SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

France keen on N-deal with India: Kouchner
New Delhi, December 21
After Russia, another P-5 power is keen to sign a nuclear deal with India. France today said it was looking forward to finalise a nuclear pact with India, but added that this could happen only after India signs the required pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

CPI for tribal status to Assam
Guwahati, December 21
The Communist Party of India (CPI) has come up with a panacea for the current turmoil in Assam over the demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status by six ethnic groups, including the Adivasi community, that had migrated to the state about 150 years ago for engagement in the British Raj tea estates.

Assam BJP faces ‘Al-Qaida threat’
Guwahati, December 21
The Assam unit of the BJP is facing threat from global terrorist group Al-Qaida for its continued tirade against illegal migration from Bangladesh and suspected Bangladeshi migrants residing in Assam.

Bangla as 2nd Language
Jharkhand to decide by Jan
Patna, December 21
The demand for second official language status to Bangla in Jharkhand seems to be finally heading towards a logical end with the Madhu Koda government deciding to take a final decision on the same by January as directed by the Speaker of state Assembly Alamgir Alam.







EARLIER STORIES




Amitabh’s mother passes away
Mumbai, December 21
Teji Bachchan, mother of actor Amitabh Bachchan, died here today after a prolonged illness. She was 93. Apart from Amitabh, she is survived by another son Ajitabh and their children. Teji Bachchan had been admitted to Lilavati Hospital for most of this year after her condition deteriorated. Prior to this, she was under treatment at her residence. Doctors at the hospital said she died due to complications arising from old age.



Film actor Amitabh Bachchan along with his son Abhishek and his brother Ajitabh accompany the body of their mother, Teji Bachchan, in Mumbai on Friday. — AFP photo

Film actor Amitabh Bachchan along with his son Abhishek and his brother Ajitabh accompany the body of their mother, Teji Bachchan, in Mumbai on Friday.

Entries invited for journalism award
New Delhi, December 21
The Rajasthan Patrika has invited entries for an international journalism award instituted in the memory of its founder Karpoor Chandra Kulish.

Urban threat to wildlife
Guwahati, December 21
Big cats on the prowl on streets of Guwahati, thanks to the unplanned urban growth and population burst in Guwahati, the gateway to the north-east has posed serious threat to the existence of wildlife in its surroundings.

A Nandigram on border?
Proposed Indo-Nepal dam faces public opposition
Patna, December 21
Nandigram in West Bengal seems to have crossed the international boundary to cast its shadow on the proposed Indo-Nepal Saptakoshi multipurpose project bordering Bihar. The same Saptakoshi river, after entering Bihar from Nepal, is known as Koshi river here. The project that proposes to build a 269-metre high dam on the Sun-Koshi river, a tributary of Saptakoshi, is said to be the biggest river dam in the SAARC region with the potential to generate 3,400 MW of power. Besides, it also plans to control floods both in Nepal and India, with a special focus on Bihar.

Cement ‘Cartelisation’
MRTPC lambasts CMA
New Delhi, December 21
The Cement Manufacturers’ Association (CMA), an apex body of the cement industry, has come in for sharp criticism by the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practice Commission (MRTPC) for its failure to check forming a ‘cartel’ by manufacturers to jack up cement prices in early nineties setting a stage for increase of its rates.

No alcohol for BSF men at sensitive posts
Shillong, December 21
Confronted with an alarming increase in the cases of drunken personnel manning sensitive frontier posts, the Border Security Force (BSF) has decided to cut alcohol supplies to its men and officers so that they are in the “right spirit”.

Engineer shot at in Manipur
Imphal, December 21
An executive engineer of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department (IFCD) of Manipur was shot at and injured by militants near his house today.

Govt should have signed N-accord with Russia: CPM
New Delhi, December 21
The CPM today said the government should have signed nuclear agreement with Russia for supply of additional reactors to the Koodankulum power project during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to that country.

After Muslims, TRS woos Christians
Hyderabad, December 21
After seeking to lure Muslims by praising the much-viled Nizam rulers, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K.Chandrasekhar Rao has now made a common cause with Christian organisations by opposing the government’s move to introduce a bill on Christian properties in the state.

