SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

SEZ scheme needs fresh look: Bengal
New Delhi, December 19
West Bengal and Gujarat have come down heavily on the government's two flagship schemes pertaining to the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for the uplift of minorities.

Lok Ayukta officials begin anti-corruption drive
Bangalore, December 19
Lok Ayukta officials today launched state wide raids on corrupt officials buoyed by a government decision to examine a controversial order issued by the H D Kumaraswamy led government laying down that officials could be suspended on corruption charges only if they were caught in a sting operation or charge sheeted.

PM proposes task force for expanding irrigation
New Delhi, December 19
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today proposed constitution of two task forces in the Planning Commission to comprehensively examine the resource requirements for expanding irrigation and to look into problems of hill states and hill areas.



EARLIER STORIES


Deputy Chairman of Planning commission Montek Singh Alhulwalia with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the 54th meeting of the National Development Council in New Delhi
Deputy Chairman of Planning commission Montek Singh Alhulwalia with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the 54th meeting of the National Development Council in New Delhi on Wednesday. — Tribune photo by Mukesh Aggarwal

4 fresh cases against CPM leaders
New Delhi, December 19
Continuing its probe in the Nandigram massacre on March 14, the CBI has registered four fresh cases against local CPM leaders and police officials for allegedly raping women and holding them hostages.

Trace record of Vajpayee’s I-day speech, CIC to PMO
New Delhi, December 19
Noting that the non-availability of records of the drafting of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Independence Day speech in 2002 as “most unusual,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the PMO to make “renewed effort” to trace the documents within 20 days.

Advani in trouble for poll code violation
Ahmedabad, December 19
A police complaint has been filed against BJP leader L .K Advani by Election Commission officials for alleged breach of the model code of conduct by talking to mediapersons outside a polling booth here during the Assembly elections, the police officials said today.

SC decries admission of ‘frivolous’ PILs by HCs
New Delhi, December 19
Amid the ongoing debate on judicial overreach triggered by a recent hard hitting judgement of the Supreme Court’s division Bench asking the judiciary to refrain from showing “overactivism” in the public interest cases, another Bench has decried the “misuse” of PILs in service matters.

Youths protest against Aamir
Vadodara, December 19
Like his previous two movies “Fanaa” and “Rang De Basanti”, the screening of Aamir Khan’s forthcoming film “Taare Zameen Par” in Gujarat ran into trouble when a group of youths today forced a cinema hall owner here to remove posters of the flick for the actor’s support to Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Sohrab Case
Gujarat HC transfers judge
Ahmedabad, December 19
The Gujarat High Court has transferred Additional Sessions and Designated POTA Court Judge Sonia Gokani, who was handling several important cases, including the Soharabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

Mumbai boy dies after choking game
Mumbai, December 19
A 13-year old Mumbai schooboy from the upmarket Bombay Scottish School died while trying to perform the choking game, a fad among teenagers in the West. Earlier this month when Gaurang Dalvi was found hanging from the ceiling at his Shivaji Park residence, his death was attributed to suicide caused by academic pressure.

Jharkhand villagers in search of ‘Laden’
Patna, December 19
Tribesmen in the remote villages of Jharkhand are in search of “Laden”. But one should not mistake it as Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. This ‘Laden’ is the killer elephant, which reportedly has become synonymous with the terrorist because of the mayhem and carnage unleashed by it in state’s forest in the recent past.

Assamese should quit forces: ULFA
Guwahati, December 19
The banned United Liberation Front of Asom has stated that Assamese soldiers and officers earning their livelihood in ‘Colonial Indian Defence Forces’ should join the ULFA-led “freedom movement for restoration of sovereignty of Assam”.

‘No decision’ yet by UK on immigration policies
New Delhi, December 19
A British diplomat here today described as “fanciful” news reports in British and Indian media that the British government was going to levy a bond of £ 1,000 or shorten the length of tourist visas.

Watching Islamic TV channels “not right”
New Delhi, December 19
Triggering a controversy, Darul Uloom Deoband has in a recent fatwa termed watching Islamic television channels as “not right”, a view brushed aside by three influential Muslim organisations.

2 books on Bhagat Singh released 
New Delhi, December 19
Information and broadcasting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi today released two books on Bhagat Singh. Published by the publications division of his ministry in the birth centenary year of Bhagat Singh.

