SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Review of HCS appointments
SC not to interfere in Haryana govt move

New Delhi, December 12
In an important judgement vindicating the Hooda government stand, the Supreme Court has refused to interfere in its decision to review the appointment of the state civil service officers processed at the fag end of the previous O.P. Chautala regime and to reduce the cadre strength of HCS officers from 300 to 230.

CBI starts probe into FCI official’s killing
Guwahati, December 12
The Central Bureau of Investigation has begun its probe into the July 11 killing of Food Corporation of India executive director Dr Phool Chand Ram during an ‘encounter’ between the Assam police and ULFA militants at Borka Panitema village in Kamrup district of Assam.

Suspended MLA pushed out of Bihar Assembly
Patna, December 12
The ongoing week-long winter session of the Bihar Assembly today witnessed an unprecedented scene when some ruling NDA MLAs virtually forcibly lifted suspended JD (U) MLA Cheddi Paswan only to push him out of the House, a job primarily meant for the marshals.



EARLIER STORIES


Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri congratulates Lt Sanjay Singh Jeena at his official residence in Dehra Dun
Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri congratulates Lt Sanjay Singh Jeena at his official residence in Dehra Dun on Tuesday. Son of a retired honorary Captain hailing from a remote area in Pithoragarh district, Jeena was awarded the Sword of Honour and gold medal for being first in the overall merit at the passing-out parade of the Indian Military Academy on Monday. — Tribune photo by Raju William

A BSF jawan wears a mask to prevent mosquito bites, as he patrols the remote Maharanicherra area, about 198 km southeast of Agartala
A BSF jawan wears a mask to prevent mosquito bites, as he patrols the remote Maharanicherra area, about 198 km southeast of Agartala, on Wednesday. Malaria poses a big threat to the troopers posted along the Tripura-Bangladesh border, with seven dead and more than 3,000 BSF soldiers already been hit by malaria this year. — Reuters

Nitish helping BJP make over image
Patna, December 12
Bihar Chief Minister and senior JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar seems to have emerged as the new mascot for the BJP to help it de-saffronise its public posturing on ‘Hindutva’ and reach out to other social segments, particularly the minority Muslims, in the NDA’s bid to recapture power in Delhi after the next Lok Sabha polls.

Left Front govt facing internal differences
New Delhi, December 12
The Left Front government in West Bengal is facing internal differences with some of its constituents expressing unhappiness over the “unilateralism” of the biggest partner CPI (M) and the manner in which Buddhadeb government has taken certain crucial decisions.

‘Pained’ Prakash quits JD (S)
Bangalore, December 12
In a setback to JD (S) in Karnataka, headed by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, the party split today with 12 dissident members of the dissolved Assembly, including senior leader M.P. Prakash, resigning from the outfit.

Thackeray refuses to be crowned
Mumbai, December 12
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has finally decided not to be crowned ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’, the title given to him by his own newspaper Saamna. In a signed article in the same newspaper today, Thackeray said he did not want to be crowned as an “emperor of Hindu hearts”.

‘Millionaire’ CM pays just Rs 12,491 income tax
Hyderabad, December 12
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy may be a millionaire politician in the public eye but he has paid income tax of just Rs 12,491 in 2004-05. According to the official records of the assets of the state legislators, obtained by Lok Satta Party under Right to Information Act, the Chief Minister owns assets totalling Rs 3.36 crore, besides Rs 42 lakh worth shares in companies.

Pranab: No change in stand on Palestine
New Delhi, December 12
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee today assured the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on External Affairs that New Delhi’s support for the Palestinian had not wavered.

Body exhumed again in Nandigram
Kolkata, December 12
The digging operation of another “improvised grave”, which was detected two days ago in the Parulbari village at Nandigram, today resulted in the “recovery” of the body of Haren Ptamanick (32), an activist of the Bhumi Raksha Committee. He was missing since November 7.

7/11 Train Blasts
Trial to begin on Dec 18
Mumbai, December 12
A special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act court will begin the trial in the July 11, 2006 serial train blasts case, in which 187 persons were killed and over 700 injured, by examining the first witness on December 18.

LTTE no more a threat to India
Chennai, December 12
The Indian Army feels the LTTE is no more a serious threat to the country, but security forces have stepped up vigil to prevent infiltration by “unfriendly elements” following the recent developments in Sri Lanka.

Bangladesh war veterans to attend Vijay Diwas
Kolkata, December 12
Eighteen Bangladesh war veterans will attend this year's Vijay Diwas functions to celebrate India's victory over Pakistan in 1971 that resulted in the birth of the new nation.

N-Deal
Forward Bloc threatens to withdraw support
Kozhikode, December 12
The All India Forward Bloc today threatened to withdraw its support to the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre if it went ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal.

Govt to quicken talks with IAEA: Kakodkar
Mumbai, December 12
Unfazed by CPM’s threat to the government to end the talks with IAEA, its chief nuclear negotiator today said India would quicken negotiations with the IAEA on India-specific safeguards but will ensure that it is done “satisfactorily”.

Enjoy the new pork from South
Chennai, December 12
There is good news from down South for those who like bacon and eggs for breakfast, pork vindaloo for lunch and barbequed pork chops with their drinks in the evening, but no more dare because of diet restrictions about red meat.