Andhra to hire ex-servicemen
Hyderabad, December 21
Faced with heightened threat perception in the wake of a series of terror strikes, the Andhra Pradesh government has decided to recruit ex-servicemen into the police force.

Akash ready for induction
New Delhi, December 21
India's surface-to-air Akash missile was cleared by the government today for induction into the Armed forces after a series of trials in the last few days successfully proved the weapon's "kill capability". The induction came close on the heels of successful firing of the long range surface-to-surface nuclear capable missile Agni and strides in indigenous development of an anti-missile system.

Congress keeps distance from Mahajan’s move
New Delhi, December 21
The Congress today refused to endorse the move of Himachal Pradesh revenue minister Sat Mahajan to seek court’s intervention for deferring the date of counting of votes of Assembly polls till the expiry of the term of the present House.


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France keen on N-deal with India: Kouchner
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 21
|After Russia, another P-5 power is keen to sign a nuclear deal with India. France today said it was looking forward to finalise a nuclear pact with India, but added that this could happen only after India signs the required pact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

This was stated by French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner who is here on a four-day visit, essentially to prepare ground for French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s state visit here next month. Sarkozy will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.

Paris has been trying to ensure that the Indo-French nuclear pact is signed during Sarkozy’s India visit. However, this may not happen, given the tardy pace of Indian negotiations with the IAEA and the tremendous opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal. “Even if a protocol is ready, we have to wait for India’s IAEA pact,” Kouchner said. “We have to speed up agreements but it might be delayed.”

France is the only country in the world where nuclear power contributes 90 per cent of its total energy. The French nuclear technology is considered the most advanced in the world. France has 56 nuclear reactors. Kouchner said at a news conference in the French embassy here that France had always been in favour of offering civilian nuclear power to India.

France has also been a vociferous supporter of the expansion of G-8 and inclusion of India in this body of world’s most advanced industrialised nations. France has also been an ardent supporter of India’s inclusion in the UN Security Council. “We want to see India in the UN Security Council” to challenge the old process of the US dominating it, Kouchner said.

Kouchner, who met external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi yesterday, today called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. A gamut of bilateral and global issues, including civil nuclear energy, economic cooperation, climate change and defence deals were discussed at Kouchner’s meeting with Manmohan Singh.

However, France is disappointed with the ministry of defence over the cancelled Eurocopter tender for nearly 200 helicopters. The tender was cancelled after a seven-year selection process.

Kourchner expressed concern over the slow and uncertain nature of India's defence procurement process compared to countries like China and also indicated no progress in the Mirage upgrade contract. At the same time, he stressed that Paris was optimistic about its chances and would persevere with the Eurocopter contract. A part of European aerospace major European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), Eurocopter was to supply 197 helicopters to the Indian Army. Eurocopter had been contracted to sell 60 complete helicopters to the Army, while the remaining 137 were to be assembled at state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in the country.

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CPI for tribal status to Assam
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 21
The Communist Party of India (CPI) has come up with a panacea for the current turmoil in Assam over the demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status by six ethnic groups, including the Adivasi community, that had migrated to the state about 150 years ago for engagement in the British Raj tea estates.

As the state is faced with a turbulent situation precipitated by the ongoing agitation for ST status by six ethnic groups - Tail-Ahom, Moran, Motok, Chutia, Koch-Rajbongshi and Adivasi --whose demand had already been rejected by the Central government ignoring recommendations from the Congress government in the state, the CPI has suggested that the only solution to the problem lies in recognising Assam as a tribal state.

The CPI national leader and Assam state unit president Promode Gogoi said that given that Assam is home to a large number of indigenous tribal groups, it would be prudent on part of the Centre to declare Assam a tribal state to solve the problem of growing aspirations for ST status.

The veteran CPI leader commented that giving ST status to a few more ethnic groups would simply lead to fresh demands for the same status by smaller ethnic communities and the problem would keep burning. “In such a situation it is better to declare the state a tribal one suiting the aspirations of all ethnic groups,” he said.

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Assam BJP faces ‘Al-Qaida threat’
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 21
The Assam unit of the BJP is facing threat from global terrorist group Al-Qaida for its continued tirade against illegal migration from Bangladesh and suspected Bangladeshi migrants residing in Assam.

