SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Children light candles to pay tributes to victimsTsunami Anniversary
Survivors pray, some complain of govt apathy

Chennai/Kollam, December 26
The wounds have healed. But the scars still remain in the minds of the survivors, who were witness to the nature’s fury that struck in the form of tsunami in 2004.

Children light candles to pay tributes to victims on the third anniversary of the 2004 tsunami at Marina, in Chennai, on Wednesday. — PTI

Prez hands over 200 houses to victims
Port Blair, December 26
President Pratibha Patil today handed over 200 tsunami permanent shelters to tsunami-hit villagers of Kinyuka in Car Nicobar, marking a beginning of the culmination process of the tsunami rehabilitation programme in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Goa Movement Opposes Setting up of SEZs
Activists may play spoilsport in Goa New Year festivities
Mumbai, December 26
Those planning to usher in 2008 on the beaches of Goa be warned. Protesters opposed to SEZs being proposed to be set up in Goa have threatened to disrupt festivities.






EARLIER STORIES




India’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi
India’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi speaks to the media after her VRS plea was accepted by the government, in New Delhi, on Wednesday. — PTI photo

Govt accepts Bedi’s VRS application     
New Delhi, December 26
The government has accepted the voluntary retirement application of India’s first woman IPS officer, Kiran Bedi, who put in her papers after superceded by Y.S.  Dadwal as Delhi Police Commissioner.

Christian body blames govt for attacks
Urges PM for police protection to Christians
Bhubaneswar, December 26
The Orissa unit of the All-India Christian Council today held the state government responsible for the attacks on churches and Christian organisations in Kandhamal district saying the action initiated by the administration was “inadequate”

Cong, Left flay attacks on Christians
New Delhi, December 26
The Congress today condemned attacks on Christians in Orissa and demanded the state government take immediate steps to stop the violence.

Gujarat Analysis
49 MLAs have pending criminal cases
Chandigarh, December 26
Incredible, but true! The electorate in Gujarat exercised its mandate for bringing to power at least 49 MLAs with pending criminal cases. At least 18 are allegedly involved in heinous crimes. Both the BJP and the Congress were not averse to the idea of issuing the party ticket to candidates with pending criminal cases. As much as 20.3 pc candidates fielded by the BJP had criminal cases pending against them and 31 pc of the INC were in a similar position

Dissidents appease Modi
Ahmedabad, December 26
As a victorious Narendra Modi appeared to reach out to the dissidents and those who had opposed him, a section of the VHP leaders came out in the open to support him.

Now, Cong selective with JD(S) rebels
Bangalore, December 26
A week is a long time in politics and this seems to hold true for former Janata Dal (Secular) leader M.P. Prakash, who is inclined to steer his group of former JD (S) rebels into the Congress. 

2 Indians deported from USA, held
Kolkata, December 26
Two Indians, claiming to be a married couple, were arrested today on their arrival at the Netaji Subash Chandra Bose International airport after being deported from the New York airport, as the immigration department barred them from entering the USA.

Akshardham temple enters Guinness Book
New Delhi, December 26
The Akshardham temple in Delhi has made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world's largest Hindu temple complex.
In video (56k)

Wannabe star alleges rape by Marathi director
Pune, December 26
Popular Marathi actor Ramesh Bhatkar, who is husband of a sessions judge in Mumbai, has been accused of attemping to sexually assault a minor, who also alleged that film director Ravi Naidu raped her.

Panel indicts water resources ministry
New Delhi, December 26
The ministry of water resources has come in for sharp criticism from the parliamentary standing committee related to the ministry for furnishing “incomplete” and “casual” replies regarding its various recommendations, including use of technology to make better use of water going into sea, scheme for artificial recharge of water through dug wells and increasing storage capacity.

Climate change put on top of world agenda
New Delhi, December 26
The year 2007 can easily be termed as the year that put climate change on the top of world agenda and created a surprising awareness among the masses on the issue.

4 cops hurt as rivals attack Cong MLA’s house
Guwahati, December 26
Four policemen, including the officer-in charge of a police station were seriously injured in a panchayat election-related violence involving the ruling Congress and the opposition Asam United Democratuc Forum (AUDF) in Assam’s Goalpara district today.

Maths wizard plans varsity
Hyderabad, December 26
Mathematics genius Shakuntala Devi is planning to start a mathematics university in Hyderabad to explore the world of numbers with a particular focus on vedic mathematics.