Assam evolves model for tribal development
Guwahati, December 12
The Assam government has evolved a new model for development of six communities, including the Adivasis (tea tribes), which have been on the warpath demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

Agni IV launch on anvil: DRDO
New Delhi, December 12
Having planned at least three more tests for the nuclear-capable Agni-III missile, India is now close to develop Agni IV with a range of more than 6,000 kms, missile strategic systems chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation V.K. Saraswat said here today.

Meeting of labour panel today
New Delhi, December 12
Union minister of state for labour and employment Oscar Fernandes will chair the 42nd session of the Standing Labour Committee here tomorrow. The meeting will review the Action Taken Report on conclusions and recommendations of the 41st session of the Indian Labour Conference.

General rank conferred on Nepal army chief
New Delhi, December 12
President Pratibha Patil today conferred the honorary rank of General of the Indian Army on General Rookmangud Katawal Prajatantra Bhaskar Dusro, the Chief of the Army Staff of the Nepalese Army, at a special investiture ceremony here.

Nepalese Chief of Army Staff General Rookmangud Katawal (left) salutes as he inspects the guard of honour in New Delhi on Wednesday. Katawal is on an eight-day visit to India. — AFP photo

Nepalese Chief of Army Staff General Rookmangud Katawal (left) salutes as he inspects the guard of honour in New Delhi

7 killed, 14 hurt in balcony collapse
Bangalore, December 12
Seven persons, including a child, were killed and 14 others injured when a balcony on the first floor of an old residential building here collapsed, police said today. The incident occurred at Nehrupura in Bharati Nagar area last night when the balcony of over a decade-old building came down, deputy commissioner of police (east division), B K Singh, said.

‘Airport not for Prez convenience’
New Delhi, December 12
Rashtrapati Bhavan today denied reports that a new airport is being built at Amravati in Maharashtra for the convenience of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, "ignoring the interests of the farmers of the Vidarbha region.''

CBI sends fresh letter to Interpol on Quattrocchi
New Delhi, December 12
Three months after he walked to freedom from Argentina, the CBI has sent a fresh communication to Interpol seeking details about Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, accused in the Bofors payoff scam, and “assistance” to nab him.

Ex-Bihar minister gets life term
Patna, December 12
A fast track court of Nawada district in Bihar today convicted a senior Congress leader and a former state minister Aditya Singh for murder. He was a minister of state for animal husbandry in the previous Rabri Devi government.

NHRC notice to Assam chief secy, DGP
New Delhi, December 12
The NHRC has sent notices to the chief secretary and the DGP, Assam, on two incidents where Adivasi women were allegedly stripped by rioters in Guwahati. Taking suo-motu cognisance of a report, which appeared in Telegraph on Nov 27, the commission said the incident showed the failure of the government in protecting dignity of women.

Sanjay resumes shooting
Mumbai, December 12
Actor Sanjay Dutt, convicted of illegal possession of arms in 1993 serial blasts but granted bail by the SC, today resumed shooting for movies. Dutt was released from Yeravada jail in Pune on November 29 after the apex court granted him bail.

Videos
Red pandas in the wild.
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Dead alligators.
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Sequel to Goal.
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Happy birthday Rajni.
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Review of HCS appointments
SC not to interfere in Haryana govt move
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 12
In an important judgement vindicating the Hooda government stand, the Supreme Court has refused to interfere in its decision to review the appointment of the state civil service officers processed at the fag end of the previous O.P. Chautala regime and to reduce the cadre strength of HCS officers from 300 to 230.

Taking into account the allegations of widespread corruption and nepotism in the Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) and the ongoing Vigilance Bureau (VB) investigation into the matter, a Bench of Justices S.B. Sinha and Harjit Singh Bedi said, “No case has been made out for interference.”

While finding no merits in the allegation against the Hooda government that it had rendered the functioning of the HPSC “defunct” intentionally in the wake of the allegations against some of its members, the apex court directed the commission to provide every material available with it about the recruitment process, to the Vigilance to ensure an early completion of the inquiry.

“It would be in the interest of all concerned, including the appellants (candidates), to see that the inquiry should be completed at an early date… we direct the state government to take all steps in this behalf… we would also request the commission to render all cooperation to the authorities of the state Vigilance Bureau,” said the court in its judgement announced yesterday and provided to the media today.

With the order, the apex court rejected seven sets of petitions by some of the candidates, who claimed to have been selected, for a direction to the state government and the HPSC to issue them appointment orders. They had also challenged the Hooda government’s notification reducing HCS cadre strength to 230 from 300.

They had moved the apex court in appeals after the Punjab and Haryana High Court had rejected their petitions for identical relief on October 12, 2006.

The Congress government, after coming to power in 2005, had reviewed the entire recruitment process carried out by the HPSC for the appointment of HCS officers, including the police officers of the rank of DSP, following allegations of widespread corruption and nepotism in the commission.

It was also alleged that the Chautala government had managed to include the names of several favourites of then Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues in the selection list.

The appointment letters could not be issued by the Chautala government after the HPSC on December 30, 2004, had declared 102 candidates selected out of over 14,000.

The delay was mainly because the selection process was first halted due to the 2004 general elections and the declaration of the Assembly polls in February 2005 as the model code conduct remained in force.

After the Hooda government came to power, it decided to review the appointment process and ordered the VB inquiry into the functioning of the HPSC in view of several complaints of favouritism against some of its members, appointed during the Chautala regime. The Congress government had also issued a notification on May 13, 2005, reducing the HCS cadre strength to 230.

