SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Farewell To Arms
66 ULFA men surrender
Guwahati, November 1
As many as 68 insurgents, including 66 from the banned ULFA, today gave up arms in the biggest surrender in two years even as Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi expressed concern over intelligence inputs on possible ‘fresh strikes by the ULFA and its jehadi allies’.

Special policy for Naxals on anvil in Jharkhand
Patna, November 1
Faced with severe criticism both within and outside the state following the shocking Giridih carnage by Naxals on October 26, the Madhu Koda government in Jharkhand is now reportedly working out a special surrender policy for ultras.

Properties in states
Centre not exempt from service tax: SC
New Delhi, November 1
The Centre cannot claim exemption from paying service tax to states on its properties located in their territories, the Supreme Court has held, clarifying that the exemption available to the Union Government under Article 285 only extended to taxes other than the service charges.

India woos Africa to counter China
New Delhi, November 1
Keen to participate in Africa’s infrastructural development and secure greater access to its hydrocarbon reserves rather than being highly dependend on west Asia, India is organising a two-day conference of energy ministers from 25 African countries from November 6.

Secret Killings
Gogoi to table report
Guwahati, November 1
The Assam government will table the judicial inquiry report on 35 cases of ‘secret killings’ of close relatives and supporters of ULFA militants in the next session of the state Assembly beginning on November 12 much to the discomfort of the opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).

Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya Bachchan, son and actor Abhishek Bachchan and daughter-in-law Aishwarya at the Taj Mahal in Agra on Thursday.
Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya Bachchan, son and actor Abhishek Bachchan and daughter-in-law Aishwarya at the Taj Mahal in Agra on Thursday. — PTI

EARLIER STORIES


Welfare to Empowerment
Name of national awards for disabled changed
Chandigarh, November 1
Disability rights activists have convinced Government of India that there’s a lot in a name. For long, they had been advocating against the usage of terms like “welfare” when referring to them and their issues.

Licences of boy surgeon’s parents cancelled
Chennai, November 1
The licences of the doctor couple, who allowed their 15-year-old son to perform surgery on a pregnant woman to gain entry into the Guinness Book of Records have been cancelled by the Tamil Nadu State Medical Council.

Nitish-Lalu cross swords over minority issue
Patna, November 1
The strong minority group in Bihar that is reportedly capable of influencing the outcome in at least 100 Assembly segments out of a total 243 now holds the centrestage of state politics.

Big rally to mark panchayati raj
New Delhi, November 1
The national capital is set to witness one of largest official rallies in December with Panchayati Raj Ministry calling panchayat leaders from all over the country to mark 15 years of the enactment of 73rd Amendment to the Constitution.

Assam hopes for heritage tag for Majuli
Guwahati, November 1
With the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, taking keen interest in union cultural affairs ministry’s renewed bid to get a World Heritage Site tag from UNESCO for Majuli, the largest inhabited river island on the globe, the Assam government is hoping for the best this time.

Support Indo-US pact 
French no to N-deal with India
New Delhi, November 1
France today came out in support of the Indo-US nuclear deal, but ruled out a similar pact between Paris and New Delhi for now.

Karnataka suspense continues
Centre, state in no hurry to take decision
New Delhi, November 1
There was no end to the suspense over the Karnataka crisis today. Both the Centre and state governor Rameshwar Thakur were clearly in no hurry to take a final view on the BJP-JD (S) plea that President’s rule be revoked since the two have the numbers to form a government.

Govt to reduce consumption of conventional power
New Delhi, November 1
The government aims to reduce the consumption of conventional power and supplement energy supply through renewable energy, particularly in urban areas.

Greenhouse Emissions
Ansari for state-wise data
New Delhi, November 1
Reiterating the country’s commitment not to let its per capita emission of green house gases (GHGs) go beyond that of the developed countries, Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today called for obtaining state-wise data of emissions to tackle the problem in a more focused way.

Jaswant denies serving opium
Jaipur, November 1
Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s meeting with dissident party leaders at his ancestral village in Rajasthan’s Barmer district plunged into a controversy following reports that opium was served to participants but he denied the charge.

