SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Gujjars’ ST status demand rejected
Jaipur, December 18
A high-level official committee has rejected the demand by Gujjars in Rajasthan for Scheduled Tribe status but suggested a special package to members of the community living in under- eveloped and remote areas of the state.

Maya’s sops fail to invigorate officers
Lucknow, December 18
Mayawati warned the state’s Provincial Civil Servants of strict action in case of any complaints against them for laxity in dealing with the legitimate demands of public representatives.

AICC recommends Bhajan, Kuldeep’s disqualification
New Delhi, December 18
Based on the report from the Haryana Congress unit, the AICC has recommended to party president Sonia Gandhi that the party should take necessary steps for the disqualification of former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal and his son Kuldeep Bishnoi from the Assembly and the Lok Sabha.

Delhi BJP wants PM to monitor fresh probe
New Delhi, December 18
Delhi BJP chief Harsh Vardhan today demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should himself monitor the fresh inquiry by the CBI into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case involving former union minister Jagdish Tytler.




EARLIER STORIES


Congress President Sonia Gandhi shares a point with Water Resource Minister Saifuddin Soz during a function in her constituency, Rae Bareli
Congress President Sonia Gandhi shares a point with Water Resource Minister Saifuddin Soz during a function in her constituency, Rae Bareli, on Tuesday. — PTI

Former President APJ Abdul Kalam meets children during a programme at a school in Bhopal
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam meets children during a programme at a school in Bhopal on Tuesday. — PTI

Jasbir affidavit suspect: Tytler
New Delhi, December 18
Shortly after a Delhi Court directed the CBI to re-investigate a 1984 anti-Sikh riot case involving him, former union minister and Congress leader Jagdish Tytler today expressed doubts over the veracity of the affidavit of a witness, who has expressed his desire to assist the investigating agency.

LS secretariat staff seek redressal of grievances
New Delhi, December 18
In a rare show of solidarity, the employees of the Lok Sabha secretariat are demanding a recognised forum for redressal of their long standing grievances.

Cancellation of chopper deal
Eurocopter issues rebuttal
New Delhi, December 18
Days after the ministry of defence (MoD) made an official announcement cancelling the proposed deal for selling of 197 helicopters to the Indian Army, the EADS promoted Eurocopter today confidently asserted that it was very much in the race and was hopeful that the deal would be signed soon.

Nithari Killings
Lawyer moves SC for protection
New Delhi, December 18
A defence lawyer in the macabre Nithari rape and serial killings of minor children today approached the Supreme Court alleging that he faced threat from the investigating agency CBI itself for pin-pointing various loopholes in its several charge sheets that virtually gave clean chit to key accused Moninder Singh Pandher.

Assaulting docs non-bailable offence in AP
Hyderabad, December 18
Attacking a doctor on duty will now be treated as non-bailable offence in Andhra Pradesh, attracting imprisonment up to three years. Besides, the loss caused to the hospital property will be recovered from the assailants under the Revenue Recovery Act.

‘Munnabhai’ makes Mahatma netizens’ top search
New Delhi, December 18
Munnabhai and his ‘Gandhigiri’ seem to have helped the country rediscover the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi who has emerged as most popular political leader searched for on Internet.

LTTE air attacks force India to carry out war games
New Delhi, December 18
Increased treat perception to India following the numerous coordinated ground and air attacks carried out by the LTTE on the Sri Lankan forces, the country’s armed forces are all set to undertake a series of joint exercises early next year in the southern peninsula.

2 cops killed, 5 hurt in militant attack
Guwahati, December 18
Suspected Black Widow militants gunned down two Assam police personnel and injured five other cops in an attack carried out on a picket of the 8th Assam Police Battalion at Thairai under Mahur Police Station in the North Cachar Hill district of Assam at around 4.15 am today.

CRPF men hurt in clash
Guwahati, December 18
Nine persons, including seven Central Reserve Police Force personnel, were injured when a protest march turned violent at Krishnai in Goalpara district today. DIG G.P. Singh said a large number of people from a few ethnic groups, which are opposed to the Assam government’s decision not to hold panchayat elections in Rabha-Hasong Autonomous Council (RHA C) area.