The Chautala government was also accused of showing “undue haste” in the appointment process to see that it was through before the Assembly elections.

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CBI starts probe into FCI official’s killing
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 12
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has begun its probe into the July 11 killing of Food Corporation of India (FCI) executive director Dr Phool Chand Ram during an ‘encounter’ between the Assam police and ULFA militants at Borka Panitema village in Kamrup district of Assam.

Official sources here informed that a two-member team of the CBI officials went to survey the place of the encounter at the premises of Govinda Deka at Borka Panitema village, about 40 km away from here.

The Assam police earlier claimed that senior FCI official, who had been abducted from the heart of Guwahati city by ULFA militants on April 17, was killed in a crossfire while a team of police engaged in a fierce gun battle with two ULFA militants taking shelter in the house of Deka.

The police said though it had information about the presence of ULFA militants in the house that night, but not of the abducted FCI official.

The bullet-ridden bodies of two ULFA militants and Dr Ram were recovered from the house immediately after the gun battle.

The incident sparked widespread allegations against the Assam police resorting to deliberate killing of Dr Ram without giving him a chance to save his life.

Assam government requested the CBI to take up the investigation of the matter in the face of widespread criticism against the police though it had already ordered a probe by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the state police.

The family of Dr Ram too had moved Guwahati High Court requesting for a directive to the CBI to take up the investigation of the case.

The CBI probe team yesterday collected documents related to the case from the CID headquarter here. It also collected other materials and medical reports relating to the case.

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Suspended MLA pushed out of Bihar Assembly
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 12
The ongoing week-long winter session of the Bihar Assembly today witnessed an unprecedented scene when some ruling NDA MLAs virtually forcibly lifted suspended JD (U) MLA Cheddi Paswan only to push him out of the House, a job primarily meant for the marshals.

The incident took place after Paswan, now the state president of the NCP, made uncharitable remarks against Speaker Uday Narayan Chaudhury for not allowing him to raise issues concerning his constituency.

As the Speaker started taking up call-attention notices during zero-hour, Paswan wanted to know from the Chair the fate of the one he had submitted. He alleged that though his notice was at 14 in the list, the Speaker had not asked him to read it out. On the contrary, Choudhary told Paswan that his notice figured at number 24 and therefore it could not be taken up.

An enraged Paswan then charged the Speaker with being biased and arbitrary against him. Subsequently, he rushed to the aisle and made some uncharitable remarks against the Speaker.

State road construction minister and BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav strongly objected to such remarks by Paswan, while Opposition MLAs stood in support of the suspended JD (U) MLA asking the Speaker to allow him to read the notice.

After Paswan got engaged in a heated exchange with the minister, some ruling NDA MLAs led by JD (U) chief whip Shravan Kumar then encircled Paswan before pushing him out of the House amid noisy protests by Opposition MLAs.

Later Paswn along with Opposition MLAs sat on a dharna outside the chamber of the Speaker in protest against the incident.

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Nitish helping BJP make over image
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 12
Bihar Chief Minister and senior JD (U) leader Nitish Kumar seems to have emerged as the new mascot for the BJP to help it de-saffronise its public posturing on ‘Hindutva’ and reach out to other social segments, particularly the minority Muslims, in the NDA’s bid to recapture power in Delhi after the next Lok Sabha polls.

The development involving Nitish reportedly is linked to the recent projection of the leader of opposition L.K. Advani as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP in the next Lok Sabha polls.

Nitish’s role behind the image makeover exercise by the BJP to reposition Advani is believed to be crucial in the context of the present NDA rule in Bihar for the past two years, a state with a sizeable Muslim population.

Further, the BJP’s dependence on Nitish to soften its pro-Hindutva image is also said to be in the backdrop of the ongoing Gujarat polls where the saffron brigade depends more on the strident Hindutva agenda of Narendra Modi following the fake encounter issue involving Sohrabuddin Sheikh.

Unlike Atal Behari Vajpayee, Advani was earlier more known as a key architect of the Hindutva agenda of the BJP based on the Ayodhya issue.

The new role of Nitish as the mascot for the BJP was perhaps evident from the remarks made by him yesterday while welcoming the BJP’s decision to face the next Lok Sabha polls under Advani.

In what seemed to be an obvious bid to soften the Hindutva image of Advani, Nitish openly acknowledged the BJP’s support to the 10-point programme adopted by him for the welfare of minorities in Bihar. The reservation for Dalit Muslims on the lines of SC/ST Hindus and the reopening of some of the old cases in the infamous Bhagalpur riots of 1989 that had claimed over 1,000 lives under then Congress regime topped Nitish’s agenda, among others, to reach out to the strong minority voters of Bihar who till the other day were known to be more inclined towards the RJD.

By supporting Nitish on issues like reservation for Dalit Muslims the BJP too was believed to be eyeing for an image makeover in this crucial Hindi heartland and its related tangible impact in the adjacent Uttar Pradesh.

The acceptance of Nitish’s apparent neutral image among other non-BJP NDA partners could also be felt during the recent visit of former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference president Farooq Abdullah to the state.

Farooq openly had showered praise on Nitish for his balanced social approach in governance by taking care of all communities, besides his effort to bring back Bihar on track from its present economic morass.