Rizwanur Case
CBI interrogates Priyanka
Kolkata, November 1
Continuing with its investigation into the mysterious death of Rizwanur Rahman, the CBI today grilled his widow Priyanka for the second time.

Noted writer Ali Raza dead
Mumbai, November 1
Ali Raza, husband of yesteryear actress Nimi, and a prolific writer himself, died of cardiac arrest today. He was in his early eighties and was admitted to Nanavati hospital a week ago. Raza was a legendary writer and his first film as a writer was “Andaaz” in 1949 starring Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Nargis. It was directed by Mehboob Khan.

Mid-day Meal 150 children taken ill
Sitapur, November 1
About 150 children were taken ill after consuming mid-day meal at two primary schools in Chandpur and Hilalpur villages today. The children were taken ill after consuming the meal served under the government scheme and had to be rushed to a primary health centre. District magistrate Ashok Kumar Duggal said the children were out of danger. An inquiry has been ordered in the incident. — PTI



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Farewell To Arms
66 ULFA men surrender
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, November 1
As many as 68 insurgents, including 66 from the banned ULFA, today gave up arms in the biggest surrender in two years even as Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi expressed concern over intelligence inputs on possible ‘fresh strikes by the ULFA and its jehadi allies’.

Sixty-six ULFA militants and two from a lesser known group, All Adivasi National Liberation Army (AANLA) laid down arms and took oath to abide by the Indian Constitution at a surrender ceremony attended by senior Army, police and civil officials at the fourth Assam Police Battalion headquarters here.

Gogoi termed the surrender a reflection of growing disillusionment among the cadres of the ULFA which is now heading nowhere under some autocratic leaders who are ‘staying in foreign sanctuaries’. “Over 650 ULFA militants have surrendered in the state since the peace process broke down in September last year,” he said.

He informed that the state might face fresh strikes by the ULFA and its jehadi allies on the basis of inputs from intelligence agencies. Gogoi apprised the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh of the state’s law and order situation at a meeting in New Delhi yesterday.

With today’s surrender the total number of militants coming over ground within this fortnight has gone up to 115. Earlier, 47 militants, mostly from the ULFA, had surrendered in two batches of 33 and 14 in two separate surrender functions during the fortnight.

Senior ULFA men among those who surrendered today, included Ujjal Gohain, alias Bipul Neog, finance secretary of the ULFA’s 28th battalion, Bhaskar Bora, Krishna Kanta Rabha. There were two women members among the ultras who gave up arms.

The surrendered ultras deposited 32 assorted weapons, including eight AK-56 assault rifles, five pistols, 10 revolvers, 37 grenades, 5 kg of RDX explosives, large amount of ammunition, gelatin sticks, electronic detonators, five PTD switches, RPG cells, detonators.

The DG of Assam Police R.N Mathur said the surrendered militants would be provided vocational training, a monthly stipend of Rs 2,000 per head for two years and Rs 1.5 lakh cash in the form of three-year fixed deposit as per the existing rehabilitation package.

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Special policy for Naxals on anvil in Jharkhand
Ambarish Dutta/TNS

Patna, November 1
Faced with severe criticism both within and outside the state following the shocking Giridih carnage by Naxals on October 26, the Madhu Koda government in Jharkhand is now reportedly working out a special surrender policy for ultras.

Reports reaching here indicate that the proposed surrender policy, expected to be announced within a month, among others, includes a monthly salary for surrendered Naxals besides the one-time package.

Incidentally, the proposed new surrender policy of Koda government is reportedly an updated and revised version of the hitherto unexecuted original policy worked out by the first Chief Minister of Jharkhand, Babulal Marandi.

Marandi’s son, Anup, was among the 18 persons gunned down by the Naxals in Giridih massacre.

Sources said Koda chaired a Cabinet meeting yesterday to fine tune various modalities of the new surrender policy.

Besides, in view of the sudden spate in Naxalite violence allegedly under its regime, Koda government also hinted at stringent police action against the ultras along with the proposed surrender policy.