Govt satisfied with 2007-08 wheat prospects
New Delhi, December 18
The agriculture ministry today said wheat crop prospects for 2007-08 appeared satisfactory, both in terms of area coverage as well as production. A meeting of the agriculture secretaries and directors of agriculture of eight major wheat growing states- Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra- to review the wheat crop prospects in the ongoing rabi season.

PM may intervene in Mullaperiyar dam issue
New Delhi, December 18
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might use his good offices in resolving the bitter differences between Tamil Nadu and Kerala with regard to the century old Mullaperiyar dam. The dam located in Kerala irrigates large parts of Tamil Nadu.

Mars will be close to you today
Mumbai, December 18
Planet Mars would be at its best and brightest on Tuesday evening. According to astronomers, the intense red planet will remain unusually close to earth this week and will approach the nearest on Tuesday evening. People would be able to view it in the eastern sky every evening in the coming weeks, astronomers said.

Sangharash samiti threatens stir
Jaipur/New Delhi, December 18
The Gujjar Arakshan Sangarsh Samiti has termed the Chopra Committee to study their demand for reservation under ST as ‘very disappointing’. Samiti spokesman Roop Singh said the Gujjars all over the country are feeling ‘let down’ and ‘disappointed’ by the report.

Women bodies urge govt to revise XIth Plan
New Delhi, December 18
Leading women organisations are disappointed with the government’s commitment to the core gender issues in the XIth Plan document and want the National Development Council (NDC) to review the XIth Plan.

Groups clash in Lucknow varsity
Lucknow, December 18
Two rival groups of students today clashed in the Lucknow University campus and hurled crude bombs and fired in the air near Commerce faculty, the police said today. No one was injured in the incident.

9 bombs found near Nandigram
Nandigram, December 18
Nine live bombs were seized from the house of a school teacher, a CPM supporter, in the marxist party’s stronghold of Khejuri, adjoining Nandigram, this evening, CRPF Assistant Commandant Arindam Mukherjee said.

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Gujjars’ ST status demand rejected

Jaipur, December 18
A high-level official committee has rejected the demand by Gujjars in Rajasthan for Scheduled Tribe status but suggested a special package to members of the community living in under- eveloped and remote areas of the state. Significantly, the BJP government in the state decided to forward the report to the Centre without any comment or recommendation of its own, Digamber Singh, chief spokesman and health minister, told mediapersons here today after a Cabinet meeting presided by Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

The summary of the 294-page report submitted by the committee headed by Justice Jasraj Chopra said it would be desirable to provide the benefits to Gujjars in a special package rather than incorporating them in the already existing schemes.

The report suggested scrapping of the criteria used so far to include any class of people in the list of Scheduled Tribe as these have become “obsolete and outdated”.

It asked the state government to take immediate steps to set up a board to attend to the problems faced by the people living a life of abject poverty in inaccessible and remote areas like ravines, forests and hills where development has not yet reached as these are the places where most of the backward among the Gujjars reside and for whom their community leaders had raised their voice.

The Gujjars had waged a violent campaign across Rajasthan for ST status in May and June this year during which 26 persons were killed in police firing and clashes with Meena community members who already enjoy ST status but oppose the same for Gujjars. — PTI

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Maya’s sops fail to invigorate officers
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, December 18
Mayawati warned the state’s Provincial Civil Servants of strict action in case of any complaints against them for laxity in dealing with the legitimate demands of public representatives.

Addressing the inaugural session of the 2-day Annual Convention of the UP PCS officers association in the state capital, Mayawati overlooked the long-standing demands of the officers.

The association’s general-secretary S.S Yadav reiterated the demands in his address while calling for reservation of five district magistrate posts for the PCS cadre and promotion to IAS cadre after 21 years of service instead of the present 31 years. They also demanded a training institute for the PCS cadre, as the previous one in Nainital was now part of Uttrakhand.

Mayawati said the delay in their demand to get into the IAS grade had been taken up by the state government with the Centre. Around 51 posts in the two highest income brackets have been reserved for PCS promotees.

Additionally the required years of service to get to the IAS cadre has been halved following which 47 PCS officers have become eligible. She also charged a member of the PCS cadre for challenging the seniority list in the court that was complicating matters.