Akash missiles test-fired
Balasore (Orissa), December 19
After its three successful trials last week, India today test-fired two indigenously developed surface-to-air nuclear capable Akash missiles from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur-on-sea, 15 km from here.

No vacancies, but cops recruited in UP
Lucknow, December 19
The Mulayam Singh Yadav government recruited 18,844 police constables in the state during 2004-05 against non-existent vacancies. In fact against the existing posts for 90,144 constables, the UP police at that point already had an excess of 3269 staff.

Indian runner upgrades own Guinness record
Kolkata, December 19
Three years after finding an entry into the Guinness Book, long distance runner Tirtha Kumar Phani has now improved upon his own world record for the Greatest Average Mileage Run Daily.

3 Maoists, 2 cops injured in gunbattle
Chennai, December 19
A combing operation in Theni district this afternoon left three Maoists and two policemen injured, in a gun battle between the militants and the Tamil Nadu police. According to the police, the special task force of the Tamil Nadu police were conducting a combing operation at Andipatty, the Assembly constituency of former Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, in Theni district, 600 km from here.

HC notice to Sushmita Sen
Chennai, December 19
After Shilpa Shetty, Khusboo and Reema Sen, it is now former Miss Universe and actor Sushmita Sen who is under the spotlight for being hauled up by the Madurai Bench of the Madras high court following a PIL by an advocate for her “lewd” comments on sex in television and newspaper interviews.

Salem produced in CBI court
Hyderabad, December 19
Underworld don Abu Salem was brought here today and produced before a special CBI court in connection with fake passport case. A special team of the Maharashtra police brought the gangster from Mumbai, amidst tight security, and taken straight to the court located at Nampally.

Man killed by tigress in Assam State Zoo
Guwahati, December 19
A man’s excursion to the zoo here along with his family turned into a tragedy when he was killed by a tigress after crossing the barrier and went near the animal’s enclosure this afternoon to take photographs.

PM greets Prez on 73rd b’day
New Delhi, December 19
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Vice-President Hamid Ansari today greeted President Pratibha Patil on her 73rd birthday. The Prime Minister along with his wife Gursharan Kaur met the President and presented her a bouquet of roses and wished her on her birthday.

Shocking punishment
Bhusawal, December 19
In an appalling incident, 22 students of a railway school in Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district were allegedly administered electric shocks by their teacher to discipline them.

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SEZ scheme needs fresh look: Bengal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 19
West Bengal and Gujarat have come down heavily on the government's two flagship schemes pertaining to the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and the Prime Minister's 15-point programme for the uplift of minorities.

While West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya told the meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) here today that the SEZ scheme "requires a fresh look," Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi underlined the need for reviewing outlays being earmarked for various developmental schemes and programmes for eligible beneficiaries based on their minority status.

Bhattacharya said industry groups should be identified in the first instance which are to be covered under the SEZ scheme instead of extending it to all and sundry."As the minimum land required is prescribed, there should be an upper ceiling of land as well for a particular type of SEZ. Within that ceiling, the percentage of land area to be compulsorily utilised for industries as against other uses should also be carefullyworked out and prescribed." It was high time, observed the West Bengal Chief Minister that the industrial incentive scheme of the Central governmnt is kept limited to the North-Eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir only.

On his part, Modi, who attacked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the recent election campaign in Gujarat, insisted that outlays for the development of minorities may adversely affect the social fabric of the country. "Flow of funds based on minority status will not help the cause of taking the people together on the path of development. The correct criteria for flow of funds for various schemes and programmes should be based on the principle of equity by taking socio-economic criteria alone and leaving the implementation of such schemes to the States."

Both Bhattacharya and Modi appreciated striving for a growth of 4 per cent in agriculture during the Eleventh Plan. For this Bhattacharya called for assuring that the Kisan credit card facility is extended to every agricultural household with adequate disbursement of credit. Modi said improving productivity in agricuture is critical and a lot more needs to be done to ensure growth with equity in this sector.

Even as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati demanded a staggering financial package of Rs 80,000 crore from the Centre for development of basic infrastructure in Bundelkhand and Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi demanded that the UPA government should declare the interlinking of rivers as a "National Project" for its time- bound implementation.

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Lok Ayukta officials begin anti-corruption drive
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, December 19
Lok Ayukta officials today launched state wide raids on corrupt officials buoyed by a government decision to examine a controversial order issued by the H D Kumaraswamy led government laying down that officials could be suspended on corruption charges only if they were caught in a sting operation or charge sheeted.