Reports say Babulal Marandi’s son was the second major "political target" of the Naxals under the present Koda regime after the ultras had killed the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MP Sunil Mahato on March 4 this year.

Sources in the intelligence, however, doubt the efficacy of the proposed surrender policy to encourage the Naxals to join mainstream simply for the sake of fixed monthly salary in the backdrop of the inputs that the ultras reportedly were earning crores in the form of levy from the mineral rich Jharkhand in the form of extortion.

The intelligence inputs put the estimated levy amount earned by Naxals at no less than Rs 300 crore per year from this tribal state.

On the contrary, the government reportedly expects the Naxals to respond to the proposed surrender policy positively as levy did not ensure them peace. "If the Naxals are not convinced, they will no longer feel safe in doing the business of levy", sources in the government claimed.

Going by official estimate, presently there are as many as 8,000 rebels active in the state.

At the Cabinet meeting Chief Minister Madhu Koda also approved the proposed joint action and joint border-line management plans by the higher-ups of the police with neighbouring states, including Bihar, to battle Naxalism more effectively.

The ministers also expressed concern over the intelligence inputs cautioning against the reported shift of the focus area of the rebels now from small contractors and local moneylenders in Jharkhand to mighty politicians, senior bureaucrats and eminent social workers.

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Properties in states
Centre not exempt from service tax: SC
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 1
The Centre cannot claim exemption from paying service tax to states on its properties located in their territories, the Supreme Court has held, clarifying that the exemption available to the Union Government under Article 285 only extended to taxes other than the service charges.

“What is exempted under Article 285 is a tax on the property of the Union of IndIa but not a charge for services which are being rendered in the nature of water supply, maintenance charges and sewerage system,” a Bench of Justices A.K.Mathur and Markandey Katju ruled while rejecting a Central government appeal claiming exemption on service tax also.

The court said that the fee imposed by the states for maintenance could not be termed as “tax on property of the Union”, as the supply of water, maintenance of sewerage system and other related services incurred a lot of expenditure by the states and the Union Government was bound to pay it.

The ruling on the contentious issue between the Centre and states came on an appeal by the Union against the Allahabad High Court order upholding the UP Jal Sansthan’s claim of Rs 26.23 lakh as service tax from the Railways for its properties located in the Allahabad division.

The Railways had moved the high court to claim exemption from paying even the service charge under Article 285, which was rejected.

The Union Government took up the constitutional question in its appeal before the Supreme Court, saying the Centre’s properties were not liable for any form of tax be it service charge or any other tax.

The apex court dismissed the appeal, saying a distinction has to be made between the service charge and other taxes.

It accepted the UP government’s stand that other Central departments like Telecom, post offices, accountant-general, Central Excise and Customs, income tax and others were regularly paying service tax for providing them services like water supply and sewerage maintenance, hence raising the bogey of exemption for the Railways by the Union Government was not tenable under the law.

“What is prohibited by Article 285 is taxation on the property of the Railways and it does not prohibit charge of a fee on account of some service rendered by the local bodies or instrumentality of the state like the supply of water or maintenance of sewerage system. Such charges will be in the nature of fee and not a tax,” the apex court ruled.

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India woos Africa to counter China
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 1
Keen to participate in Africa’s infrastructural development and secure greater access to its hydrocarbon reserves rather than being highly dependend on west Asia, India is organising a two-day conference of energy ministers from 25 African countries from November 6.

India has been involved with the African hydrocarbon industry since the 1990s and has key assets in some oil producing countries like Nigeria and Sudan. However, with rising oil prices and the volatility in west Asia, Africa can play a significant part in meeting the country’s burgeoning energy demands.

Even though India’s ties with Africa date way back, China’s growing influence over the energy rich continent has been a cause for concern. New Delhi has been a late entrant to the African energy market and is somewhat at a disadvantageous position. The effort now is to diversify the country’s energy procurement basket rather than being dependent on the Gulf countries.

Importantly, China has struck energy deals worth more than $8 billion in the African continent and last year hosted a conference of energy ministers from 36 African countries coupled with promising an investment of $40 billion.