Assam BJP president Ramen Deka claims to have received a hand written threat letter from Al-Qaida terrorists that was delivered at the state party headquarters here on Wednesday last.

Deka said in the letter addressed to him the Al-Qaida had threatened to kill him and blow up the state party headquarters in Guwahati. The letter from the Al-Qaida, which was signed by eight persons claiming to be associates of the terrorist group, threatened the Assam BJP unit and its president for their firm stand against suspected illegal migration from Bangladesh.

The terrorist group accused the BJP unit of causing harassment to local Muslim population in Assam in the name of a drive against illegal Bangladeshi migrants and threatened to the blow up the state BJP headquarters and kill its president.

The letter further criticised the state BJP president for making ‘derogatory’ comments against Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen. Alarmed at the Al-Qaida threat the state BJP unit has lodged a complaint with the state DGP, R.N. Mathur. The police is yet to verify the veracity of the threat letter

Deka said he was not going to be cowed down by the threat letter. He said it was a reflection of the failure on part of the ruling Congress in Assam in controlling the growing activities of fundamentalists and Islamic terrorist organisations in the state.

The BJP leader further informed that the Al-Qaida in the same letter issued a threat to the All Assam Students Union (AASU) adviser, Dr Samujjal Bhattacharrya, for his firm stand against the illegal Bangladeshi migrants living in Assam.

However, the AASU adviser said the students’ body was yet to receive any such letter from the terrorist group and he came to know about the threat from the BJP. The AASU leader said it was now the duty of the state government to ascertain the veracity of the threat letter.

Meanwhile, the Assam government has formally acknowledged the growing activities of Pakistani’s ISI in the state. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in his address at the meeting on internal security said the state and the Northeast as a whole had emerged as a hub of espionage agencies like the ISI.

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Bangla as 2nd Language
Jharkhand to decide by Jan
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 21
The demand for second official language status to Bangla in Jharkhand seems to be finally heading towards a logical end with the Madhu Koda government deciding to take a final decision on the same by January as directed by the Speaker of state Assembly Alamgir Alam.

Reports reaching here said the Bangla language issue dominated the proceedings of the just concluded winter session of the Jharkhand Assembly with parties across political lines joining hands to force the state government to positively dispose the same in accordance with 2001 census report.

The Tribune had reported in October on the demand to accord second language status to Bangla after the Madhu Koda government had notified Urdu as the second language on the eve of Ramzan this year.

Several tribal and Bangla associations had slammed the government’s move describing it as a ‘political gimmick’.The Congress also extended support to the Bengali-speaking people.

A prominent member of the Bengali association in Jharkhand Dipankar Banerjee alleged that politics was the main driving force behind accordance of second language status to Urdu. “Bangla speaking people in the state are many more than those who speak Urdu”, he added.

According to the 1991 census, 10.06 per cent of people in the state speak Bengali while only 6.75 percent speak Urdu.

The growing demand to accord second language status to Bengali prompted the Jharkhand Assembly Speaker Alamgir Allam to pass an order on Tuesday asking the state government to finalise the issue within 45 days. 

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Amitabh’s mother passes away
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 21
Teji Bachchan, mother of actor Amitabh Bachchan, died here today after a prolonged illness. She was 93.

Apart from Amitabh, she is survived by another son Ajitabh and their children. Teji Bachchan had been admitted to Lilavati Hospital for most of this year after her condition deteriorated. Prior to this, she was under treatment at her residence. Doctors at the hospital said she died due to complications arising from old age.

Last month, Teji Bachchan was shifted to the ICU after her condition turned critical.

Born Teji Suri in a Sikh family from Karachi, she married Harivanshrai Bachchan in 1941. It was his second marriage, his first wife Shyamala having died by then. Teji was an actress and singer while Harivanshrai was already a reputed poet by then.

In later years, the elder Bachchans developed close relations with the Nehru-Gandhi family while they were living in Delhi during the 1950s.

Harivanshrai Bachchan passed away in 2003. As Teji’s health worsened over the past years, the Bachchan family curtailed celebrations, with even festivals like Holi and Diwali being a subdued affair.