Today’s raids and the announcement to examine the order of the previous government by P K H Tharaka, adviser to the state Governor Rameshwar Thakur, comes in the wake of a tussle between the Lok Ayukta and the earlier government to take a tough stand on corrupt officials, particularly the police officials who had been caught with assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.

The wind started blowing in the favour of the Lok Ayukta after the imposition of President’s rule with Bangalore police commissioner N Achutha Rao suspending two assistant commissioners of police and three inspectors. Rao had been earlier asked to suspend the police officers by the lok ayukta during the tenure of the previous government, but he had said the officials could not be suspended under the present service rules.

However, after imposition of President’s rule when the lok ayukta took up the matter with the adviser saying if the officials were not suspended there would be no difference between the honest and the corrupt. Following this the five police officers were placed under suspension by the Bangalore police commissioner.

Justice Hegde, while reacting to the suspensions, said he did not know whether the suspensions were the result of his second letter or a delayed action following the first. The lok ayukta also took up the issue of the executive order in a meeting at Udupi yesterday saying it had been passed with the motive of protecting the corrupt and urged the people to speak out against it.

Thakaran, the Governor’s adviser, while reacting to the issue today said the order would be examined by the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Department. He said once this was done appropriate action would be taken as per the recommendations.

Meanwhile, the raids carried out on the residencies of allegedly corrupt officials in six districts of the state, including Bangalore, had already yielded illegal assets of Rs 20 crore by this afternoon. Among those raided in Bangalore were an IAS officer, Electricity Board and Bangalore Development Authority officers and the superintendent of the Victoria hospital. Lok Ayukta officials also raided the residences of regional transport officers (RTOs) in Shimoga, Chikmagalur and Davanagere districts.

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PM proposes task force for expanding irrigation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 19
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today proposed constitution of two task forces in the Planning Commission to comprehensively examine the resource requirements for expanding irrigation and to look into problems of hill states and hill areas.

In his closing remarks at the National Development Council (NDC) meeting, that gave operational go ahead to the XIth Five-Year Plan, the Prime Minister also asked the finance minister to constitute an expert group to go into the system of statutory clearances for industrial and infrastructure projects.

“It is apparent that irrigation is a priority area for almost all states. There is a feeling that we need far more resources to accelerate the current pace of irrigation projects. There is a feeling that is necessary to complement the major hikes in investment taking place in agriculture,” he said.

“I therefore, propose to constitute a task force in the Planning Commission to comprehensively examine the resource requirements for expanding irrigation and identifying a new approach to implement irrigation projects,” he said adding the task force should identify innovative ways of raising resources, designing projects and implementing projects so that we can rapidly achieve our irrigation potential.

Noting that many of the smaller hill states have raised problems unique to their geography like specific connectivity, transport and infrastructure, the Prime Minister proposed constitution of another task force to specifically look into problems of hill states and hill areas and suggest ways to ensure that they do not suffer in any way because of their peculiarities.

Pointing to the anxiousness of state over the delays to major projects as a result of cumbersome clearance procedures, the Prime Minister said, “I will request the finance minsiter to constitute an expert group to go into the system of statutory clearances for industrial and infrastructure projects and suggest concrete ways for speeding these up.”

“This is a problem which is common to state and central agencies as well as to industry,” he noted.

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4 fresh cases against CPM leaders

New Delhi, December 19
Continuing its probe in the Nandigram massacre on March 14, the CBI has registered four fresh cases against local CPM leaders and police officials for allegedly raping women and holding them hostages.

CBI officials said one of the cases was related to rape of a mother and her two daughters allegedly by CPM leaders of Nandigram on the day.

The FIR alleged that a local CPM leader, along with his supporters, forced their way into a house in Nandigram area in a drunken state and raped the woman and her two daughters for two days.

The alleged perpetrators then held them hostages and demanded Rs 1,000 from the family of the victims for releasing them.

It was only after the hapless family paid the amount, the victims were released, the CBI alleged. Moreover, the local leader had handed over poison as medicine to the daughters, who were complaining of medical ailment.

Another case pertains to a police official, who had not taken cognisance of a victim who was allegedly raped by hooligans on the intervening night of March 14 and 15.

The two other cases were registered against unnamed people, who on a rape and looting spree on the day of police firing on March 14, which CBI alleged before the Calcutta High Court that CPM workers were dressed in Khaki and had fired at protesters.