Significantly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Nigeria last month to give an added impetus to India’s engagement with Africa.

“We are enhancing the level of enegagement with the African continent which is becoming an important non-Opec energy source,” petroleum secretary M S Srinivasan told mediapersons here last night.

Srinivasan explained that akin to China, India has also been trying to assist Africa in its infrastructure development by combining lines of credit as an incentive. He pointed out that India already had a model in the $6 billion investment by the ONGC and Mittal Steel in Nigeria for setting up a refinery, a power plant and railway lines.

Srinivasan said India wants to acquire more oil and gas fields as well as other energy projects like refineries, petrochemical plants and pipelines even as it aims to raise imports from Africa by about 32 per cent in the next 2-3 years. Crude oil imports may rise to 25 million tonnes from 19 million tonnes now.

India is also targetting import of gas in liquified form from African countries like Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt.

The conference, jointly organised by the petroleum ministry, Ficci and Unctad, is expected to be attended by at least a dozen African energy ministers besides more than 100 delegates from 25 countries.

Union petroleum minister Murli Deora observed that the initiative is to provide a platform for exploring mutually beneficial partnership opportunities between India and Africa.

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Secret Killings
Gogoi to table report
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS

Guwahati, November 1
The Assam government will table the judicial inquiry report on 35 cases of ‘secret killings’ of close relatives and supporters of ULFA militants in the next session of the state Assembly beginning on November 12 much to the discomfort of the opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).

These ‘secret killings’ or ‘systematic elimination of ULFA kin’ were allegedly carried out in connivance with the then state government and police during the AGP regime between 1996-2001.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today informed that Justice (retd) K.N Saikia Commission of Inquiry had submitted the report in four parts and the same, along with an Action Taken Report (ATR), would be submitted in the next Assembly session.

The Congress, after winning power in 2001 poll, had constituted the one-man judicial inquiry commission to delve deep into specific cases of ‘systematic elimination’ of ULFA kin in the state during 1996-2001. The Congress had promised to order probe into these killings in its election manifesto.

Incumbent AGP president Brindabon Goswami has termed Gogoi’s plan to table the inquiry report on ‘secret killings’ in the Assembly just before panchayat poll scheduled for December as a ‘blackmail’ tactic of the Congress government.

“There is no question of blackmailing”, said Gogoi while countering the allegations.

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Welfare to Empowerment
Name of national awards for disabled changed
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, November 1
Disability rights activists have convinced Government of India that there’s a lot in a name. For long, they had been advocating against the usage of terms like “welfare” when referring to them and their issues.

Now they have succeeded in making others see their point. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has agreed to change the terminology of the national awards presented to the disabled every December 3 (International Day for the Disabled) to bring it in line with the vision and philosophy of disability rights movement.

Earlier called National Awards for “Welfare” of the Disabled, the honours will now be called National Awards for “Empowering” the Disabled. The change is inspired by a rights-based perspective and the fact that terms like “welfare” have pejorative implications and are derogatory and hurtful.

The development came about recently, after a 94-member working group on disability, constituted for the 11th Five Year Plan by the Planning Commission recommended in a big way a change in terminology of national awards. Headed by Dr G. N. Karna, honorary president, Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies, New Delhi, the group argued that the terminology was guided by charity approach and was against the Government of India’s stand of empowering the disabled.

“How can you talk about empowerment and welfare at the same time? The two are discordant and opposed to each other. Globally, too, terms like “welfare” are no longer used to address issues concerning the disabled,” Karna told The Tribune today, admitting that the government’s acceptance of their demand is a heartening development for disability movement in India.

Minister for social justice and empowerment Meira Kumar accepted the said demand at a meeting of the central coordination committee (constituted under Persons with Disabilities Act) held in New Delhi. Since the demand had no financial implications, it was easily conceded to. “The disabled have felt very hurt for very long over this issue. We are happy we have managed a breakthrough,” said Karna, just nominated as editorial advisor to the prestigious Journal of Literary Disability published from the USA.