Forward Bloc threatens to sever ties with ‘capitalist’ CPM
Barasat, December 26
All India Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas warned of his party’s severing ties with the Left Front’s major stakeholder CPM in West Bengal, if the latter maintained its “capitalist policy”, adopted in the name of industrial development in the state.

Seers at loggerheads with one ‘crossing the seas’
Bangalore, December 26
One of Hinduism’s oldest traditions of treating “Sagarollanghana” or crossing of the seas as sacrilege for its clergy is set to be challenged by Sugunendra Theertha Swami of the Puttige Math, who has announced his decision to perform a ceremonial prayer known as “paryaya pooja” as part of an elaborate ritual that will mark his taking over headship of the Krishna math in the coastal town of Udupi on January 18.

Slum dwellers shout anti-government slogans
Slum dwellers shout anti-government slogans during a demonstration in Mumbai on Wednesday. The protesters were demanding rehabilitation and compensation from the government, after their huts were razed due to land acquisition as part of city development projects. — Reuters

Amar Kant awarded for ‘Inhin Hathiyaron Se’
New Delhi, December 26
Novelists and poets dominated among the 23 winners of the Sahitya Akademi Awards for 2007 announced today with eminent Hindi novelist and freedom fighter Amar Kant bagging the award for his novel ‘Inhin Hathiyaron Se’.

Naxals plan unarmed struggle in Bihar jails
Patna, December 26
The virtual siege of the high security Beur Jail in Bihar last week by about 300 inmates led by the Naxals protesting against “suicide” by a member of the banned outfit, Nagina Manjhi, inside the jail on December 14, finally prompted the Nitish government to have a fresh look at the security aspect in 54 jails in Bihar, including six central jails.

Criminals target judicial officers in Bihar
Patna, December 26
The campaign for justice through speedy trials of lawbreakers and related-record number of convictions in the past two years of the NDA rule seemed to have exposed the judicial officers to greater threats from contract killers in Bihar.

Another FIR against BSP nominee
Ballia, December 26
Another FIR has been registered against Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate for Ballia bypoll, scheduled for December 29. This is the third FIR against BSP nominee Vinaj Shankar Tiwari within a week.

Polavaram project may go the Narmada way
Hyderabad, December 26
Is the prestigious Polavaram multi-purpose project in Andhra Pradesh, billed as India’s first river networking initiative, going the Narmada way? It appears so, going by the setback the government received in the wake of the National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA) quashing the clearances granted earlier by the union ministry of forests and environment.

Shortage of trained pilots adds to chaos
“We’re home now, back in rural northwestern Massachusetts, quite literally a world away from India, but only after a harrowing and frustrating struggle at the Delhi airport."

Miscreants chop off ‘magical leg’ of baba
Hyderabad, December 26
A small-time baba in Andhra Pradesh, who claimed to possess magical powers in his right leg, landed in deep trouble with some miscreants chopping off the leg and taking it away in the hope of benefiting from its mystic powers.

Youth dies midway in race
Bikaner, December 26
A youth participating in a 1500m race for his selection in the railway police today died midway through the race, a senior divisional officer said.

Narang ‘not to seek reelection’
New Delhi, December 26
Bowing to strident opposition from a group of prominent litterateurs, Sahitya Akademi president Gopi Chand Narang today announced that he would not seek reelection for the Akademi's top post.

Police kills 3 kidnappers
Warangal, December 26
Three of the accused in the kidnap and murder of an 11-year-old girl were killed in the police firing after they tried to flee on the outskirts of Thaatikaayala village in the district early today.

ULFA cadre killed in encounter
Guwahati, December 26
A hardcore ULFA cadre was killed in an encounter in Assam’s Sivsagar district late last night, Army sources said today.

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Tsunami Anniversary
Survivors pray, some complain of govt apathy

Chennai/Kollam, December 26
The wounds have healed. But the scars still remain in the minds of the survivors, who were witness to the nature’s fury that struck in the form of tsunami in 2004.

Exactly three years after the killer waves devoured nearly 8,000 lives in the coastal areas of Tamil Nadu, including 206 in Chennai city, the survivors still have vivid memories of how the killer waves pulled their near and dear ones into the jaws of death.

Thousands of survivors in Tamil Nadu and Kerala offered prayers at graves and thronged local beaches while some voiced frustration on the third anniversary of tsunami.