Earlier, the cases were registered by the West Bengal police and would now be investigated by the CBI, that is going into March 14 firing incident that left 14 people dead and 70 others injured. — PTI

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Trace record of Vajpayee’s I-day speech, CIC to PMO

New Delhi, December 19
Noting that the non-availability of records of the drafting of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Independence Day speech in 2002 as “most unusual,” the Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the PMO to make “renewed effort” to trace the documents within 20 days.

“The Prime Minister’s office is an institutionalised office, unlike a monarchy or indeed a Presidential form of government, which can change with the incumbent,” Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Wajahat Habibullah said in a recent order, that came on a right to information plea of Delhi resident R.L. Kain.

Kain, who said the media was misguided by certain parts of the speech that were “misleading”, sought details of the drafting of Vajpayee’s speech, including names of the PMO officers who had drafted and approved it.

Responding to Kain’s application, the PMO said while the speech was drafted by its then Officer on Special Duty (OSD) Sudeendra Kulkarni, no documents relating to the preparation and approval of the speech draft was available with it.

It was also stated Kulkarni had relinquished his charge of OSD after the change of government in May 2004.

“To explain why the record of drafting of the speech of then Prime Minister had not been retained in the PMO, which was an established practice, since even if drafting officer concerned had relinquished office, it would be most unusual if draft speeches ... were also to move with the officer so relinquishing office,” the commission’s order said.

The PMO has been directed to make a renewed effort to trace the records of the drafting of Vajpayee’s speech. It would also include notes received from various ministries suggesting points for inclusion. The details have to be provided within 20 days. — PTI

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Advani in trouble for poll code violation

Ahmedabad, December 19
A police complaint has been filed against BJP leader L .K Advani by Election Commission officials for alleged breach of the model code of conduct by talking to mediapersons outside a polling booth here during the Assembly elections, the police officials said today.

Assistant election officer of Shahpur constituency V. K Shah in his complaint to the police said Advani after casting his vote at a polling booth in Bharadaiyawas Municipal School of Khanpur on December 16, had addressed a group of around 20 newspersons, some of whom had cameras.

His address to the mediapersons outside the polling booth was violation of code of conduct, said the complaint filed late last night.

Advani, after casting his vote last Sunday, had addressed the mediapersons outside a polling booth, where he had expressed confidence that BJP would win in Gujarat as well as Himachal Pradesh elections. — PTI

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SC decries admission of ‘frivolous’ PILs by HCs
S S Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 19
Amid the ongoing debate on judicial overreach triggered by a recent hard hitting judgement of the Supreme Court’s division Bench asking the judiciary to refrain from showing “overactivism” in the public interest cases, another Bench has decried the “misuse” of PILs in service matters.

A Bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwar Singh Panta also cautioned judiciary, particularly the high courts against entertaining PILs in service matters “recklessly”.

Referring to various apex court judgements laying down basic parameters for entertaining PILs, Justices Pasayat and Panta in their verdict said that the judiciary “has to be extremely careful to see that under the guise of redressing a public grievance, it does not encroach upon sphere reserved by the Constitution to executive and legislature.” The Bench reminded that for entertaining a PIL in any service matter, the apex court has laid down five-point basic test to be applied before admitting it.

The apex court listed the five tests afresh for benefit of courts, which include (a) testing of the credentials of the applicant, (b) prima facie correctness of the information given by him, (c) information not to be vague and indefinite but reflect the gravity of the situation and seriousness of the issue involved, (d) no one was allowed to indulge in wild and reckless allegations besmirching character assassination and (e) filtering of mischievous petitions in the garb of public cause for oblique motive before admission.

In such cases the courts cannot afford to be liberal… they have to act ruthlessly while dealing with imposters and busy bodies or meddlesome interlopers impersonating as public-spirited holy men. They masquerade as crusaders of justice,” Bench said.It said that a time has come to weed out the petitions, which though were titled as PILs but in essence of the same was “something else”. “It is shocking to note that courts are flooded with large number of so- called public interest litigations where even a minuscule percentage can legitimately be called as PILs,” Justice Pasayat, writing the judgement for the Bench observed. The Bench said despite the clear guidelines, “the high courts are still entertaining such petitions and wasting valuable judicial time, which could be otherwise utilised for disposal of genuine cases.”

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Youths protest against Aamir

Vadodara, December 19
Like his previous two movies “Fanaa” and “Rang De Basanti”, the screening of Aamir Khan’s forthcoming film “Taare Zameen Par” in Gujarat ran into trouble when a group of youths today forced a cinema hall owner here to remove posters of the flick for the actor’s support to Narmada Bachao Andolan.