While describing Advani’s projection as prime ministerial candidate as a “natural choice” after Atal Behari Vajpayee, Nitish, however, categorically stated that he would not favour any change in the NDA’s present stand on the disputed Ayodhya issue. “The NDA is still of the view that a solution to the Ayodhya issue can be found only through a dialogue or arbitration by the court. Besides, Article 370 will not be abrogated and a common civil code will not be imposed. There will be no change in the NDA’s position after Advani being anointed as BJP’s next prime ministerial candidate”, he said.

Sources here disclosed that even before Advani cleared his priorities before his NDA allies, Nitish’s remarks was a calculated move to reflect the fears of non-BJP parties within the alliance, who reportedly earlier used to feel more comfortable with Vajpayee than Advani. Even Nitish himself was known to be more close to Vajpayee than Advani during the previous NDA regime in Delhi.

Nitish’s observation by describing Advani as a “frequently misunderstood person both within and outside party” vis-a-vis JD (U)’s stand in the past backing the beleaguered leader within the Sangh Parivar over his remarks on Pakistan and its founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah was also believed to be aimed at re-framing Advani’s image, unlike past, as a leader willing to represent all segments of society.

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Left Front govt facing internal differences
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12
The Left Front government in West Bengal is facing internal differences with some of its constituents expressing unhappiness over the “unilateralism” of the biggest partner CPI (M) and the manner in which Buddhadeb government has taken certain crucial decisions.

Parties such as the RSP and the Forward Block have been unhappy over the state government’s handling of issues such as Nandigram and the decision to show flexibility in the Indo-US nuclear deal by allowing the government to go ahead with IAEA negotiations. Though the two parties went along with the CPI (M) and CPI in providing conditional space to the government on the deal, they had opposed the move during the meeting of Left parties.

The Forward Block has already announced that it will fight the forthcoming panchayat elections in West Bengal on its own.

Though CPI also has differences with the CPI (M) on certain issues of governance, it has been more restrained in its reaction.

The differences, though unprecedented in the long history of the Left Front government in West Bengal, are unlikely to lead to any immediate ruptures in the coalition. The constituents said their criticism is directed mainly at improving the Left Front’s performance in the state.

Forward Block leader Debabrata Biswas said that certain decisions had been taken by the CPI (M) unilaterally. He said the panchayat system in West Bengal, which was an instrument to empower the people, was being run by the bureaucracy. Referring to decisions concerning Nandigram, he said the administration had failed to ensure rule of law for 11 months. There was a lack of transparency on decisions concerning Singur, he added.

Biswas said the image of Left Front government in West Bengal had suffered at a time when the country was looking for an alternative to the Congress and the BJP. Referring to the pivotal position of the Left at the Centre and its capacity to influence policies of the government, he rued that the movement had come to a halt at a crucial time.

RSP leader Abani Roy said some constituents of the Left Front were “fed up with unilateralism” of CPI (M). “Everything is done in the name of Left Front but we are not happy with some decisions,” he said. CPI leader D. Raja said his party had already conveyed its views that Nandigram should have been handled differently. CPI (M), being the biggest party of the Front has more responsibility to be accommodative,” he said.

All constituents, however, categorically said their criticism was aimed at improving the functioning of the Left Front government and should not be seen as a step towards quitting the front.

“The purpose of criticism is to rectify the mistakes. We had promised to provide a better government in the last assembly polls,” Biswas said.

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‘Pained’ Prakash quits JD (S)

Bangalore, December 12
In a setback to JD (S) in Karnataka, headed by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, the party split today with 12 dissident members of the dissolved Assembly, including senior leader M.P. Prakash, resigning from the outfit.

The dissident leaders, who were critical of the “dictatorial and unilateral” style of functioning of the JD(S) chief, held a meeting here today and passed a resolution to quit the party.

The decision was announced by Prakash who was home minister in the cabinet headed by H.D. Kumaraswamy, son of Deve Gowda.

He said the resignation letters would be sent to Kumaraswamy who was the leader of JD(S) legislature party.

Prakash said a three-member or five-member committee would be formed to decide on their course of action with regard to joining another party. Sources close to Prakash said he and his team had no intention to float a new outfit.

Besides Prakash, those who resigned from the party included Mahadeva Prasad, Balaraju, K.N. Rajanna, Anjaneya, B.C. Patil, Sharana Basappa Darshanapur, M.Y. Patil, Raju Gowda, Amaregowda Bayyapura, Suryanarayana Reddy and Ravikanth Patil. Ravikanth Patil, an Independent MLA in the dissolved Assembly, had identified with JD(S).

Two MLCs Chidananda and B.T. Channabasappa also walked out of the party.

The dissident camp claimed two more members of the dissolved Assembly, Santosh Lad and Parimala Nagappa, who were away, have expressed their desire to quit the party and would join them.

“I am quitting the party with pain and anguish. We will decide on the future course of action in a few days”, said Prakash who had raised a banner of revolt over the way the party handled the power transfer issue with BJP. — PTI

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Thackeray refuses to be crowned
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 12
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has finally decided not to be crowned ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’, the title given to him by his own newspaper Saamna.

In a signed article in the same newspaper today, Thackeray said he did not want to be crowned as an “emperor of Hindu hearts”. An event manager and political activist from the state, Avdhoot Bhise, had planned the coronation ceremony on January 23 when Thackeray turns 82.