Survivors of that tsunami-hit hamlets in Kerala expressed their dismay over the slow pace of rehabilitation in the state with people in the worst-affected Arattupuzha in Kollam dsitrict observing the day as “deception day” to protest the government’s “failure” in fulfilling its promises.

The NGOs also came under criticism for not keeping their commitments after the killer tidal waves also flattened several villages. Candle-light marches and memorial services were held across Tamil Nadu today while fishermen stayed away from the sea as a mark of respect to to the victims when the tidal waves spawned by the mightiest of earthquakes in 40 years struck coastal districts in the state.

In Chennai, Nagapattinam and Cuddalore along with 10 other districts bearing the brunt of the waves, families of the survivors in the coastal communities offered prayers at the graves with the traditional ‘padayal’ (offering delicacies to the dead).

Memorial meetings were held in various places in Chennai, including Kasimedu fishing harbour, Foreshore Estate and Besant Nagar.

Hundreds of survivors, mostly poor fishermen and their families, held a procession in Nagapattinam district in Tamil Nadu. Youngsters from tsunami-affected families offered flowers to the victims, while earlier in the day parents who had lost children three years ago thronged local beaches and prayed for the souls of their loved ones.

Tens of thousands of Indians lost huts in the disaster and some rights groups say more than 20,000 tsunami-affected families were still waiting for new homes.

“We are tired of promises of projects running into crores of rupees made by the ministers in the past two years. But these promises have not brought any changes in our lives after we lost everything,” a villager at Alappad in Kollam said.

Though the government announced last year that the bank loans of the tsunami-hit would be written off, many complained of receiving revenue recovery notices from banks.

With palpable “disenchantment” in the area, the government put off plans to hold a big tsunami anniversary meeting to be attended by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and others. Kerala revenue minister K.P. Rajendran, while admitting “some delay” in carrying out the projects, said a new schedule had now been worked out to complete them by March 2009.

As part of the tsunami rehabilitation initiative, 43,100 houses had been constructed and 11,000 dwellings repaired, Chief Secretary L.K. Tripathi had recently said.

State social welfare minister Poonkothai had said the state government, with the help of the Centre and the World Bank, was in the process of working out a ‘massive vulnerability reduction programme’ to prevent loss of human life in the event of a major disaster like tsunami. — PTI

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Prez hands over 200 houses to victims

Port Blair, December 26
President Pratibha Patil today handed over 200 tsunami permanent shelters to tsunami-hit villagers of Kinyuka in Car Nicobar, marking a beginning of the culmination process of the tsunami rehabilitation programme in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Patil flew to this village to hand over the keys to the beneficiaries at a function held here this afternoon and interacted with the villagers, Dharam Pal, relief commissioner of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, told UNI over phone from Car Nicobar.

“'Our target is to complete the majority of the houses by December 2008,” Pal added.

Earlier, after her arrival at Car Nicobar directly from the Air Force base from Hyderabad, she laid a wreath at the Air Force Tsunami Memorial and the Civil Tsunami Memorial of Big Lapathy village of the tsunami devastated island.

The President distributed 200 permanent shelters at Kinyuka village in the presence of a huge gathering of islanders and later interacted with tribal council members and villagers.

The construction of 9,797 houses is the important component of the tsunami rehabilitation programme, which is totally estimated to cost about Rs 3,140 crore. The programme is funded under the Rajiv Gandhi Rehabilitation Package and the additional central assistance, according to official details. — UNI

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Goa Movement Opposes Setting up of SEZs
Activists may play spoilsport in Goa New Year festivities
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 26
Those planning to usher in 2008 on the beaches of Goa be warned. Protesters opposed to SEZs being proposed to be set up in Goa have threatened to disrupt festivities.

The Goa Movement against SEZs, an umbrella organisation formed to oppose the setting up of SEZs in the state have asked tourists to stay away from Goa after December 28 as the protests may take a violent turn.

Mathany Saldanha, former MLA from Cortalim, who is a convenor of GMAS, said the Christmas celebrations were not disrupted to enable tourists enjoy Goa. “We have asked them to leave the state before December 28 as we don’t want to harm them in any manner,” Saldanha said recently.

On Christmas day Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, who was in Mumbai, abruptly left for Goa to oversee the law and order situation in the wake of Saldanha’s statement. A vociferous protester, Saldanha, has in the past organised protests in support of fishermen that have taken a violent turn.

After his statement on Sunday, the Goa government has filed a police case against Saldanha. However, he has received support from Manohar Parrikar, the BJP leader of the opposition, in the Goa assembly.