Even the wedding of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai held earlier this year was a low-key affair.

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Entries invited for journalism award
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 21
The Rajasthan Patrika has invited entries for an international journalism award instituted in the memory of its founder Karpoor Chandra Kulish.

The award, launched by Patricia Seller, editor-at-large of Fortune, has been instituted to promote value-based journalism. The winner will get a trophy

and a cash award of $ 11,000. The last date for accepting entries is January 31, 2008.

The theme for the inaugural year is ‘Human Development’.

Articles sent as entries should have been published between January 1 and December 31, 2007.

Nominees for the awards will be selected by a panel of jury comprising N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, H.K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief of The Tribune, Piyush Pandey, Executive Chairman and National Creative Director for India and South Asia at Ogilvy and Mather, Bakul H. Dholakia, former Director of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and Gulab Kothari, Editor and Managing Director of the Rajasthan Patrika group. 

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Urban threat to wildlife
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 21
Big cats on the prowl on streets of Guwahati, thanks to the unplanned urban growth and population burst in Guwahati, the gateway to the north-east has posed serious threat to the existence of wildlife in its surroundings.

The ever-expanding periphery of the city has led to the destruction of numerous wildlife habitats in the city, besides causing irreparable damage to its green forest cover that is rapidly shrinking.

The damage caused to the wildlife habitats by the urbanisation in Guwahati is well reflected in the frequent incidents of leopards trespassing onto various residential localities in the city. One leopard was found trapped inside the ground floor of a popular shopping mall in the heart of the city. The State Wildlife Department had captured eight such leopards from city localities so far during the year. In a few instances, these straying leopards attacked and injured the city residents.

“Because of shrinkage of the forest cover and subsequent reduction in number of prey animals leopard often come to human habitats in the city to prey on the domestic animals,” said Narayan Mahanta, the divisional forest officer (wildlife) of the Guwahati State Zoo.

According to a forest department source, there are 19 reserve forest (RF) areas within the greater Guwahati area as per the record of the State Revenue Department. All these forest areas have vanished because of coming up of human habitats over the years.

The burst of population in Guwahati is so alarming that the prices of land and houses within the city have sky rocketed during the last decade. A square feet of built up area in the city now cost in the range of Rs 2,200 to Rs 4,000 depending upon the quality of the structure and locality.

The real estate boom had led to the fast disappearance of open spaces within the city and that has become a cause for concern.

The Guwahati High Court in one of its latest directive to the Guwahati Development Department has imposed a temporary ban on giving permission to build housing complexes in city areas.

The court directive came in response to a Public Interests Litigation (PIL) filed by an NGO called ‘Save Guwahati Build Guwahati’, which in its petition sought a suitable directive from the court to stop fresh construction of tall multi-storied buildings in the city in view of fast disappearance of open spaces in the city.

Bowing to the rising concern over congestion in the city, the Guwahati Development Department (GDD) has incorporated a fresh clause in its new building by-laws making it mandatory for builders and real estate developers to keep 60 per cent open spaces within the residential housing complexes. This has triggered further escalation in the cost of land and built up area in the city.

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A Nandigram on border?
Proposed Indo-Nepal dam faces public opposition
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 21
Nandigram in West Bengal seems to have crossed the international boundary to cast its shadow on the proposed Indo-Nepal Saptakoshi multipurpose project bordering Bihar. The same Saptakoshi river, after entering Bihar from Nepal, is known as Koshi river here. The project that proposes to build a 269-metre high dam on the Sun-Koshi river, a tributary of Saptakoshi, is said to be the biggest river dam in the SAARC region with the potential to generate 3,400 MW of power. Besides, it also plans to control floods both in Nepal and India, with a special focus on Bihar.

Sources here said despite the eagerness shown by both India and Nepal to complete the project on time, it is under siege for almost seven months now due to opposition from local people under the banner Kiranti Rastriya Morcha in east Nepal bordering Bihar, seemingly on the lines of Bhumi Uched Pratirakha Committee of Nandigarm in West Bengal, who face displacement and related environment degradation. Some ethnic groups there are also said to be opposed to this project. When India and Nepal signed the Saptakoshi agreement in 1997, Rs 300 million was allotted for the detailed project report (DPR), which was expected to be completed in 30 months.