The event planned at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park was to be similar to Shivaji Maharaj’s coronation ceremony at the Raigad Fort in 1674 complete with a replica of the Raigad Fort.

However, Thackeray nixed the plan in an article in the party newspaper.

“Whose coronation is it and who has been consulted before organising this event,” Thackeray asked. The Shiv Sena chief’s reaction came after activists of the party queried office-bearers on the proposed coronation ceremony that was widely reported in the local media.

Thackeray said he had nothing to do with such events and that he had always shunned positions of power.

After Thackeray’s statement, Bhise said the plans to crown Thackeray had been given up keeping in view of his sentiments.

Thackeray himself is known to play the role of a self-styled Hindu Hriday Samrat to the hilt. Clad in saffron, with a rudraksha mala wrapped around his wrist, the Shiv Sena chief receives visitors and grants media interviews while seated on gilt throne.

After a Marathi newspaper commented on this earlier this year, an angry Thackeray promptly packed the throne and sent it to the editor’s office. The piece of ornate furniture was returned to Thackeray with profuse apologies.

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‘Millionaire’ CM pays just Rs 12,491 income tax
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 12
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy may be a millionaire politician in the public eye but he has paid income tax of just Rs 12,491 in 2004-05.

According to the official records of the assets of the state legislators, obtained by Lok Satta Party under Right to Information Act, the Chief Minister owns assets totalling Rs 3.36 crore, besides Rs 42 lakh worth shares in companies.

“He has paid only Rs12,491 as income tax for the assessment year 2004-05,” the civil servant-turned-politician and Lok Satta convener Dr Jayaprakash Narayan said.

The family members of Reddy, widely seen as “Rayalaseema strongman”, are known to own thousands of acres of land in Kadapa district and have business interests in the state and in neighbouring Karnataka.

The Chief Minister had “voluntarily surrendered” over 900 acres of surplus land in his native district of Kadapa in January this year which was in possession of his family members in violation of land laws.

According to the affidavit filed by him before the returning officer during the 2004 Assembly elections, Reddy’s wealth included just 45 acres of cultivable land and 6.65 acres of barren land besides houses in Hyderabad and Pulivendula in Kadapa.

According to Lok Satta’s findings, only 83 legislators in the 294-member Assembly have submitted the details of their assets before the Speaker though such a declaration is mandatory on the part of MLAs.

The Chief Minister has not filed the financial declaration for the last two years. Of the 41 ministers in the cabinet, 28 have failed to file their declarations even once in the last four years.

Only 45 out of 185 Congress MLAs, 20 out of 46 TDP members, 5 out of 26 TRS legislators, 3 out of 9 CPI (M) members and 3 out of 6 CPI MLAs submitted their details to the Speaker.

The former Chief Minister and TDP President N Chandrababu Naidu declared his wealth to be around Rs20.92 crore, including shares worth Rs16.69 crore. Besides, he has also disclosed purchase of shares worth Rs3 crore in the family-owned Heritage Foods.

“Since both Rajasekhar Reddy and Naidu were accused of amassing wealth while in power, the statements before the Speaker could be taken as a false affidavit for an investigation against them,” Narayan said.

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Pranab: No change in stand on Palestine
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee today assured the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on External Affairs that New Delhi’s support for the Palestinian had not wavered.

The Palestinian issue, close to the hearts of the Left parties, dominated the discussions at the committee meeting. Mukherjee said India supported a negotiated solution resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine within secure and recognised borders living side by side at peace with Israel. “India’s support to the Palestinian cause has not wavered. India recognised the PLO as a representative of the Palestinian people in 1975 and was one of the first countries to recognise the state of Palestine in 1988,” the minister told the consultative committee.

He touched upon the significant humanitarian contribution that India made to the Palestinian people. Together with the Palestine National Authority, India is working on several development projects, including a cardiac hospital in Gaza, a school in Abu Dis and an IT Centre at the Al Quds University. India has also rushed life-saving drugs for Palestinian civilians affected by the conflict. In consultation with the Lebanese government, India is working to assist the Palestinian refugees at the Nahr al-Bared Camp in north Lebanon.

He informed the members that minister of state for external affairs E. Ahamed would attend the International Donors Conference for Palestine being held in Paris on December 17.

Mukherjee took this opportunity to inform the members that India was invited to attend the Middle East Peace Conference in Annapolis held on November 27. In its statement at the conference, India applauded the joint understanding reached by Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to launch vigorous and bilateral negotiations over the coming months.

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Body exhumed again in Nandigram
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, December 12
The digging operation of another “improvised grave”, which was detected two days ago in the Parulbari village at Nandigram, today resulted in the “recovery” of the body of Haren Ptamanick (32), an activist of the Bhumi Raksha Committee. He was missing since November 7.

Haren's body was identified by his wife and the local people. The body was bearing two bullet marks on the chest.

Haren was wearing the same clothes in which he left his home in the morning of November 7. The family members claimed on the following the day a missing report was lodged with the local police station.

The recovery operation, which was started around 3.15 p.m today under the supervision of the CRPF, local police officials and the district administration following the court's order, had taken hardly an hour to complete and soon the body of Haren was dug out.

The BRC committee alleged that Haren Pramanick was one of 10 other people, who had been killed by the CPM during their "re-capturing operation at Nandigram" and afterwards.