“Matanhy has not threatened violence. His statements have been interpreted wrongly,” Parrikar said. The BJP further said it would take to the streets if Matanhy was arrested. Incidentally, BJP MP Shripad Naik had distanced himself from Matanhy’s statement warning of attacks on tourists.

The Goa administration has taken Matanhy’s threat as a challenge to its authority. The Chief Minister said the police machinery had geared up to tackle any law and order problem. “We have summoned three platoons of paramilitary forces from neighbouring states. In addition 6,000 policemen have been pressed into nab troublemakers,” Kamat said.

The Chief Minister said the government had already announced that it was reviewing the SEZ policy in the light of public protests. Eight SEZs that has so far received clearance from the central government have been put on hold so far, Kamat said.

Meanwhile, hoteliers in the state have decided to rope in private security agencies to prevent their guests being targeted by the anti-SEZ activists.

Many Saldanha supporters have traditionally opposed the big hotels operating on Goa beaches. As a sop to them, the Goa government has allowed them to put up shacks on the beaches outside the hotels. These shacks serve seafood and alcohol at prices far lower than the hotels. The proposal to set up SEZs in Goa has drawn flak from activists and residents who allege that the measures would see the state’s population jump manifold.

In all, 13 SEZs have been proposed that would employ at least 9.5 lakh persons, according to data made available by the government. However, the number of unemployed persons in Goa is just 80,000. The states population stands at 12 lakh persons.

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Govt accepts Bedi’s VRS application
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 26
The government has accepted the voluntary retirement application of India’s first woman IPS officer, Kiran Bedi, who put in her papers after superceded by Y.S. 
Dadwal as Delhi Police Commissioner.

Bedi, a Magasaysay award winner, had lodged a strong protest with the government for ignoring her seniority while appointing the Delhi Police chief, had then opted for voluntary retirement.

Home ministry sources said here today that a notification issued on December 24 had noted that the President was pleased to accept the resignation of Bedi, who was the Director General of the Bureau of Police Research and Development, and she be relieved with immediate effect.

In her voluntary retirement application, Bedi, however, maintained that she wanted to be relieved of her post to focus on her social work commitments and academics.

Bedi, who is popularly known in the police circles as “Crane Bedi” for her strict implementation of traffic norms when she was in the Traffic Wing of the Delhi Police, had held several important positions in the government.

She had also served the United Nations as police adviser in the Peacekeeping Department and was conferred the UN Medal for Outstanding Service.

Her work on prison reforms as in charge of the Tihar Jail has also been widely appreciated.

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Christian body blames govt for attacks
Urges PM for police protection to Christians

Bhubaneswar, December 26
The Orissa unit of the All-India Christian Council today held the state government responsible for the attacks on churches and Christian organisations in Kandhamal district saying the action initiated by the administration was “inadequate”

“The government does not appear to have taken the matter seriously and the slackness on the part of the administration is evident,” organisation’s state unit president, Rev Pran Ranjan Parichha said.

Parichha alleged that Hindu fundamentalist groups had fomented all trouble.

Denouncing and deploring the attacks on particular community in Orissa, church leaders here today urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to prevent the massacre of the community and desecration of churches in the state.

In a memorandum on behalf of the All-India Catholic Union, the All-India Christian Council and the United Christian Action submitted to the Prime Minister, National Integration Council member John Dayal said the atrocities against the community in the state on December 24 and 25 were fast exploding into the kind of violence seen in the Dangs district of Gujarat during the Christmas of 1998.

Calling the escalating violence and the targeting of Church leaders a well planned conspiracy, he alleged that the main aggression was from the Kui Janakalyan Samiti with its entire attention on driving away the community from the region.

Dr Dayal appealed to the Union government to impress upon the Orissa government to ensure ample police protection to the community, its personnel and the institutions in the state. — PTI, UNI

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Cong, Left flay attacks on Christians

New Delhi, December 26
The Congress today condemned attacks on Christians in Orissa and demanded the state government take immediate steps to stop the violence.

“The unfortunate incidents in Orissa are not good for the country, for any civilised society. The Congress demands from the Orissa government that it should take steps as soon as possible to stop the condemnable incidents,” AICC spokesman Shakeel Ahmed told reporters.

Asked if the Congress was for an intervention by the National Commission for Minorities in the matter, he said the state government should get some time to normalise the situation.

“If the situation does not normalise, then bodies like the Minorities Commission can be approached,” he said.