The group’s other demands will be finalized by the National Development Council headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when it meets on December 9. Another major demand of the group pertains to extension of national awards for the disabled to the level of country’s highest civilian honours like Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhusha, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri.

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Licences of boy surgeon’s parents cancelled
Tribune News Service

Chennai, November 1
The licences of the doctor couple, who allowed their 15-year-old son to perform surgery on a pregnant woman to gain entry into the Guinness Book of Records have been cancelled by the Tamil Nadu State Medical Council.

An official of the council said from prima facie evidence it was clear that Dr K. Murugesan and his wife Dr Gandhimati had allowed their untrained son to perform surgeries at their family-owned nursing home on a 20-year-old pregnant woman and it was in clear violation of medical ethics.

According to Dr K. Prakasam, the medical council president, “It is clearly a violation of medical ethics to encourage and assist an unqualified person to perform medical procedures. As a statutory body, the council is authorised to cancel the licences of medical practitioners who violate these ethics.”

Their licences to practice as medical professionals have been cancelled for a year while the criminal case lodged against them following a government inquiry will continue.

The couple shot into limelight in June when Dr Murugesan, who owns Mathi Surgical and Maternity Hospital at Mannaparai in Trichy, 350 kms from here, displayed a CD at the local Indian Medical association meeting showing his 15-year-old son Dileepan Raj, a student of Class X performing a complicated caesarian surgery on a woman to deliver a baby.

A proud Dr Murugesan had said that it was a film showing his son’s achievement for which he will be mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records.

But the doctor couple landed into trouble when the police raided their private hospital, arrested them and also charged their son with inflicting injury on an unsuspecting patient without proper qualifications.

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Nitish-Lalu cross swords over minority issue
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, November 1
The strong minority group in Bihar that is reportedly capable of influencing the outcome in at least 100 Assembly segments out of a total 243 now holds the centrestage of state politics.

Going by 2001 census Bihar had recorded an average minority population of around 15 per cent spread over all districts with concentration as high as over 60 per cent in at least 10 districts of a total 38, including Kishanganj bordering Bangladesh, and in most of north Bihar districts.

As the minority community in Bihar again hogs the limelight in the backdrop of the recent Tehelka exposure on post-Godhra riots, neither Chief Minister Nitish Kumar nor his bete noire RJD boss Lalu Prasad thus could escape the issue and engaged in a bitter war of words by questioning their respective credentials for the cause of Muslims in the state.

Soon after Lalu wondered about Nitish’s silence on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi after the Tehelka exposure, an enraged Nitish resolved to unmask the "real" minority face of Lalu. The RJD supremo also dared Nitish to snap ties with the BJP while raising a demand to put Modi behind the bars for the riots and related loss of innocent lives.

The obvious target of the far flung Gujarat episode by Lalu was the strong minority in Bihar that formed an important constituent of his mythical Muslim-Yadav(MY) combination.

Nitish was quick to react by saying that the inquiry report of the Sithamari riots during the previous RJD regime would expose Lalu`s love for the minority community. "The government is examining the report submitted way back in 1997 itself", Nitish said.

Sources indicated the alleged involvement of RJD in Sithamari riots when Lalu Yadav was the Chief Minister of Bihar.

Besides, the state home secretary Afzal Amunullah in a statement on Tuesday said it was Lalu Prasad, then in the capacity of Bihar Chief Minister, who had actually asked him not to arrest senior BJP leader L.K Advani during the rath yatra in 1990.

Amanullah was posted as Dhanbad deputy commissioner in 1990.

The controversy with regard to an old issue on Advani’s arrest erupted on Monday when Lalu issued a statement against Amanullah accusing him of defying his order as Chief Minister to arrest Advani. Lalu also alleged that the ruling NDA in Bihar rewarded Amanullah for his act in 1990 by giving him the important post of home secretary now.

Sources in government, however, chose to view Lalu’s sudden anger against Amanullah in context of the latter’s resolve to end the alleged jungle raj in Bihar and his effective cooperation with the judiciary which already saw reported criminal-turned-politicians like RJD MP Mohd Shahabuddin, former MP Anand Mohan, among others, behind the bars.