However, the central government had now not responded to the initiatives taken by her government to give the PCS cadre its due share, Mayawati said.

She said 40 officers had been sent aboard for training this year, which was unprecedented for a state cadre in the country. This year the number of officers going aboard would be doubled to 80.

Expressing disappointment at the sops offered by the CM today PCS association president Hardev Singh said they were expecting their basic demands to be met. “Will training abroad for 80 officers be enough when we do not have any provision for regular in-service training”.

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AICC recommends Bhajan, Kuldeep’s disqualification
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 18
Based on the report from the Haryana Congress unit, the AICC has recommended to party president Sonia Gandhi that the party should take necessary steps for the disqualification of former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal and his son Kuldeep Bishnoi from the Assembly and the Lok Sabha.

The father-son duo had raised a revolt against both Sonia Gandhi’s leadership in Delhi and Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in the state by floating the Haryana Janhit Congress (BL) at a massive public rally in Rohtak earlier this month.

This issue was placed before the party’s disciplinary action committee after it received a report from the Haryana Congress which gave details about the father-son duo’s anti-party activities and sought action against them.

Congress sources said the state unit as well as Margaret Alva AICC general-secretary, incharge of Haryana, have suggested that instead of expelling Bhajan Lal and Bishnoi, the two should be disqualified.

It has been argued that there is a strong case for such action as the two leaders have not only raised a banner of revolt against the Congress but have also formed a separate poliitcal party. Since Bhajan Lal and Bishnoi have been elected to the Assembly and the Lok Sabha on a Congress ticket, they should either resign or should be disqualified as they cannot be members of two parties.

The party is not in favour of expelling the two (Bishnoi has already been suspended for anti-party activities) as that would help them retain their respective seats in the Assembly and the Lok Sabha.

AICC leaders said the disciplinary action committee, headed by defence minister A.K.Antony, has broadly endorsed this report but decided to hold its decision in abeyance till the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections were over. They have also sought more details about the activities of Bhajan Lal’s other supporters.

The AICC’s decision to go slow on this matter has irked the Haryana Congress leaders who would like the leadership to take a view as soon as possible as they feel that a delay only points to indecision at the top.

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Delhi BJP wants PM to monitor fresh probe

New Delhi, December 18
Delhi BJP chief Harsh Vardhan today demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should himself monitor the fresh inquiry by the CBI into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case involving former union minister Jagdish Tytler.

The BJP leader accused the CBI of trying to protect the Congress leaders involved in the Sikh massacre and said the investigating agency is under great pressure from the government.

“Dr Singh himself belongs to the Sikh community and if the Sikhs do not get justice during his tenure, they will lose faith in law.

It will lead to terrorism and also create problem of social disintegration,” he said.

The BJP leader alleged that the present UPA government was adopting double standards in the case and said while the government was protecting the accused of 1984 riots and Nandigram cases, it was shedding crocodile tears on the Godhara case.

Rejecting the CBI’s report giving clean chit to Tytler and seeking closure of the riots case, a Delhi Court today ordered reinvestigation into the case. — UNI

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Jasbir affidavit suspect: Tytler

New Delhi, December 18
Shortly after a Delhi Court directed the CBI to re-investigate a 1984 anti-Sikh riot case involving him, former union minister and Congress leader Jagdish Tytler today expressed doubts over the veracity of the affidavit of a witness, who has expressed his desire to assist the investigating agency.

The court took note of the reports that witness Jasbir Singh, who was declared untraceable by the CBI, spoke to TV channels from the USA that he was willing to record his statement with the agency.

Questioning the affidavit of Singh, Tytler said there were contradictions in it and he would be happy if he comes and make things clear so that entire conspiracy surrounding it will be exposed.

“If in his affidavit he has said on the third (November 3, 1984), remember third is a very important date, when the whole of Delhi was under curfew with orders to shoot, even a stray dog couldn't have been on the street that day.

“At 11.30 in the night he sees Tytler in a mob. In a curfew, can you imagine.... in a curfew on the third,” Tytler told reporters.

“I want that man to come, because then the whole thing will be clear and then you will come to know what conspiracy it is and what lie it was,” Tytler said. — PTI

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LS secretariat staff seek redressal of grievances
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 18
In a rare show of solidarity, the employees of the Lok Sabha secretariat are demanding a recognised forum for redressal of their long standing grievances.