Besides the present opposition by local people and ethnic groups, in the past also work on the project was held up due to the Maoist insurgency and political instability in Nepal.

Based on the reports collected here by concerned quarters, despite opposition from different quarters even though the work could finally start in 2004, after seven years from the date of agreement between the two countries in 1997, work on the DPR was stopped again around June this year by the Kiranti Rastriya Morcha, which said authorities needed to take the consent of the local people who face displacement and environment degradation.

The prolonged delay has made the cost of the DPR shoot up already to Rs 700 million against the initial projection of Rs 300 milion.

India’s eagerness to carry out the Saptakoshi alias Koshi multipurpose project was shown during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to areas in Bihar affected by the summer monsoon floods in the past. “The high dam in Koshi is the only solution to floods in Bihar,” Manmohan Singh was then quoted by the media as saying.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar too in recent past urged the Prime Minister to open talks with Nepal for constructing dams on rivers originating from the Himalayan country to end the recurring floods in the state. Nitish also favoured constituting a ‘Flood Management Strategy Group’ for holding talks with the Nepal Government.

The Saptakoshi floods hit Bihar every monsoon and the dam is expected to tame it and use the water for irrigating about 15,00,000 hectares both in Nepal and Bihar.

This year itself, floods from it had killed over hundred people in the state, besides leaving a trail of destruction in Nepal as well. Apart from the reported opposition from local people halting the work on this ambitious project at present, it is learnt that some anti-dam experts in India and Nepal too are opposing it.

They reportedly, oppose the construction of the proposed high dam located in a seismic fault zone in the southern flank of the Himalayan range. Constructing a dam in a seismic fault zone area would enhance the fear of destruction of life and property because of its earthquake prone nature.

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Cement ‘Cartelisation’
MRTPC lambasts CMA
S S Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 21
The Cement Manufacturers’ Association (CMA), an apex body of the cement industry, has come in for sharp criticism by the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practice Commission (MRTPC) for its failure to check forming a ‘cartel’ by manufacturers to jack up cement prices in early nineties setting a stage for increase of its rates.

Though the role of the CMA was to coordinate between the government and cement companies to ensure that they did not indulge in ‘cartelisation’, the MRTPC said, “Marketing committees of the CMA have been dominated by market leaders in the industry and thus from the inputs of information they have been influencing the retail prices.”

“Others (companies) adhering to will qualify to be naïve collaborators and thus would have joined the conspiracy without knowing that there conduct could be unlawful,” the MRTPC said .

The MRTPC came to the conclusion while scrutinising the evidence of witnesses by director-general investigation and registration (DGIR) counsel O P Dua on how the CMA members had failed in their duty to apprise the PMO about the market position.

“Denial of knowledge of a meeting in the PMO, expressing concern about rise in cement prices, despite the fact that their own managements had participated in that meeting is also indicative of a similar frame of mind. Such a trend itself would point out towards a design reflecting certain forces which were working towards upward swing of prices at such short intervals (between February-August 1990) for almost all the brands,” he said.

The CMA had questioned the credibility of some witnesses produced by Dua, but the commission rejected the association’s stand and said several witnesses are or were high functionaries of their organisations and that their evidence could not be dismissed lightly.

“Their denial on such basics relating to an association which has been theirs for several years would lead to an inevitable conclusion that there is something which is sought to be kept away,” the commission observed.

The commission was of the view that there were elements of indirect evidence against the CMA in ‘influencing’ the retail prices of cement particularly when it was compared with the situation in countries like Argentina and Romania where the industry was coming out of the regulatory regime.

“It is also admitted that the CMA was collecting price information on very short intervals and was reviewing the price situation through the marketing committees,” the commission recorded, pointing out that in fact the committees were set up by the CMA to devise a mechanism of increasing the demand for cement.

“We have established that there is an element of direct evidence of the involvement of local committees in ensuring price parallelism and re-determining of retail prices at frequent and short intervals,” the MRTPC concluded.

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No alcohol for BSF men at sensitive posts

Shillong, December 21
Confronted with an alarming increase in the cases of drunken personnel manning sensitive frontier posts, the Border Security Force (BSF) has decided to cut alcohol supplies to its men and officers so that they are in the “right spirit”.