Besides, Nitish wanted Lalu to explain as to why neither he nor his wife, former Chief Minister Rabri Devi could do justice to Bhagalpur riot victims of 1989 despite ruling Bihar between 1990 and 2005.

The ruling NDA has already formed a commission to probe into the old cases of Bhagalpur riots and announced monthly pension of Rs 2,500 for the surviving kin of Bhagalpur riot victims.

Nitish had also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last Saturday in Delhi to demand compensation for Bhagalpur riots victims on the pattern of anti-Sikh riot victims in 1984 following the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

And as if to make things worse for the RJD, the Patna district administration yesterday ordered lodging of FIRs with various police stations against the organisers of music programmes and dance shows by using loudspeaker beyond permissible time on the eve of RJD supremo Lalu Prasad’s Chetawani rally here on October 28.

One such FIR was reportedly lodged against the RJD MLC Nawal Kishore Yadav.

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Big rally to mark panchayati raj
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 1
The national capital is set to witness one of largest official rallies in December with Panchayati Raj Ministry calling panchayat leaders from all over the country to mark 15 years of the enactment of 73rd Amendment to the Constitution.

An estimated 2,50,000 sarpanches and panchayat presidents will be invited to take part in the rally on December 23 which will seek to foster “panchayat brotherhood.”

It will be preceded by a meeting on December 22 of chairpersons of zila parishads and leaders of middle-level panchayati raj institutions. The rally, likely to be addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, will provide the UPA leadership a valuable opportunity to create greater awareness about the programmes of government among the elected representatives from panchayats.

Panchayati raj minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said here that representatives of panchayati raj institutions (PRIs) will decide their own charter on where panchayati raj will go in the next ten years.

Keeping in view the logistical difficulty of arranging stay of such a large gathering, the rally is being planned in a way that most of participants arrive in the morning and leave the city by the evening.

The minister, who was answering queries at a joint press conference with Norwegian minister for local government and regional development Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa, said both countries could learn from each other’s experience in local government. He said while India can learn more about participatory democracy from Norway.

The Norwegian minister said women’s leadership was one of the most underutilised natural resource. She said the Norwegian cabinet had more women as members.

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Assam hopes for heritage tag for Majuli
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, November 1
With the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, taking keen interest in union cultural affairs ministry’s renewed bid to get a World Heritage Site tag from UNESCO for Majuli, the largest inhabited river island on the globe, the Assam government is hoping for the best this time.

“This time we expect UNESCO will accord the World Heritage Site status to the Majuli river island, the seat of Vaishnavite culture and tradition in Assam and the union cultural affairs ministry at the insistence of the Prime Minister is trying to put up the best possible bid this time,” said Debo Bora, media adviser to the Assam Chief Minister. He further pointed out that one of the key reasons for last year’s failure in securing the UNESCO recognition for the river island was the absence of any set of rules and regulations passed by the Assam Assembly for protection and development of the river island.

However, the state government last year enacted a set of rules and regulations for protection of Majuli and its culture and traditions and same will come handy this year for making a better presentation before the UNESCO World Heritage sites selection committee. A Rs 100 crore package was also announced by the state for protection of the river island from erosion and flood.

The state government official further said an expert committee from the union cultural affairs ministry was already in Majuli to collect data pertaining to high points of different aspects of social, cultural and religious aspects of the river island located in the bosom of the Brahmaputra. This island, situated at the confluence point of Subansiri and Brahmaputra river in Jorhat district of Assam, is an abode of Vaishnavite culture and a hub of satras (monasteries) since the sixteenth century.

Majuli is well-known worldwide for its rich flora-fauna and diverse populace.While the mighty Brahmaputra is in the south of Majuli, Kherkotia stream, an abandoned branch of the Brahmaputra and Subansiri is in the north.

According to the oldest top sheet with the Survey of India, Majuli had a total area of 900 sq km. The area was reduced to about 377 sq km as per survey data of the year 2000 because of rampant erosion caused by the Brahmaputra.

