woman even as it questioned the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for exonerating him while probing the killings of at least 20 children and young women in Nithari village.

"Special Judge Rama Jain of the designated CBI court gave directions to charge Pandher with raping and murdering Payal, a 20-year-old woman, at his D-5 Nithari residence in Noida," said Khalid Mohammed, counsel of the families of the victims.

"Pandher was charged on the basis of the police case diary in which Dinesh Yadav, then circle and investigating officer, had recorded his confessional statements of raping and killing Payal, a girl who was alleged to be a prostitute," Mohammed added.

Pandher had reportedly told the police that Payal was blackmailing him and in order to get rid of her, he along with his servant Surinder Koli had killed her.

On July 2, the court had found suspended official Yadav "prima facie accused" for concealing the case diary and also issued his production warrant.

"After hearing the testimony of Payal's father Nand Lal, who saw the official accepting bribes, the court finds them prima facie accused in the case and issues non-bailable warrant against him," the judge had said. It was Payal's murder that had led to the unravelling of the sex-related butcheries in Nithari village in Noida near Delhi.

Pandher was arrested along with Koli last year after police recovered at least 20 human skulls and body parts stuffed in 57 polythene bags from the sewer behind Pandher's bungalow in Noida on December 29.

Pandher and Koli are currently lodged in Ghaziabad's Dasna jail. — IANS

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SC questions inclusion of more castes in OBC list
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 12
A constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, hearing OBC quota case, today put probing questions to the government on the ever-increasing number of castes being included in the Other Backward Classes list.

The five-judge Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, put the questions during the hearing on the issue to government counsel while expressing concerns over the inclusion of more and more castes in the OBC list.

Though the apex court, in its historic judgement in the Mandal Commission case, had fixed a criteria for inclusion of various castes other than Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the OBC list, the Bench was of the view that it could not be done without following the guidelines in letter and spirit by the Centre and the states.

The court’s query came on the face of senior advocate K.K. Venugopal’s arguments that the “creamy layer” exclusion, which was contemplated in the Mandal Commission verdict from the benefit of reservation, was in fact eating out the quota of real needy among the OBCs.

Venugopal, appearing for anti-reservationists, said the policy of reservation being pursued by the political parties in power was today more intended to gain votes rather than addressing the real issue of social affirmative action.

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HC stays award to Hussain

Kochi, September 12
The Kerala High Court today restrained the state government from conferring its prestigious ‘Raja Ravi Varma’ Award to renowned painter M.F Hussain at a function scheduled on September 17.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice H.L Dattu and Justice K.T Sankaran granted the stay on a public interest petition filed by Ravi Varma of Thammanam here, challenging the government's decision to honour the artist.

The petitioner contended Hussain had abused the freedom of expression incorporated in the Constitution by “Bharat Mata” and Hindu gods and goddesses in a vulgar and beastly manner in total disregard of Hindu religious sentiments. — UNI

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Chidambaram, Pawar to get award
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 12
President Pratibha Patil will present the outstanding parliamentarian awards to union ministers P. Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar and Mani Shankar Aiyer here tomorrow.

She would also confer the honours on BJP leader Sushma Swaraj at a function in Parliament’s Central Hall, a release said.

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Earthquake in South Bengal
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, September 12
An earthquake rocked various parts of South Bengal claiming two lives and damaging properties today.

The brief spell of the earthquake killed two persons in the Sunderbans areas in southern part due to collapsing of houses, but no tremor was felt in the Kolkata areas. The earthquake which mostly occurred in the Kakdwip and the Sagar

Islands damaged several houses, roads and culverts.

The District Magistrate (DM) said the residents were shifted to safer places.

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