As the employees lack a grievances redressal mechanism, compared to their colleagues in the union ministries and departments, their problems are never brought to the Speaker’s notice.

Sources said nobody had the gall of voicing their opinions against any senior in the Lok Sabha secretariat fearing a lash back. Under these circumstances, the employees are demanding that the secretary-general of the Lok Sabha should be someone capable of addressing their grievances.

Sources point out that senior officers of the Lok Sabha secretariat invariably get an extension after retiring or get appointed as consultants, contrary to a secretary retiring in a ministry where his successor is appointed as an officer on special duty well in advance to facilitate a smooth transition.

The employees are demanding for the Speaker to look into the matter and ensure that they are allowed to form a union or a recognised body of officers and the staff in the Lok Sabha secretariat, to address their grievances.

The employees believe that the Speaker, while appointing a new secretary-general should ensure that the officer is given time to acclimatise himself with his new duties and responsibilities. Simultaneously, the employees suggest that there should be a screening committee coupled with a selection process comprising the leader of the Opposition as well the Leaders of other political parties. This assumes importance as the secretary-general has to cater to all sections of the House.

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Cancellation of chopper deal
Eurocopter issues rebuttal
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 18
Days after the ministry of defence (MoD) made an official announcement cancelling the proposed deal for selling of 197 helicopters to the Indian Army, the EADS promoted Eurocopter today confidently asserted that it was very much in the race and was hopeful that the deal would be signed soon.

The intriguing turn of events took place on the day when the meeting of the high-powered Indo-French High Committee on Defence Cooperation ended here. France is one of the countries, which is part of the EADS consortium.

Sources here said the French had also expressed displeasure with the Indian defence ministry team during the meeting of the two sides yesterday. Norbert Ducrot, senior vice-president of France-based Eurocopter, told reporters here, “to my knowledge, the deal has not been suspended. We have never received such an official statement”.

He asserted that all that the company had read (about the cancellation of the deal) was in the media. “There has been no official statement,” said Ducrot, who handles sales and customer relations in the Asia-Pacific region.

The MoD had, on December 6, last announced that the $550 million deal with Eurocopter was off due to deficiencies in the evaluation process. It had said, “the current RFP (request for proposal) has been scrapped. A fresh RFP will soon be sent out”.

The decision apparently came following reports that there were gross irregularities in the evaluation process. These related to the civilian machine Eurocopter had fielded for the trials and the presence of a go-between in the deal.

There were also reports that the deal was likely to be called off on the recommendation of corruption watchdog Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to whom the defence ministry had sent the file for comments and which had detected the irregularities.

Incidentally, on the day MoD made the announcement for the cancellation of the deal Eurocopter issued a statement which asserted that it was the sole contender for the order from the Indian Army and suggesting that it was near the point of signing the deal.

It issued a similar statement today which said: “The AS350 B3 civilian version presented by Eurocopter in India is exactly the same helicopter as the AS550 C3 military version in terms of airframe, systems, main gear box, rotor head, blades, engine and performances. In the same manner, Bell has presented its civil version - the B-407 for trials in India,” the statement pointed out. Incidentally, Bell Helicopter, the other contender for the order has been protesting that it was unfairly ousted from the race.

“The Indian Army will use different configurations of the helicopters according to the operational missions. The mild differences between these configurations such as structural reinforcements and hard points for armaments carriage were not yet defined before trials,” it said.

In July 2005, the military versions of the short-listed aircraft were demonstrated and tested on ground and in flight by the Indian Army evaluation team and MoD (ministry of defence) representatives during fact finding visits that occurred within the (manufacturers) facilities in France and USA," the statement contended.

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Nithari Killings
Lawyer moves SC for protection
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 18
A defence lawyer in the macabre Nithari rape and serial killings of minor children today approached the Supreme Court alleging that he faced threat from the investigating agency CBI itself for pin-pointing various loopholes in its several charge sheets that virtually gave clean chit to key accused Moninder Singh Pandher.