In a bid to ensure that the sentinel at the vital Border Observation Posts (BOPs) are not tipsy while at vigil, a decision has been taken to supply liquor only during ‘Barakhanas’ and when they go on leave.

The decision to sober down the men was taken for apprehending risky situations like a tipsy armed ‘jawan’ getting ‘trigger-happy’ inside the barracks, or for that matter, a group of ‘spirited’ soldiers on patrolling duty actually loitering along the vulnerable international border.

Enforcing partial prohibition at the BOPs with immediate effect, the Assam and Meghalaya Frontier (A&M Ftr) of the BSF has sought the help of the Alcoholics Anonymous Service Centre for counselling of its personnel, who have fallen prey to the bottle.

“BOPs are operational sectors and we cannot have drunken personnel manning these sensitive forward posts along the international borders,” inspector- general P.K.Mishra said today.

Inaugurating the two-day counselling session at the BSF headquarters here today, Mishra made a passionate plea to the rank and file of his men to come out of the ‘disease’ that was alcoholism, which had infected the troopers.

Observing that earlier, alcoholism was deemed as a ‘disciplinary problem’, which was sought to be curbed by exemplary punishment, the IG said such tactics did not yield the desired result.

Mishra said, “from now on no vindictive punishment will be meted out. We shall identify the reasons behind the jawans taking to excessive drinking and then go for regular counselling by experts.” Alcoholism is not only having adverse effects on the family members of the jawans but it is also ruining their physical and mental health, the IG observed.

“Moderate drinking in itself is not bad but consuming more than required and then creating trouble is a problem that needs to be tackled,” he said.

Citing family feuds and loneliness while on duty at remote border posts as the main reasons for the prevalence of alcoholism among some of the jawans, the IG advised his men to take to games and sports instead. “Instead of wasting money on alcohol, you can use it for making regular phone calls to your wives and children,” the IG advised officers and jawans, who would undergo counselling. — PTI

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Engineer shot at in Manipur

Imphal, December 21
An executive engineer of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department (IFCD) of Manipur was shot at and injured by militants near his house today.

The militants called the engineer Soubam Dhanabir Singh at Thangmeiband Sinam Leikai here and shot at his legs, sources said.

Dhanbair Singh was taken to a private hospital where his condition was stated to be out of danger, the sources said, adding the official might, however, be crippled for life. IFCD minister N.Biren called on Dhanabir at hospital. — PTI

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Govt should have signed N-accord with Russia: CPM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 21
The CPM today said the government should have signed nuclear agreement with Russia for supply of additional reactors to the Koodankulum power project during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to that country.

Answering queries from mediapersons on reports that Russia was prepared to sign the agreement for the reactors which would have been supplied after lifting of international restrictions, senior party leader Sitaram Yechury said the government should have signed the accord.

In reply to questions concerning controversial Bangladesh writer Tasleema Nasreen, Yechury said it was for her to decide where she wanted to stay.

On the question of Third Front, Yechury said it cannot be a cut and paste job and the party was looking forward to a third alternative. The party has maintained that the third force should emerge on the basis of common ideological issues and coordination at the ground level. The issue is likely to be discussed in detail at the the central committee meeting which will conclude tomorrow.

Besides the draft political resolution, issues such as the India-US nuclear deal and the Nandigarm are also expected to figure in the discussions. Sources said that the next meeting of the UPA-Left commitee could be held by the end of this month or early next month as the first round of talks at the IAEA had already been held by the government.

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After Muslims, TRS woos Christians
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 21
After seeking to lure Muslims by praising the much-viled Nizam rulers, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) chief K.Chandrasekhar Rao has now made a common cause with Christian organisations by opposing the government’s move to introduce a bill on Christian properties in the state.

“We will launch an agitation in the Telangana region if the government fails to withdraw the bill,” Rao told reporters here yesterday.

The legislation, ostensibly aimed at protecting the properties of Christian missionaries, churches and their educational institutions, evoked objections from a majority of Christian organisations, who see it as an attempt to infringe on their rights.