Incidentally, on December 6, five similar improvised graves were also dug in the CPM-controlled Khejuri area, where only the unburnt and half-burnt bones and human fleshes had been unearthed. At that time, the CPM claimed that the victims belonged to their party, though the claims were not established so far and the samples had been sent to the experts for forensic and DNA tests.

But in the case Haren Pramanick the identification was somewhat established and there was no counter-claims or any objections from the CPM’s side.

Mamata Banerjee demanded that the CRPF should continue their "digging operation" in the Nandigram village and the adjoining areas and the PM should ensure that the operation could take place uninterrupted.

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7/11 Train Blasts
Trial to begin on Dec 18

Mumbai, December 12
A special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court will begin the trial in the July 11, 2006 serial train blasts case, in which 187 persons were killed and over 700 injured, by examining the first witness on December 18.

Special MCOCA judge M.R. Bhatkar today heard the grievances of the 13 accused relating to the problems they were facing in jail, that is, being kept separately and not being allowed to contact each other.

These persons are accused of having carried out seven blasts on the suburban train network in the country's financial capital on July 11, 2006.

The accused, all of whom have chosen not to engage any defence lawyer to argue their case, said they had been shifted from the high-security cell at Arthur Road Jail in central Mumbai to the general barracks, thereby, preventing them from preparing their defence.

They argued before the court that they needed to prepare their defence together.

While the court refused to pass any orders regarding them being kept separately, it has directed the jail superintendent to provide space to enable all the accused to read the charge sheet and law books. — PTI

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LTTE no more a threat to India
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 12
The Indian Army feels the LTTE is no more a serious threat to the country, but security forces have stepped up vigil to prevent infiltration by “unfriendly elements” following the recent developments in Sri Lanka.

Lt-Gen Noble Thamburaj, who recently took over as GOC-in-C, Southern Command, said here today that there was no “specific threat” from the LTTE though a spate of activities had been reported in Tamil Nadu.

“Following the recent offensive by the Sri Lankan Army, the influx of refugees to Tamil Nadu has gone up which is being monitored by the agencies concerned.”

“While the Navy and Coast Guards are doing round-the-clock patrolling, we have also strengthened off-coast patrolling,” he said.

The senior Army official said though the Army’s main duty was to guard country’s borders it was playing a major role in maintaining internal security.

Gen Thamburaj said, “In the age of non-conventional warfare, where sleeper agents and mafia move among the people, there should be a multi-pronged approach among the intelligence agencies, local police and the Army to thwart any terror attempts by the organisations.”

He said following the recent influx of refugees from Sri Lanka the state government’s agencies had also increased surveillance to prevent the infiltration of militants in the garb of refugees.

He said the state government was also monitoring whether any such elements were entering India along with the refugees from Sri Lanka.

To combat non-conventional warfare like terrorism, surveillance and intelligence gathering were most important and the Army was modernising and upgrading it self, he said.

Gen Thaburaj said, “While our electronic surveillance systems are being upgraded, we are also going in for more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which could enter any territory and collect information without being noticed.”

He pointed out the recent successful test of the missile interceptor and added that the weaponry of the force was being totally modernised.

Asked about the severe shortage of officers in the Army, he replied that the youth was drawn by lucrative offers from other sectors.

He hoped that the sixth pay commission would look into the anomalies in the pay structure of defence personnel. He added, “The Army is not just a career, but a way of life.”

“However,” he stressed, “We are firm on not compromising the standards of selection.”

He said on other conventional methods of recruitment, the Army was also conducting campus interviews in engineering colleges to attract officers for its technical branches.

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Bangladesh war veterans to attend Vijay Diwas

Kolkata, December 12
Eighteen Bangladesh war veterans will attend this year's Vijay Diwas functions to celebrate India's victory over Pakistan in 1971 that resulted in the birth of the new nation.

"The senior-most mukti joddha (freedom fighter) is Major General Imamuz Zaman, who was the sector commander of Commilla during the liberation struggle," Major General (general Staff) Soli N Pavri said here.

Besides, there would be six Bangladeshi army officers, along with six women and five civilians, who had participated in the liberation struggle and had been associated with the Indian Armed Forces, Pavri said.

During the three-day function from December 14 to 16, six Mahavir Chakra awardees of the Indian Army would be felicitated.

These include Lieutenant Generals J.S. Gharaya and J.S. Bakshi, Major General Samsher Singh, Brigadiers K.P. Pandey and R.K. Singh and Lt Colonel Surender Kapur.

The Indo-Pak war began when Pakistan launched a series of air strikes on December 3, 1971. India launched a full-scale invasion for the liberation of the then East Pakistan.

Dhaka fell on December 16 (Vijay Diwas) and Lt Gen A.K.Niazi surrendered to the Indian Armed Forces, paving way for the birth of Bangladesh.

"Historically, the people of Bangladesh have a great affinity with the people of West Bengal. This will give them an opportunity to interact with those from this side of the border," Pavri, a 1971 war veteran, said. — PTI

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N-Deal
Forward Bloc threatens to withdraw support

Kozhikode, December 12
The All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) today threatened to withdraw its support to the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre if it went ahead with the Indo-US nuclear deal.

AIFB general secretary G. Devarajan told newspersons here that the party, which had five members in the Lok Sabha, would withdraw its support even if other Left parties continued their outside support to the Manmohan Singh government.