“The state government’s report is awaited. Sangh organisations are being named. The BJP is the ruling party’s (BJD) alliance partner and hence fingers can be pointed at the government. So the matter should be looked at carefully,” Ahmed said.

Meanwhile, the CPI and CPM also condemned the “organised attacks” against Christians and asked the state government to take immediate steps to protect the minority community through deployment of adequate security forces and arresting the culprits. 

Maintaining that the attacks by VHP and RSS mobs took place on Christmas and the day before, the CPM Politburo said Kandhamal district has been, “for years, the target of communal activities against the Christian community”.

It said the state government and district administration had “failed” to take adequate measures to protect the minority community. — PTI

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Gujarat Analysis
49 MLAs have pending criminal cases
Saurabh Malik
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 26
Incredible, but true! The electorate in Gujarat exercised its mandate for bringing to power at least 49 MLAs with pending criminal cases. At least 18 are allegedly involved in heinous crimes.

Both the BJP and the Congress were not averse to the idea of issuing the party ticket to candidates with pending criminal cases. As much as 20.3 pc candidates fielded by the BJP had criminal cases pending against them and 31 pc of the INC were in a similar position

Interestingly, just 37 per cent of the total elected representatives are graduates. Thirty-eight MLAs have not even completed their school education.

The success rate of women candidates as a whole is just 18 per cent with only 16, out of total 88 women candidates, emerging victorious. Out of total 182 MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly, only 8.8. per cent are women.

An analysis of Gujarat assembly election results by Ahmedabad-based ‘Association for democratic reform’ has, in fact, revealed that almost 27 per cent of the total elected representatives have criminal cases pending against them.

As expected, the MLAs with criminal record do not belong to a single party. In it’s analytical report ‘Gujarat election watch-2007’, the association has stated that 25 out of 117 BJP MLAs have criminal cases pending against them. It accounts for 21.4 per cent of all BJP MLAs.

In terms of percentage, the situation is worse with the Congress. As many as 32. 2 per cent of all Congress MLAs have criminal cases pending against them. In all, 19 out of 59 INC MLAs are facing allegations.

The report has been prepared by 12-member Gujarat election watch committee. Headed by former Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court Justice B.J. Divan, it has eminent members, including former dean and director-in-charge of IIM-A Prof. Jagdeep Chhokar.

Both the BJP and the Congress are apparently not averse to the idea of issuing tickets to candidates with pending criminal cases. Whereas 20.3 per cent candidates fielded by the BJP had criminal cases pending against them, 31 per cent candidates contesting the polls on INC tickets were similarly situated.

Out of total, 18 MLAs are allegedly involved in heinous crimes. Seven are from the INC, nine are from BJP and one is from JD (U). The lone independent MLA faces allegations of heinous crime.

Elaborating, the analysis says two MLAs have been charged with attempted murder. Both are from the INC. One MLA each from the Congress and the BJP have been charged with kidnapping with intent to confine person under Sections 365 and 366 of the IPC.

A BJP MLA “has been charged with robbery, or dacoity under Section 397 of the IPC”. A Congress MLA has been charged under Section 392, which deals with punishment for robbery.

On education level, the report reveals that 38 per cent BJP MLAs are graduates, while 37 per cent INC MLAs have completed their graduation.

The results make it obvious that the success rate of BJP’s women candidates is higher than that of the party’s male candidates - 71.4 per cent against 63.35 per cent.On the other hand, the success rate of INC’s women candidates is extremely low, compared to male candidates - just 7 per cent against 37 per cent.

The committee concludes by saying it possibly indicates that the INC showed less faith in women candidates by fielding only 14 women in 173 constituencies, it may also have fielded women from constituencies it was less sure of winning.

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Dissidents appease Modi

Ahmedabad, December 26
As a victorious Narendra Modi appeared to reach out to the dissidents and those who had opposed him, a section of the VHP leaders came out in the open to support him.

Senior VHP leader leader Avichaldas Maharaj, who had carried out a campaign against the chief minister during the elections, today expressed the hope that that he would take everybody along in the next five years of his rule.

Bharat Patel, the son of former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, who received Modi yesterday, also greeted him on his spectacular performance.

“I was in Rajkot when the Chief Minister was at my residence. I congratulated him and said that I would visit him to extend my greetings in person. Modi said I was welcome anytime,” Patel, who was offered a BJP seat but did not not contest in deference to his father, told PTI.