A comparative study of the 1920 Survey of India data and satellite imagery of the river island taken in 1998, revealed that the breadth of the Brahmaputra near Majuli had increased from 7 km to 9 km. Prior to the earthquake in the 1950s,the total land area of Majuli was over 1,245 sq km but it has significantly lost to the erosion after the earthquake reducing it to a meager 376.93 sq km. The island is shrinking due to erosion and since 1991, over 42 villages have been washed away creating a threat to its existence.

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Support Indo-US pact 
French no to N-deal with India
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 1
France today came out in support of the Indo-US nuclear deal, but ruled out a similar pact between Paris and New Delhi for now.

French minister for higher education and research Valerie Pecresse, while supporting the Indo-US nuclear deal said France wanted to increase civilian nuclear energy cooperation with India “but in order to go ahead, we want India to first sign safeguards agreement with the IAEA and to negotiate an exemption with the NSG.” She drove home one point to the Indian leadership, already understood by New Delhi, that without clearing the IAEA and NSG hurdles, India would not be able to get far in sewing up civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreements with other nations.

“We need the legal framework to be implemented before going into nuclear cooperation with India,” Pecresse said while addressing a joint press conference with science and technology minister Kapil Sibal.

To a question about why France was insisting on the IAEA agreement now while it had not done so earlier for collaborating in the fast breeder reactor programme, she said that was because international laws had changed.

During her talks with Sibal, the two ministers discussed various steps to enhance bilateral cooperation in science and technology and explore new avenues for more meaningful and intensive cooperation in such sensitive subjects as nuclear sciences and space technology. She said India and France were exploring new ways to finance the Indo-French Centre for Promotion of Advanced Research (IFCAPR), which marked its 20th anniversary today.

The two countries also decided to focus on setting up of three international associated laboratories in the field of neurosciences, nano-materials and organic chemistry.

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Karnataka suspense continues
Centre, state in no hurry to take decision
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 1
There was no end to the suspense over the Karnataka crisis today. Both the Centre and state governor Rameshwar Thakur were clearly in no hurry to take a final view on the BJP-JD (S) plea that President’s rule be revoked since the two have the numbers to form a government.

The cabinet committee on political affairs, which met here today, did not discuss the issue. The Centre is now awaiting a final report from the governor, which is likely to be submitted tomorrow. The report sent by Thakur yesterday was only an interim one as it only gave a factual account of the developments in the state.

The matter may figure in the cabinet meeting on Friday. At the same time, the Centre is also waiting for the President to return from her Kerala visit before it takes a final view.

While the BJP has stepped up pressure on the governor and the UPA government to take a quick decision, the Congress is still weighing the pros and cons of allowing the BJP to form its first government in the south.

The party is divided on this issue. A section of senior Karnataka leaders believe the Centre should let the BJP and the JD (S) to come back to power as the new dispensation is unlikely to be stable and the two will eventually stand thoroughly discredited in the public eye. Referring to to the 11-point charter memorandum of understanding sent by JD (S) president Deve Gowda to BJP president Rajnath Singh, a senior Congress leader said it only pointed to the trust deficit between the two parties.

On the other hand, there is a lurking fear that if BJP is allowed to get a foothold in the south, it could prove fatal for the Congress in the long run. Party’s Karnataka unit is pressing the Congress leadership to go in for early dissolution of the assembly.

The Congress is hoping that delay in inviting the BJP-JD (S) to form a government will create confusion in their ranks and that their partnership will fall apart sooner than later. It is waiting to see if the BJP will agree to the condition set by the former Prime Minister in his MoU. In case, the BJP does sign on the dotted line, the Centre may have little option but to revoke President’s rule to facilitate the formation of a BJP-led government. If the BJP rejects the MOU it will make it so much easier for the Centre to take a decision.

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Govt to reduce consumption of conventional power
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 1
The government aims to reduce the consumption of conventional power and supplement energy supply through renewable energy, particularly in urban areas.