Advocate B.P. Singh Dhakrey, appearing for Bandna Sarkar whose husband Jatin Sarkar was found murdered under mysterious circumstances after he had placed certain police records before the trial court, in his application today urged the apex court to initiate “contempt of court” action against CBI director Vijay Shankar and some other agency officers associated with the investigation.

After the murder of Jatin Sarkar, the apex court earlier on November 1 had ordered investigation into his death in West Bengal, and consequently the state police had registered an FIR against the CBI director, agency SP S.J.M. Geelani and former Uttar Pradesh Police inspector Dinesh Yadav, who was circle officer of Noida when the serial killings of minor children at Pandhera’s bungalow had come to light.

In his application, Dhakrey had referred to CBI inspector Ajay Singh, who allegedly had held a threat to him and asked him to disassociate himself from the case. He also referred to the CBI chief, Geelani, Yadav and some other police officers, who allegedly had joined hands to put pressure on him and his family members not to remain a defence lawyer in the case.

Questions had been raised by various NGOs and human rights organisations on the CBI almost giving “clean chit” to Pandher of the rape and murder charges in 10 charge sheets filed one after the other relating to the brutal serial killings of about 16 children and a 16-year-old girl whose skeletal remains were recovered from a drain near Pandher’s bungalow.

In all charge sheets, only Pandher’s domestic help Surinder Koli was made the main accused by the agency.

But after Jatin Sarkar produced certain documents, which he had claimed to have found striven in Noida police station when he had gone their several times to lodge a complaint about his missing child, the trial court in Ghaziabad had in one of the case dug various loop holes in the charge sheets and ordered the framing of rape and murder charges against Pandher also..

Dhakrey alleged that after this development, the CBI and UP police officers had been consistently putting “pressure” on him to disassociate himself from the case as it would virtually expose them. Like the UP Police the CBI was also bent upon saving Pandher, who has high political, bureaucratic and police connections, the defence lawyer alleged.

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Assaulting docs non-bailable offence in AP
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 18
Attacking a doctor on duty will now be treated as non-bailable offence in Andhra Pradesh, attracting imprisonment up to three years. Besides, the loss caused to the hospital property will be recovered from the assailants under the Revenue Recovery Act.

These are the far-reaching measures contemplated in the ordinance to be issued soon. A decision to promulgate ordinance on protection of hospital staff was taken by the cabinet yesterday, bowing to the demand by the medicos who have been agitating over the growing incidents of attacks on them.

The AP Medical Service Persons/Medical Institutions (Prevention of violence and Damage to Properties) Ordinance 2007 will be applicable to both government and private hospitals, nursing homes and maternity clinics and cover doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, medical and nursing staff.

The new law, billed as the first such experiment in the country, will treat any case of assault or intimidation directed against the hospital staff as a cognisable and non-bailable offence.

The government has also decided to treat postgraduate students working in teaching hospitals as public servants.

The move comes against the backdrop of two unsavoury incidents of attacks on medicos in the city by supporters of Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislators Afsar Khan and Ahmed Pasha Qadri.

The cabinet also approved setting up a grievance mechanism that enables patients or their relatives to lodge complaint against doctors in case of medical negligence, carelessness or poor service.

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‘Munnabhai’ makes Mahatma netizens’ top search

New Delhi, December 18
Munnabhai and his ‘Gandhigiri’ seem to have helped the country rediscover the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi who has emerged as most popular political leader searched for on Internet.

Among the most popular searches for the year 2007, Mahatma Gandhi has been ranked ahead of ex-President A P J Abdul Kalam, present incumbent Pratibha Patil, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, who figure on the list of top 10 political leaders compiled by online search giant Google. Kalam has been ranked at the second position, while Patil is at sixth position. Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have been named at 3rd and 8th positions, respectively, while Indira Gandhi occupies the fourth position.

The list also features Rabindranath Tagore (5th), Subhash Chandra Bose (7th), Sarojini Naidu (9th) and Mayawati (10th).

In an accompanying list of top 10 sportstars, tennis sensation Sania Mirza emerged as the most popular, followed by Russian Maria Sharapova, Sachin Tendulkar, WWF wrestler John Cena, British football star David Beckham, Brazil's Cristiano Ronaldo, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni, Sourav Ganguli and Anna Kournikova.