Asked whether his father had replied to the notice issued by the BJP for his dissident activities, Bharat Patel said he may send the reply in a day or two. “The reply will be precise and concise,” he added.

To a question whether there were chances of any patch-up between the two leaders, Bharat Patel said it was too early to comment on it.

As the election results started flowing in, Keshubhai Patel had also on Sunday greeted Modi on his victory and said in the interest of the people both the ruling and opposition parties should work together.

In his speech after election as leader of the BJP Legislature Party on Monday, Modi had taken a soft line against the dissidents and left it to the party to decide on them.

Avichaldas Maharaj, who had charged Modi with trying to break the VHP before the elections, said the Chief Minister through his post-victory speeches and actions had dropped hints that he planned to take every member of the Sangh Parivar along.

“The fight against him (before the elections) was a matter of principle”, said Avichaldas who was one among the many VHP sadhus, who had supported the rebels within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and had led a campaign against Modi.

The VHP sadhus had also accused Modi of trying to build an image “at the cost of Hindus and Hindutva”.

Avichaldas Maharaj, who suprised everybody by being present at the swearing-in ceremony of the Chief Minister yesterday, said “now that Modi has met Keshubhai Patel after his victory, we feel that he plans to take everyone along”.

When asked why he attended the Chief Minister’s swearing-in function in spite of the differences, Avichaldas said, “When a Chief Minister shows humility and sends a personal invitation, then it is my responsibilty to respond positively to it.”

Similar views were expressed by another sadhu Shambu Maharaj who was one among the group of VHP sadhus who campaigned against the chief minister.

“Avichaldasji had informed all of us that he was invited for the event”, Shambhu Maharaj said. “There is nothing wrong if he went to the function. He is still with us”, he added.

“Moreover, in my personal opinion, after his victory in the assembly elections, we feel that that there is a change in attitude of the Chief Minister”.

“The way he met Keshubhai Patel sends a positive message”, he said.

“I feel that the Chief Minister will arrive at some sort of “samadhan” (agreement) with us before the crucial Lok Sabha elections”, he said.

Shambu Maharaj said apart from Avichaldas Maharaj several sadhus and leaders of the VHP had attended the swearing-in function of the Chief Minister as they were personally invited by Modi. — PTI 

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Now, Cong selective with JD(S) rebels
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, December 26
A week is a long time in politics and this seems to hold true for former Janata Dal (Secular) leader M.P. Prakash, who is inclined to steer his group of former JD (S) rebels into the Congress. A week back the Congress was inclined to give away party ticket for the forthcoming elections to the Prakash group, but after the Gujarat experiment where BJP rebels failed to transfer their vote bank to the Congress, the party is pulling back on the number of seats it can offer to the JD (S) rebels in Karnataka.

M.P. Prakash is also feeling the heat and he today made a statement saying his group would join a party that promised ticket to all his supporters, indicating he was still ready to join the BJP if it accommodates all 11 former legislators and two Legislative Council members, who quit the JD (S) along with him.

Prakash met union minister Oscar Fernandes at the state guest house here and submitted a list of his supporters for whom he desired a Congress ticket. This is the second meeting between Oscar and Prakash. Earlier Prakash had met Oscar in Mangalore and initiated discussions to join the Congress along with his supporters.

The Congress is facing a virtual rebellion from within its ranks due to a large number of BJP rebels willing to join the party on the eve of the Assembly elections, which are likely to be held in April-May next year. A recent example of the resentment was a clash between recent entrant from the JD (S) Siddaramaiah and former legislator M. Mahadev a few days back. Siddaramaiah is alleged to have lunged toward Mahadev at a public function when the latter talked disparagingly about “migrants” in the party.

The party is already saddled with problems of accommodating eight former JD (S) legislators who will formally join the Congress in the presence of party president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi next month. Besides, the additional doling out of seats to the supporters of Prakash is causing friction, especially after the Gujarat fiasco where rebel BJP leaders lost badly at the hustings on Congress ticket.

Prakash is set to hold a meeting of his followers tomorrow to finalise which party he will join. Sources said he was under pressure from his group members to ensure Congress ticket to all of them. The legislators aligned with Prakash despite being promised ticket by the JD (S) in case they dumped him. This option was taken by seven legislators of the Cheluvaraya Swamy group, which had switched sides to the JD (S) after siding with Prakash in the initial stage of his rebellion.