The TRS leader, whose party is fighting for separate state for Telangana, said, “The government has no right to exercise control over Christian properties in any form. We will resist such moves.”

He had recently stirred a controversy by eulogising the erstwhile Nizam rules of Hyderabad, unmindful of the strong public views on the turbulent period in the state’s history.

The showering of encomiums on the Nizam rulers was seen as a calculated move on the part of TRS to win the support of Muslims who constitue a significant chunk of population in the Telangana region.

Rao, who is also an MP from Karimnagar, has now turned his attention to Christians and sprang to their support on the property issue.

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Andhra to hire ex-servicemen
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 21
Faced with heightened threat perception in the wake of a series of terror strikes, the Andhra Pradesh government has decided to recruit ex-servicemen into the police force.

To begin with, they will be recruited at the constable level in the state capital, which was rocked by terror bombings in the recent past.

The services of ex-servicemen would be utilised in anti-sabotage checks, patrolling, beats, frisking and vehicle checking, an official said.

AGO has been issued to engage the services of 1,000 retired Army personnel to be posted as special police officers.

Taking a cue from Jammu and Kashmir, where a similar model is under implementation, the state government is prepared to relax some of the recruitment norms to accommodate ex-jawans in the police force.

A recruitment drive would be conducted here on December 22.

“The constables recruited from a normal background would be trained in maintaining law and order, preventing and detecting crime and traffic regulation.

But people with an armed services background have the added advantage of knowledge of a variety of national and international crimes, offenders and their designs,” the official said.

The state tourism department has already decided to hire the services of ex-defence personnel to guard the tourist places.

The department has asked all its recruiting agencies to forward the applications of only those who have defence background.

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Akash ready for induction

New Delhi, December 21
India's surface-to-air Akash missile was cleared by the government today for induction into the Armed forces after a series of trials in the last few days successfully proved the weapon's "kill capability". The induction came close on the heels of successful firing of the long range surface-to-surface nuclear capable missile Agni and strides in indigenous development of an anti-missile system.

An official announcement here said a series of user trials of the missile over the last days at the Interim Missile Test Range in Balasore, in Orissa, had been "fully successful" demonstrating the weapon's intended objective.

"The evaluation of the missile has been completed and the weapon system is now available for indigenous production," Sitanshu Kar, the Defence Ministry spokesman said. "The missile system is uniquely configured and customised for Indian Air Force and Indian Army," the spokesman said in significant remarks clarifying that Indian defence scientists had now managed to rectify flaws in the missile.

The success of the Akash came as a shot in the arm for the scientists of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which successfully test fired for the second time the 3,000 km range surface-to-surface Agni-III missile and an indigenous interceptor missile, which is planned to be turned into a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system.

The missile hit the bull's eye for the fifth time in a row in the last 10 days, the officials said.

"This was the grand finale of the 10 days user campaign planned by the Indian Air Force," the sources said.

The test was carried out at the Interim Test Range after the system had gone through functional evaluation at Kolar near Bangalore. — PTI

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Congress keeps distance from Mahajan’s move
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 21
The Congress today refused to endorse the move of Himachal Pradesh revenue minister Sat Mahajan to seek court’s intervention for deferring the date of counting of votes of Assembly polls till the expiry of the term of the present House.

While the state Congress leaders said it was an individual decision of the minister, who has not contested the election, the party’s central leadership said it has not been consulted on the move.

Senior party leader R.K. Dhawan, who is in charge of the state, told The Tribune that he had no knowledge of the move and had come to know of it only through media reports. Dhawan said he had not spoken to the state leaders on the issue.

Mahajan, in his petition filed a day after the polling ended in the state, sought directions from the court to the Election Commission that the scheduled counting for December 28 be deferred till March to enable the existing House to complete its full term, which ends on March 9.

He has raised constitutional question whether the EC has powers to send a note to the Governor to constitute a new Assembly on the completion of poll process even before the five-year tenure of the existing House comes to an end.

After the EC announced the dates of Assembly polls in October, the Congress had sought a change in the dates for reasons of extreme weather conditions and constitutional principles.

However, the EC had rejected the Congress demand and instead offered to advance the poll by 15 days to accommodate the school examinations. 

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