About 50 members of the Sardar Patel Group gathered at Vihar Cinema in Pratapnagar area and compelled the management to remove the posters of the to-be-released on December 21. They also tore up several posters of the film.

The group went also to “Inox” and “Chandan” movie halls in the city and submitted a memorandum to the management asking them not to screen Khan’s new movie.

The group members said they will not allow screening of the film in Vadodara, Ahmedabad and other places in Gujarat as he has not yet apologised for “speaking against” the interest of the state when he supported Narmada Bachao Andolan’s agitation in Delhi against construction of Sardar Sarovar Project on river Narmada.

“We demand that Aamir Khan apologise for his remarks on Narmada project. Till he does so, the group will not allow screening of his new movie in the state,” group president Manish Sanghani, who is also the son of BJP leader and fromer MP Dilip Sanghani, told PTI. — PTI

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Sohrab Case
Gujarat HC transfers judge

Ahmedabad, December 19
The Gujarat High Court has transferred Additional Sessions and Designated POTA Court Judge Sonia Gokani, who was handling several important cases, including the Soharabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

Gokani has been moved to the post of Registrar (Recruitment) in the High Court, official sources in the court said here on Wednesday.

The court of Gokani had conducted trial of sensitive cases like the 2002 terrorist attack on Akshardham temple and assassination of former Minister of State for Home, Haren Pandya.

The hearings in Soharabuddin case of November 2005 and rape and murder of Bijal Joshi on New Year’s eve in 2003 were pending in the court of Gokani.

The Sabarmati train burning case, in which 59 people were killed at Godhra on February 27, 2002, was also being heard by her till the Supreme Court stayed the hearing in the matter. — PTI

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Mumbai boy dies after choking game
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 19
A 13-year old Mumbai schooboy from the upmarket Bombay Scottish School died while trying to perform the choking game, a fad among teenagers in the West.

Earlier this month when Gaurang Dalvi was found hanging from the ceiling at his Shivaji Park residence, his death was attributed to suicide caused by academic pressure. Since then, his parents have come out and spoken to the media that Gaurang was playing the 'choking game' that is becoming a fad among western teenagers. According to websites, warning of the dangers of the 'choking game' participants strangle themselves in order to experience the high that comes with the deprivation of oxygen to the brain. But they quickly release the knot around their neck in the nick of time to prevent death.

It takes three minutes of oxygen deprivation to the brain for death to occur.

Gaurang's parents, Mandira and Mangesh said the boy was part of a group that was planning to practice this stunt. While Gaurang was the first among his set of friends to try it, others in his group were planning to emulate him later in the day. Gaurang was unfortunate enough to be chosen as the first in the group to try it out.

Concerned parents in the US have started self-help groups to educate their children about the dangers of the choking game. Victims who survived the 'choking game' after suffering serious injuries are also mobilizing public opinion against such games. However, a search on the Internet on the 'choking game' reveals that addicts keep repeating these stunts even under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Some even perform this game in company of their sexual partners thereby endangering the lives of one or more people.

Video clips of teenagers participating in the 'choking game' are also making it to web-sites like You Tube encouraging others to emulate them.

According to the Dylan Blake Foundation, founded by a parent whose 11-year-old son died while participating in the 'choking game' 40 people died while participating in such incidents. Five others suffered serious injuries, the foundation said.

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Jharkhand villagers in search of ‘Laden’
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 19
Tribesmen in the remote villages of Jharkhand are in search of “Laden”. But one should not mistake it as Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. This ‘Laden’ is the killer elephant, which reportedly has become synonymous with the terrorist because of the mayhem and carnage unleashed by it in state’s forest in the recent past. This prompted the villagers to name it after Laden.

Reports reaching here said during the past few months, the elephant has trampled many persons to death and destroyed dozens of houses in the villages lining the forestland on the Jharkhand-West Bengal border. The villagers are said to be afraid of moving around freely. Late last week itself, the elephant killed an old woman and her granddaughter when they were on their way to their home at Dharampur village.

Besides Dharampur, ‘Laden’ has created havoc in several other villages, including Chhota Chhangur, Bara Chhangur and Banta. There has been a curfew like situation in the Silli area near Ranchi bordering Purulia of West Bengal.