The options before the rebels are limited with the BJP also not willing to accommodate all of them. BJP leaders in Bellary, including former minister B. Sriramulu and MLC Janardhan Reddy have urged the party not to accommodate the Prakash group without consulting the districts units. 

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2 Indians deported from USA, held

Kolkata, December 26
Two Indians, claiming to be a married couple, were arrested today on their arrival at the Netaji Subash Chandra Bose International airport after being deported from the New York airport, as the immigration department barred them from entering the USA.

The two, identifed as Sanjay Saraff (49) and Anita (32), had gone to New York seeking “better livelihood” with Indian passports and US visas. Anita’s full name is Anitabein Babulal Patel.
On arrival at the New York airport, the immigration authorities questioned the couple and discovered that the procedures adopted by the two for obtaining the visas were “vague”, airport officials here said.

The two were then stopped from entering the USA and their passports were stamped “inadmissible passenger” by the immigration authorities. The duo arrived at the NSCBI airport last night. — UNI 

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Akshardham temple enters Guinness Book

New Delhi, December 26
The Akshardham temple in Delhi has made it to the Guinness Book of World Records for being the world's largest Hindu temple complex.

A senior official of the Guinness World Records Limited travelled to India last week to present two world record certificates to the head of Swaminarayan Sansthan, Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

Michael Witty, a senior member of the Guinness World Record Main Management Committee, presented the awards to Bochasanvasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sansthan (BAPS)

under two categories: Most Hindu temples consecrated by a single person and secondly, the world's largest comprehensive Hindu temple. "His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, internationally revered spiritual leader and head of BAPS Swaminarayan Sansthan, has created and consecrated in accordance with the Hindu rituals, a world record of 713 mandirs (temples) in five continents between April 1971 and November 2007," the certificate said.

"Amongst these, the majestic, ornately hand-carved BAPS Swaminarayan Akshardham in New Delhi, India, stands apart as the largest Hindu temple in the world," it added.

"It took us three months of research, poring over the extensive architectural plans of the Akshardham and also those of other temples of comparable size, visiting and inspecting the site, before we were convinced that Akshardham deserved the title," Michael Whitty said. — PTI

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Wannabe star alleges rape by Marathi director

Pune, December 26
Popular Marathi actor Ramesh Bhatkar, who is husband of a sessions judge in Mumbai, has been accused of attemping to sexually assault a minor, who also alleged that film director Ravi Naidu raped her.

The police filed a case against Bhatkar and Naidu following a complaint by the 17-year-old girl’s mother. Bhatkar is the husband of MCOCA judge Mrudula Bhatkar, who is hearing the case relating to 2006 Mumbai serial train blasts. Four others, including the aunt and uncle of the victim, have also been named in the case.

Bhatkar is alleged to have sought sexual favours from the girl in return for giving a break in films. “Commander” and “Hello Inspector” are a few films, which have featured Bhatkar.

According to Wonowri police with whom the minor’s mother lodged a complaint last night, Naidu lured the girl with a promise of offering a role in films and allegedly raped her at his farmhouse last March. Naidu had also taken the girl to Hyderabad and Mumbai and kept her in confinement, the complaint added that she was taken to Bhatkar’s residence in Kothrud in August, where the actor allegedly sought sexual favours from the girl.

The girl was let off by Bhatkar from the flat after she raised an alarm, the complaint said. Bhatkar has been booked under IPC 354 (attempt to outrage modesty), the police added.

Bhatkar had rejected the allegations and claimed that he was not involved in the offence. — PTI Top

 

Panel indicts water resources ministry
‘Casual’ replies on recommendations
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 26
The ministry of water resources has come in for sharp criticism from the parliamentary standing committee related to the ministry for furnishing “incomplete” and “casual” replies regarding its various recommendations, including use of technology to make better use of water going into sea, scheme for artificial recharge of water through dug wells and increasing storage capacity.

The standing committee on water resources has even advised the ministry “to desist against the tendency of providing incomplete replies to its recommendations in future.”

Observing that the existing storage capacity in the country was Rs 71.70 billion cubic metre (BCM), the committee said it was proposed to create 30.57 BCM through the projects under construction and an additional storage of 71.34 BCM through projects under consideration.

Pointing out that it had recommended to take up with the ministry of environment and forests the suggestion for modification of clause relating to mandatory clearance of projects and suitable changes in the National Environment Policy 2006, the committee said the reply given by the water resources ministry does not indicate the response from the environment ministry.