When it comes to the tinsel town, silver screen beauties have upstaged the male actors with Aishwarya Rai ruling the hearts and minds of the Indians. — PTI

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LTTE air attacks force India to carry out war games
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 18
Increased treat perception to India following the numerous coordinated ground and air attacks carried out by the LTTE on the Sri Lankan forces, the country’s armed forces are all set to undertake a series of joint exercises early next year in the southern peninsula.

The threats from across the borders with China and Pakistan had been the main focus of the armed forces top brass strategic planning so far. But with the LTTE carrying out a series of air attacks in the last nine months it has become imperative to be prepared for the threat emanating to the country’s security from its vast southern coastline and sea borne intrusions, officials in the ministry of defence (MoD) said.

It will be for the first time that the country’s military planners would be focusing on threats to the country from the southern peninsula, officials said.

The LTTE carried out its first and the most surprising air attack on the Sri Lankan forces earlier in March. Since then there have been a series of air and ground attacks on the armed forces stationed in and around Jaffna peninsula.

India has been concerned but has chosen to play down the developments in Sri Lanka with defence minister A.K. Antony saying that the situation was being monitored closely. But this series of exercises had been specially planned to cope with any such attacks in the southern peninsula, reports said.

Although it had been known for years that the LTTE possessed a limited air wing, its successful ability to carry out a bombing mission using two small planes involving some 400 km of flying distance and that too at night had the alarm bells ringing in the Indian establishment.

Front line fighter aircraft of the IAF, along with warships from the Navy, Coast Guard and army formations dedicated to sea borne assaults would be engaged in these exercises designed to ensure safety of vital sea lanes.

The war games have also been planned to deal with the threats of intrusions from air and sea lanes by terrorist groups and to deal with sea hijackings, officials said.

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2 cops killed, 5 hurt in militant attack
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 18
Suspected Black Widow militants gunned down two Assam police personnel and injured five other cops in an attack carried out on a picket of the 8th Assam Police Battalion at Thairai under Mahur Police Station in the North Cachar Hill district of Assam at around 4.15 am today.

Chief public relation officer (CPRO) of the Assam police Bhaben Bez said the slain police personnel were identified as Mayaram Kalita and Royal Kumar Sharma. The injured were identified as Binod Chandra Roy, Mukul Bora, Putul Roy, Abdul Quadir Sarkar and Longlang Pame.

The picket of the 8th Assam Police Battalion was stationed at the worksite office of a private construction firm that has been contracted by Indian Railways in its gauge conversion project in part of the hill district.

A group of heavily armed militants suspected to be from the Black Widow group or the anti-talk faction of the Dima Halam Daogah, which is now engaged in the peace process with the government of India, carried out the attack on the police picket in the wee hours.

Assam police battalion personnel and paramilitary personnel have been deployed in the insurgency-ravaged North Cachar Hill district to provide protection to construction workers and contractors engaged in the gauge conversion project of the Northeast Frontier Railway in Lumding-Badarpur Section in response to request from the construction companies which are targeted by the insurgents for extortion.

The mega gauge conversion project of the Railways has been running far behind schedule because of the lurking threat from militants. In a major strike last year the militants shot dead 12 persons, including 7 Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel and two Railway engineers and three drivers in the North Cachar Hills.

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CRPF men hurt in clash
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 18
Nine persons, including seven Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel, were injured when a protest march turned violent at Krishnai in Goalpara district today.

DIG G.P. Singh said a large number of people from a few ethnic groups, which are opposed to the Assam government’s decision not to hold panchayat elections in Rabha-Hasong Autonomous Council (RHA C) area, took out a protest march from Krishnai to Goalpara town without any permission from the administration.

As the police and CRPF personnel tried to stop the unauthorised march at Krishnai road crossing, the protestors turned violent and attacked the men in uniform injuring seven CRPF personnel, one of them critically.

The mob then partially ransacked the police station at Krishnai compelling the police to open fire to disperse the mob. Two protestors were injured in the firing.

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Govt satisfied with 2007-08 wheat prospects
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 18
The agriculture ministry today said wheat crop prospects for 2007-08 appeared satisfactory, both in terms of area coverage as well as production.