He said a decision to this effect had been taken at the party state council meeting, which concluded on Monday at Bolpur in West Bengal.

Stating that almost all the parties in both Houses of Parliament opposed the deal, he said if the government took a unilateral decision on the issue, it would have a “serious” impact on the nation. — UNI

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Govt to quicken talks with IAEA: Kakodkar

Mumbai, December 12
Unfazed by CPM’s threat to the government to end the talks with IAEA, its chief nuclear negotiator today said India would quicken negotiations with the IAEA on India-specific safeguards but will ensure that it is done “satisfactorily”.

“We are doing our best and try to complete the process as soon as possible but everything has to be done satisfactorily as the negotiations are comprehensive and complex,” Atomic Energy Commission chairman Dr Anil Kakodkar said as India concluded its second round of talks with the IAEA in Vienna today.

“We will carry forward the discussions with the IAEA. If consultations are required the negotiating team will come back and then continue the process,” he told PTI.

However, Kakodkar refused to elaborate on the nature of the negotiations saying “the negotiating team is doing their job, let us see how it takes shape”. — PTI

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Enjoy the new pork from South
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 12
There is good news from down South for those who like bacon and eggs for breakfast, pork vindaloo for lunch and barbequed pork chops with their drinks in the evening, but no more dare because of diet restrictions about red meat.

The Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Kancheepuram district, after a long research, has come out with a new hybrid pig variety with less fat content but good quality pork.

The offspring are now four months old and the distribution of brood stock will start from January. The piglets are growing fast and gaining weight to produce quality meat. This breed will play an integral part in the production of pork in India and help pork eaters, who are usually warned about consumption of red meat.

These new hybrids will have less back fat when compared to any other breeds. An eight-month-old piglet would have only 2.46 cm of fat against the normal fat thickness of 4.70 cm in normal breeds.

Research station officials of the university said, “These red breed of pigs named as Duroc is a major contribution to the successful breeding operation. Before the synthetic cross, we studied the characteristics of hybrid breeds and now similar studies are under way with the new piglets and they suit our climatic conditions and agro diversity.”

The new piglets were produced through synthetic cross of three hybrid pig varieties. A few months ago, the genes of three European hybrids including the large white Yorkshire, Land Race and Duroc were selected for the experimentation and were mixed for this new breed.

The Duroc breed has long been known for its ability to grow faster on less feed and its skeletal structure stands up in all kinds of environments, combined with natural leanness and this ensures less fat in the new hybrid.

So, this is not only good news for pork eaters in north India but also for those who breed pigs for commercial purposes.

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Assam evolves model for tribal development
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 12
The Assam government has evolved a new model for development of six communities, including the Adivasis (tea tribes), which have been on the warpath demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said the state government had decided to constitute six development councils for all round development of tea tribes and five other ethnic communities - Tai Ahom, Moran, Motok, Chutia and Koch Rajbongshis - so that their economic and social development could be put on the fasttrack although the communities are yet to be granted ST status.

“We have already constituted a cabinet sub-committee chaired by state’s senior cabinet minister Prithbi Majhi to work out modalities for implementation of decision to constitute the development councils. The other members of the committee included ministers Pradyut Bardoloi, Ripun Bora, Himanta Bishwa Sharma, Chandan Brahma, Promila Rani Brahma, Nurzamal Sarkar and D.P. Goala, “the CM said.

Informing that his government would publish a White Paper next week giving details about the steps it has taken so far to facilitate ST status for these six communities including the Adivasis, Gogoi said an all-party team had left for New Delhi to meet union ministers concerned, including the PM, the home minister and the tribal affairs minister to impress upon the latter the need for providing ST status to these six communities.

“I will personally meet the PM and the home minister to request for facilitating constitutional amendment for grant of ST status to these six communities sans jeopardising the benefits now being enjoyed by the recognised ST communities in the state,” Mr Gogoi said.

A major ST community in the state, the Bodos have told the Assam government that it would oppose ST status to the Adivasis in case it goes against the interests of Bodo community in the state.

The Registrar General of India (RGI) has opposed to granting ST status to Adivasis in Assam, notwithstanding a unanimous favourable, decision of the Assam cabinet in this regard, on the ground that the community had migrated to the state from other states of the country about 150 years back.

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Agni IV launch on anvil: DRDO
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12
Having planned at least three more tests for the nuclear-capable Agni-III missile, India is now close to develop Agni IV with a range of more than 6,000 kms, missile strategic systems chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) V.K. Saraswat said here today.

He said Agni IV was in the design stage. “Yes, the launch of Agni IV (ICBM) is on the anvil. We also plan further tests of Agni III (3,000 kms),” he added.

The top scientist, however, refrained from giving any time schedule for the maiden test of Agni IV.

Meanwhile, DRDO officials talking privately, however, said the first trials of the missile, which could give India almost inter-continental reach, could be held by 2010.

After successfully conducting the maiden test of the intermediate range Agni III ballistic missile capable of hitting a target at more than 3,000 kms, Saraswat told reporters more trials of the indigenously designed and developed system were planned. The trials for the nuclear-capable missile could be held in June followed by a series of flight trials in another nine or 10 months.

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Meeting of labour panel today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 12
Union minister of state for labour and employment Oscar Fernandes will chair the 42nd session of the Standing Labour Committee (SLC) here tomorrow.