The police said, “Three to four herds of elephants move around this area. When the villagers are satisfied that the herd has passed, they come out of their houses for work. And then suddenly the killer elephant appears from somewhere and attacks villagers”.

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Assamese should quit forces: ULFA
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 19
The banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has stated that Assamese soldiers and officers earning their livelihood in ‘Colonial Indian Defence Forces’ should join the ULFA-led “freedom movement for restoration of sovereignty of Assam”.

In a statement e-mailed to the media here, the ULFA spokesman, major Raju Barua yesterday dismissed as “baseless and fictitious” charges levelled by Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force P.K. Borbora that the ULFA was now a divided house with one faction of it working in coordination with the Naga rebel group, the NSCN-K, in eastern Assam districts while another faction of it working in tandem with Pakistani ISI in western Assam areas.

The ULFA leader further said instead of leveling ‘such baseless accusation’ against the ULFA heeding to dictation of ‘Colonial India Forces’, Air Marshal Borbora should have called upon all Assamese soldiers and officers working in Colonial India Defence forces to join the ‘ULFA-led freedom movement of Assam’.

The ULFA termed the senior IAF official as a ‘traitor’ for making such ‘fictitious allegations’ against the ULFA in lure of personal gains in the form of promotion and other benefits in the ‘Indian force’. The ULFA stated that such ‘baseless comments made against the ULFA’ would never be able to dispirit the ‘movement for restoration of sovereignty of Assam’.

The AOC-in-C of the Shillong-based eastern Command of the IAF, Air Marshal Borbora a couple of days back told the media in Shillong that “the ULFA has now been divided into two factions with one group playing into tunes of the ISI and another operating in nexus with the NSCN-K”.

He said the ULFA faction working in western Assam in coordination with the ISI had camps in Bangladesh and was aiding infiltration from Bangladesh while the other faction had build up nexus with the NSCN-K to operate in eastern Assam areas.

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‘No decision’ yet by UK on immigration policies
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 19
A British diplomat here today described as “fanciful” news reports in British and Indian media that the British government was going to levy a bond of £ 1,000 or shorten the length of tourist visas.

Dan Chugg, director of Press and Communications in the British High Commission here, told Tribune News Service that no decision had yet been taken on immigration policies by his government. He informed that a global immigration consultation exercise was launched yesterday in London. “No decisions have been taken. We are keen to hear the views of people over the next 12 weeks which we will use to help us formulate our immigration policies for the years ahead. This consultation relates to short term visits for students, tourists, sponsored family visitors and business travellers, and is part of wider changes to our immigration system.’

Chugg said the final document will go to the British Parliament for its final call and the whole process was “transparent, flexible and consensual”. He also said there was nothing in the visa document which talked of levying a £ 1,000 bond fee for immigrant visa. “We want to continue to offer a warm welcome to genuine travellers while minimising the risk of abuse of the system. To reiterate, contrary to recent speculation, no decisions have yet been taken on whether or not to introduce a bond or to shorten the length of tourist visas."

The visitor consultation will last for 12 weeks and conclude on March 10, 2008. The results will be published within 3 months of the deadline for responses. The aim of the consultation document is to seek views to inform changes to the visitor categories.

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Watching Islamic TV channels “not right”

New Delhi, December 19
Triggering a controversy, Darul Uloom Deoband has in a recent fatwa termed watching Islamic television channels as “not right”, a view brushed aside by three influential Muslim organisations.

Clerics at Uloom’s Darul ifta, the body which issues fatwas, in a response to a query whether watching Islamic channel and right things like debate on Islamic topics etc on TV is right or wrong, said: “It is not right.”

“It (Television) is most widely used for unlawful and prohibited things. If lawful matters are learnt from authentic people then also it is unlawful to listen it through TV, since it includes more or less ‘haram’ thing. And by using TV a person slowly starts watching other programme as well,” it says.

When asked about the fatwa, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board on condition of anonymity said he does not share the view that watching TV is unlawful. However, he said: “These days too much of obscenity is being displayed on screens”.

Jamia-Ulema-e-Hind, another prominent Muslim body also does not agree with the fatwa.

“The things which we can see on roads can also be viewed on screens,” Abdul Hameed Nomani, JUH spokesman and an Islamic scholar, says.

“Watching right thing on TV is lawful,” he says.

Nomani’s views were echoed by the All India Shia Personal Law Board president Mirza Mohammad Athar, who says “We believe that using things for good and right purpose is not haram (unlawful).”