A meeting of the agriculture secretaries and directors of agriculture of eight major wheat growing states- Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra- to review the wheat crop prospects in the ongoing rabi season, revealed that the wheat crop prospects looked satisfactory in terms of area coverage and likely production.

Officials said on the basis of the presentation made by the states, as compared to the normal wheat area of about 26 million ha, the coverage during 2007-08 is expected to touch 27.5 million ha. This would be marginally less, about 0.5 million, than the record of 28.04 million ha for 2006-07.

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PM may intervene in Mullaperiyar dam issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 18
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh might use his good offices in resolving the bitter differences between Tamil Nadu and Kerala with regard to the century old Mullaperiyar dam. The dam located in Kerala irrigates large parts of Tamil Nadu.

While Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan is already in the capital and has taken up the matter with Dr Singh, his counterpart from Tamil Nadu M. Karunanidhi is expected here tonight. Both the Chief Ministers are primarily here for the National Development Council meeting from tomorrow.

The two southern states have been involved in a legal battle and war of words over the Mullaperiyar dam. Kerala is opposed to Tamil Nadu’s proposal to raise the height of the water to 142 feet. On the other hand Kerala wants the reservoir water at 132 feet on the ground that the dam is old and unsafe.

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Mars will be close to you today

Mumbai, December 18
Planet Mars would be at its best and brightest on Tuesday evening. According to astronomers, the intense red planet will remain unusually close to earth this week and will approach the nearest on Tuesday evening. People would be able to view it in the eastern sky every evening in the coming weeks, astronomers said.

The two worlds would lie only 55 million miles apart. Mars would not be this near again until the year 2016, said NASA scientists in their spaceweather alert report. To the naked eye, Mars now outshines every star in the night sky (it is slightly brighter than Sirius) and it looks great through a backyard telescope.

The close encounter of Mars and Earth can also be observed on the website http://spaceweather.com, which will post observing tips, photos and sky maps for those wanting to enjoy this celestial phenomenon. — PTI

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Sangharash samiti threatens stir

Jaipur/New Delhi, December 18
The Gujjar Arakshan Sangarsh Samiti has termed the Chopra Committee to study their demand for reservation under ST as ‘very disappointing’. Samiti spokesman Roop Singh said the Gujjars all over the country are feeling ‘let down’ and ‘disappointed’ by the report.

Gujjars today threatened to launch afresh a stir even as the BJP high command promised to talk to party’s government in the state to resolve the matter.

Soon after the committee submitted its report to the Rajasthan government, a delegation of Gujjar leaders, headed by NCP Rambir Singh Bidhuri, met BJP President Rajnath Singh here to seek his intervention in the matter.

Bidhuri told reporters after the meeting with Singh that Gujjars would launch a nationwide stir to press the demand for grant of ST status to the community.

“Justice Chopra Committee has just submitted the report and the state cabinet will decide on the issue. The CM is coming here tomorrow and I will discuss with her the matter,” the BJP chief said. — UNI/PTI

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Women bodies urge govt to revise XIth Plan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 18
Leading women organisations are disappointed with the government’s commitment to the core gender issues in the XIth Plan document and want the National Development Council (NDC) to review the XIth Plan.

A day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chairs the National Development Council meeting at Vigyan Bhawan, influential women have written to its members to revise the XIth Plan document approved by the Cabinet.

They have drawn the attention of NDC members, including the chief ministers and the marginalisation of women in the Plan.

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Groups clash in Lucknow varsity

Lucknow, December 18
Two rival groups of students today clashed in the Lucknow University campus and hurled crude bombs and fired in the air near Commerce faculty, the police said today.

No one was injured in the incident.

Later, the police reached the spot and recovered a live crude bomb, they said.

The police had identified Hariom Rawat who was suspected to be involved in the incident. — PTI

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9 bombs found near Nandigram

Nandigram, December 18
Nine live bombs were seized from the house of a school teacher, a CPM supporter, in the marxist party’s stronghold of Khejuri, adjoining Nandigram, this evening, CRPF Assistant Commandant Arindam Mukherjee said.

He said a joint team of the CRPF and the police found bombs hidden in the house of the teacher, Abhay Jena. The teacher was arrested, he added. — PTI

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