The meeting will review the Action Taken Report on conclusions and recommendations of the 41st session of the Indian Labour Conference, the apex tripartite body at national level, besides finalising items to be included in the agenda for the next Indian Labour Conference to be held later. Among issues in the agenda to be discussed in the SLC meeting include matters concerning contractualisation of labour, role of social partners in appropriate skill development for employability, corporate social responsibility and the problems and issues concerning migrant labour.

The tripartite meeting will be attended by senior representatives of Central Trade Union Organisations, Central Organisations of Employers and Labour Ministers and senior officers from state governments and UT administration and the representatives from Central ministries and departments.

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General rank conferred on Nepal army chief

New Delhi, December 12
President Pratibha Patil today conferred the honorary rank of General of the Indian Army on General Rookmangud Katawal Prajatantra Bhaskar Dusro, the Chief of the Army Staff of the Nepalese Army, at a special investiture ceremony here.

The brief ceremony was conducted at the Ashoka Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The General was handed over a cap, sword and 'sanad'. Large numbers of personnel from the three services, including the Chiefs of Staff, were present on the occasion. A Nepalese delegation was also there.

The function began and concluded with playing of the national anthem. — UNI

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7 killed, 14 hurt in balcony collapse

Bangalore, December 12
Seven persons, including a child, were killed and 14 others injured when a balcony on the first floor of an old residential building here collapsed, police said today.

The incident occurred at Nehrupura in Bharati Nagar area last night when the balcony of over a decade-old building came down, deputy commissioner of police (east division), B K Singh, said.

The deceased were identified as Salma (42), Taslina Bhanu (32), Rehana (16), Mohamed Ismail (25), Sayed Sameer and his son Faizan (2). The identity was of another person was not known, he said. While three of the victims were brought dead, others succumbed to injuries at the Bowring hospital. — PTI

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‘Airport not for Prez convenience’

New Delhi, December 12
Rashtrapati Bhavan today denied reports that a new airport is being built at Amravati in Maharashtra for the convenience of President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, "ignoring the interests of the farmers of the Vidarbha region.''

''The reports are factually incorrect and misleading,'' Rashtrapati Bhavan said in a statement, adding that the proposed new airport is one of the various initiatives of the Maharashtra government for the development of Vidarbha region and not aimed at the convenience of the President.

''The President is very much concerned about the farmers' issues in the country particularly of the Vidarbha region from where farmers' suicides were reported,'' the statement said.

The President has already advised the government ''for an early solution of matters related to debt relief of farmers,'' the statement stated. — UNI

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CBI sends fresh letter to Interpol on Quattrocchi

New Delhi, December 12
Three months after he walked to freedom from Argentina, the CBI has sent a fresh communication to Interpol seeking details about Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, accused in the Bofors payoff scam, and “assistance” to nab him.

The fresh letter was sent providing details about the non-bailable warrant issued against him by a local court here and a brief summary about the decades-old Rs 64 crore payoff scam in which he is wanted for trial in India.

“We have sent in the request and also said that we suspect him to be in Italy. Similarly, Interpol’s Rome unit may be approached for furnishing details about him and seeking assistance in nabbing him,” a senior CBI official spoke on condition of anonymity.

The request comes despite India losing extradition cases against Quattrocchi twice-Malaysia (in early 2000) and Argentina recently-for its failure to provide details as to how the Italian businessman had allegedly cheated the exchequer. — PTI

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Ex-Bihar minister gets life term
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 12
A fast track court of Nawada district in Bihar today convicted a senior Congress leader and a former state minister Aditya Singh for murder. He was a minister of state for animal husbandry in the previous Rabri Devi government.

The punishment to Singh is the third in a row involving politicians by the fast track courts in the state in past one year.

Earlier, the RJD MP from Siwan, Mohd Shahabuddin, and former MP, linked to JD(U), Lovely Anand were awarded life imprisonment for their alleged criminal acts. Lovely Anand, however, is now out on bail.

Besides, another former MP and founder of Bihar People's party Anand Mohan was awarded death sentence in the Gopalganj DM G. Krishnaiay murder case recently.

Additional district and sessions judge V.S. Pathak today convicted Aditya Singh and his three associates, Narsingh Singh, Mukesh Singh and Tarun Singh, under Section 302 of the IPC and the Arms Act.

They were convicted for killing Lalan Singh, head of Sakarpura village in Nawada district, on January 6, 2006.

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NHRC notice to Assam chief secy, DGP

New Delhi, December 12
The NHRC has sent notices to the chief secretary and the DGP, Assam, on two incidents where Adivasi women were allegedly stripped by rioters in Guwahati. Taking suo-motu cognisance of a report, which appeared in Telegraph on Nov 27, the commission said the incident showed the failure of the government in protecting dignity of women.

A young Adivasi woman ran down a Guwahati street naked, stripped by ethnic rioters, while leering city youth clicked her with their cell phone cameras. The report also said in another incident three people pounced on another Adivasi woman and stripped her. — UNI

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Sanjay resumes shooting

Mumbai, December 12
Actor Sanjay Dutt, convicted of illegal possession of arms in 1993 serial blasts but granted bail by the SC, today resumed shooting for movies. Dutt was released from Yeravada jail in Pune on November 29 after the apex court granted him bail. The actor began shooting for 'Easy Monthly Installment (EMI)', in suburban Khar, his first assignment after the release. — PTI

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