“Watching news, matches, current affairs and even serials, if it does not shows obscenity, is right,” he says.

Darul ifta further says even “if a person uses mobile in unlawful ways like TV then it will be equally sinful”. — PTI

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2 books on Bhagat Singh released 
Tripti Nath
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 19
Information and broadcasting minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi today released two books on Bhagat Singh.

Published by the publications division of his ministry in the birth centenary year of Bhagat Singh, the books ‘The Eternal Rebel’ and ‘Bhagat Singh: Dastavejon Ke Aine Mein’, have been authored by Chandigarh-based advocate Prof Malwinder Jit Singh Waraich and Prof Chaman Lal of the Centre of Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Speaking on the occasion, Dasmunsi drew attention to the contribution of another martyr, Khudi Ram Bose from West Bengal.

The minister said he feels pained when authors refer to revolutionaries as conspirators. “Why is the first war of Independence referred to as Mutiny? Nothing can be more insulting in a free India than calling the freedom struggle a conspiracy and a mutiny. The minister was receptive to the suggestion of translating the books into the regional languages.

Prof Waraich, a veteran and enthusiastic chronicler of the revolutionary movement in India, told TNS that he had tried to portray in his book Bhagat Singh’s life style to highlight that whatever he did or accomplished was a result of team work. Prof Waraich said Bhagat Singh’s comrades Bhagwati Charan Vohra and his wife Durga Bhabhi, who played a crucial role in the freedom movement had not got their due.

Prof Chaman Lal’s book is a compilation of Bhagat Singh’s articles, court statements, jail notes and letters.

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Akash missiles test-fired

Balasore (Orissa), December 19
After its three successful trials last week, India today test-fired two indigenously developed surface-to-air nuclear capable Akash missiles from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur-on-sea, 15 km from here.

The sleek multi-target medium-range missiles, with a strike range of 25 km and capable of carrying warheads of 50 kg each, were test-fired from mobile launchers as part of an Air Defence Exercise (ADE), defence sources said.

Pilotless Target Aircraft (PTA) ‘Lakshya’ was used as the support system for target in today’s trial, they said adding that one more trial was expected to be conducted soon to pave the way for induction of Akash into the Indian Air Force (IAF).

With today’s test-fire conducted by scientists from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) jointly with the Indian Air Force, the 10-day campaign for intensive trial of Akash that began on December 13 entered its final stage.

Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) has already approved the flight consistency of Akash. — PTI

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No vacancies, but cops recruited in UP
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, December 19
The Mulayam Singh Yadav government recruited 18,844 police constables in the state during 2004-05 against non-existent vacancies. In fact against the existing posts for 90,144 constables, the UP police at that point already had an excess of 3269 staff.

Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh made this startling revelation about the so-called mother of all police scams yesterday. This information was presented by the home department before the cabinet.

According to Singh, normally recruitments are made against existing vacancies. However, in the year 2004, 2005 and 2006 large-scale recruitments were made in the police without any vacancies.

Taking a serious view of this irregularity the cabinet has forwarded the matter to the chief secretary headed committee that is probing the scam.

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Indian runner upgrades own Guinness record

Kolkata, December 19
Three years after finding an entry into the Guinness Book, long distance runner Tirtha Kumar Phani has now improved upon his own world record for the Greatest Average Mileage Run Daily.

Phani, now 48 years of age, had etched his name in the almanac 2004 and 2005 editions of the prestigious almanac for his astounding feat of running an average of 61.824 km a day for a whole year from August, 2006 to July, 1997. He had then covered more than 22,000 km over a one-year period.

Phani, who hails from Lalgola in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district but now settled in the metropolis, achieved a new record in the same category by running an average of 61,866 km a day from June 30, 2006 to June 29, 2007 here. He ran a total of 22,581.09 km spread over the one-year period.

The bespectacled Phani has received a certificate and a letter from the Guinness World Records confirming the improved mark.

“The Greatest Average Mileage Run Daily is 61.866 km (38.44 miles) and was achieved by Tirtha Kumar Phani (India) from June 30, 2006 to June 29, 2007, in Calcutta, India,” said the certificate and the letter.

However, the letter said the certificate did not guarantee Phani an automatic entry into the organisation’s world famous annual books. But it said, “We do consider all new records for inclusion in all future Guinness World Record publication and products”.

Phani told PTI that he attempted to better his old record as per the directive of the GWR.