Minister of state for new and renewable energy Vilas Muttemwar today said that among other measures and interventions, his ministry was promoting solar-passive architecture by providing support for the preparation of project reports and construction of demonstration solar buildings.

He was speaking at the occasion of signing of an MoU with The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) on National Rating System for Green Buildings. This India-specific Rating System will facilitate design construction, operation and evaluation of environment-friendly buildings.

Keeping in view India's climatic conditions, and in particular the construction of non-AC buildings, National Rating System - GRIHA is suitable for all types of buildings in different climatic zones of the country.

Muttemwar said support is also being provided for training, documentation and awareness-creation activities to promote energy efficiency. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) have also made efforts to incorporate energy-efficiency measures in the National Building Code and the Energy Conservation Building Code.

The rating system was initially conceived and developed by TERI. It has been modified as a National Rating System after incorporating various suggestions by a group of architects and experts.

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Greenhouse Emissions
Ansari for state-wise data
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 1
Reiterating the country’s commitment not to let its per capita emission of green house gases (GHGs) go beyond that of the developed countries, Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today called for obtaining state-wise data of emissions to tackle the problem in a more focused way.

The Vice-President added that the multi-lateral process in dealing with climate change must ensure that burden sharing is fair and take into account primary responsibility for the present levels of greenhouse effects and not perpetuate poverty among developing countries.

Observing that national parameters of economic growth are rendered meaningless as they obscure deep inequalities, he said the country needs a database of human development indicators for different income groups.

“We have different worlds in the same country, the human development parameters of the richest 20 per cent are way above those of the poorest 20 per cent of the population,” Ansari said in his address at the Vision 2025- a sustainable roadmap for India.

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Jaswant denies serving opium

Jaipur, November 1
Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s meeting with dissident party leaders at his ancestral village in Rajasthan’s Barmer district plunged into a controversy following reports that opium was served to participants but he denied the charge.

Commenting on the reports that opium was served during the meet, Singh said it was a very old tradition to serve opium in functions like Riyaan when nears and dears and even people of nearby villages are invited to express for thanks-giving after a family gets some good news and happiness”.

“But, yesterday, at my function no opium was served as it was a mix of gangajal, kesar, jaggery and tea”, he said.

Singh sought to play down suggestions that it was a meeting of dissident BJP leaders and claimed it to be more of a social occasion.

“Who is saying all this?” he shot back when asked about reports that some dissident leaders had come to his ancestral house in Jasol village.

It was purely a family function and he had last time organised such a function nearly seven years ago when his grandson was born, he said.

“Now, I have organised this because there were many things to celebrate in the past four years, including my son Manvendra’s victory in Lok Sabha election and also the birth of my granddaughter,” he said. — PTI

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Rizwanur Case
CBI interrogates Priyanka

Kolkata, November 1
Continuing with its investigation into the mysterious death of Rizwanur Rahman, the CBI today grilled his widow Priyanka for the second time.

The CBI officials also interrogated two other seniorIPS officers, Gyanbant Singh and Ajoy Kumar, who were implicated in the conspiracy of breaking the marriage of the newly married Hindu-Muslim couple.

Former police chief Prasun Mukherjee, now in New Delhi, will also be interrogated after his return to Kolkata, said CBI joint director Arun Kumar. Mukherjee had asked these two IPS officials to help Ashoke Todi, Priyanka’s father, to get his daughter back to the family. — TNS

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Noted writer Ali Raza dead

Mumbai, November 1
Ali Raza, husband of yesteryear actress Nimi, and a prolific writer himself, died of cardiac arrest today. He was in his early eighties and was admitted to Nanavati hospital a week ago. Raza was a legendary writer and his first film as a writer was “Andaaz” in 1949 starring Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar and Nargis. It was directed by Mehboob Khan.

His other popular films include “Mother India” (1957), “Saraswati Chandra” (1968), “Sawan Bhadon” (1970), “Raja Jani” (1972), “Bhai Bhai”, “Reshma Aur Shera” (1971) and “Dus Numbri” (1976).

He also wrote and directed “Praan Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye” starring Sunil Dutt and Rekha. — UNI

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