“My record got an entry into the book for two successive years in 2004 and 2005. After that they dropped the entry, though I continued to hold the record. This is quite natural.

If the same record appears under one category for more than a year, they often drop the category to include a new one,” Phani said.

“But it was the GWR which inspired me to better my record so that it can again find a place in the annual book,” he said.

Though Phani’s record is yet to find a mention in the GWR website, he pointed out that it had taken seven years for his old record to find an entry into the 
annual book.

“They will need at least a couple of years to carry forward the process,” Phani, a former TISCO employee, said.

As he did in 1996-97, Phani ran the 15.33-km stretch between the barracks of the fourth battalion of the state police at Salt Lake to the Park Street police station, four or five times every day in his bid to improve upon his record.

Since his childhood, Phani had nursed a dream of making it big on the world stage, and started running at the tender age of nine.

To increase his power of endurance, Phani, as a 20-year-old, undertook a solo 237-day cycle expedition up to the Nepal China border, pedalling 35,000 km. — PTI

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3 Maoists, 2 cops injured in gunbattle
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 19
A combing operation in Theni district this afternoon left three Maoists and two policemen injured, in a gun battle between the militants and the Tamil Nadu police.

According to the police, the special task force of the Tamil Nadu police were conducting a combing operation at Andipatty, the Assembly constituency of former Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa, in Theni district, 600 km from here.

The Maoists who have been recruiting youth, and campaigning, in the area for some time opened fire when the STF team detected them.

A gun battle ensued for at least one hour in which three Maoists were critically injured and admitted to a nearby government hospital.

Few months ago Tamil Nadu’s chief secretary had said there was no visible presence of Maoists in the state but as a precautionary measure the police were conducting combing operations in Theni, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri and Vellore districts.

In June this year, a Maoist arms training camp was unearthed in Theni district and after arresting four Maoists, the police made a major breakthrough by arresting the Tamil Nadu Maoist secretary Sundaramoorthy from the textile hub in Tiruppur.

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HC notice to Sushmita Sen
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 19
After Shilpa Shetty, Khusboo and Reema Sen, it is now former Miss Universe and actor Sushmita Sen who is under the spotlight for being hauled up by the Madurai Bench of the Madras high court following a PIL by an advocate for her “lewd” comments on sex in television and newspaper interviews.

In his petition, advocate Girish Kumar alleged that Sushmita during an interview on October 7 to a television channel, remarked that “no Indian has chastity or virginity anymore and having pre-marital or post-marital affairs is not wrong in society nowadays.”

The interview was published by a Tamil newspaper the following day and Kumar sought action against her under Sections 292, 292B, 293 and 294 of the IPC dealing with ‘obscenity and lewd sexual comments' and Sections 499 and 500 (defamation).

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Salem produced in CBI court
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 19
Underworld don Abu Salem was brought here today and produced before a special CBI court in connection with fake passport case.

A special team of the Maharashtra police brought the gangster from Mumbai, amidst tight security, and taken straight to the court located at Nampally. The judge directed the police to produce him again at 10.30 am tomorrow. He was later shifted to Chanchalguda jail.

The case against Salem is that he, along with his companion and Bollywood starlet Monica Bedi, had procured passports from Kurnool district under assumed names. He is also wanted in the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts case.

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Man killed by tigress in Assam State Zoo

Guwahati, December 19
A man’s excursion to the zoo here along with his family turned into a tragedy when he was killed by a tigress after crossing the barrier and went near the animal’s enclosure this afternoon to take photographs.

Zoo divisional forest officer Narayan Mahanta told PTI that 50-year old Jai Prakash Bezbarua, who had gone to the zoo with his family, had crossed the line outside the enclosure for tigers from where visitors see the animals at Assam State Zoo. — PTI

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PM greets Prez on 73rd b’day
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 19
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Vice-President Hamid Ansari today greeted President Pratibha Patil on her 73rd birthday.

The Prime Minister along with his wife Gursharan Kaur met the President and presented her a bouquet of roses and wished her on her birthday. The President also planted the sapling of a “jamun” tree in the area in Rashtrapati Bhawan earmarked for the “nakshatra” garden.

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Shocking punishment

Bhusawal, December 19
In an appalling incident, 22 students of a railway school in Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district were allegedly administered electric shocks by their teacher to discipline them.

Sumant Mishra took the students to the physics laboratory of the school here and allegedly administered shocks with the help of an eliminator, the police said today. — PTI

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