Noting the per capita availability of water in the country has got reduced from 5,177 cubic metre in 1951 to 1,820 cubic metre in 2001 with variation in water availability in different river basins, the committee said 746 BCM was lost annually to sea due to lack of a suitable technology. Referring to its earlier recommendation, the committee said the ministry’s reply made no mention as to what concrete steps had been taken or were proposed towards finding a better technology to make the unused water fit for drinking.

“The reply is also silent as to the steps taken or being initiated to achieve the goal by seeking the assistance of the ministry of science and technology and other allied organisations,” it said.

Referring to the Centre’s scheme on artificial recharge of groundwater through dug wells in 1,065 over-exploited blocks in seven states, the committee said the reply of the ministry was silent about the responses received from the ministries concerned and the time frame in which the scheme would be operationalised.

The report, presented to Parliament in the winter session, also referred to the evaluation of accelerated irrigation benefits programme (AIBP) taken up by the ministry of statistics and programme implementation with help of 10 consultancy firms.

Noting that the review report was submitted in December 2006, the committee expressed anguish that despite a year having gone by, the ministry had not been able to process the report.

The committee said the reply given by the ministry was silent on its recommendation about ordering an independent evaluation of target fixation to achieve the desired results in five-year plans.

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2007 — The Environment Year
Climate change put on top of world agenda
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 26
The year 2007 can easily be termed as the year that put climate change on the top of world agenda and created a surprising awareness among the masses on the issue.

From climate change and global warming as something to be discussed by environment groups at seminars and intelligentsia as part of coffee-time debates, 2007 brought dramatic changes in awareness levels on the issue, making it everybody’s business.

Increasing number of people became aware of terms like carbon footprint, CERs, equal share of carbon pie thanks to liberal coverage on scary scenario ahead if climate change was not checked right now.

It was the year when the world presented a unified response to stark realities of climate change, even bringing in line the US who besides being one of the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs) has also been evading the Kyoto Protocol.

The year also saw some attempts by corporate groups as their social responsibility to check global warming by attempting a business strategy around it.

The fourth assessment report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the very beginning of 2007 made it clear that time was running out for the planet and some urgent measures were required to arrest the climate change.

IPCC scientists said enough GHGs had already been emitted to cause a rise of around two degrees by 2050, warning of extreme weather events like droughts, floods and rise in the sea level due to melting of glaciers. This, they said, would threaten the very existence and livelihood of coastal communities, especially in poor countries.

Though efforts to fight climate change remained far from adequate, in words of CSE director Sunita Narain, also on Prime Minister’s Panel on Climate Change, the focus has to be on cooperation now.

“The world has to think big and not in the small, petty way it is thinking till now. Even if India cuts all emissions and China stops breathing, climate change cannot be stopped unless rich countries take big action.”

So the big action saw Nobel Prize for R.K. Pachauri-led IPCC and former US vice-president Al Gore that helped underscore the urgency of the climate crisis.

December 2007 saw developing countries like India specifying their stand at Bali that they should not be mandated any cuts in treaty that will follow Kyoto as that would severely impact their development considering that majority of energy requirements were from hydrocarbons. The Kyoto protocol will expire in 2012.

Bali saw some hard bargaining. The developing nations like India argued that the developed world should subsidise the use of green technology. It was agreed to launch a UN fund to help the poor nations meet damage from climate change like droughts and rise in sea levels.

The fund will begin in 2008 and have 16-member board with representation from the developing countries. The final text distinguished between the rich and the poor countries, calling on the developed nations to consider quantified emissions cuts and developing countries to consider mitigation actions.

Since India also required a domestic strategy on climate change even as it did not move from its international position that the developed world needs to do more to check GHGs, in June Prime Minister Manmohan Singh set up a high-level group of experts on climate change to design country’s strategy for global warming.

Actually, what the Prime Minister said in the middle of 2007 at the G8 in Heiligendamm on fair and equitable emissions became India’s stand on the issue thereafter. The formula should be on basis of per capita emissions was what Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia also said at the UNDP report release.

The developing countries should be willing to undertake that they will never exceed the per capita emissions of developed countries, he said giving the example of the US and Europe. “If together their emission is 15 tonnes per capita then by 2050 it would be obligatory for them to reduce it up to 3 tonnes. India is emitting just one tonne per capita. If it reduces 20 per cent by 2050, the figure would come down to 0.8 per cent which would still be far lesser than the developed countries. Now is that fair?”

Bali meet also agreed for a pay-and-preserve scheme - reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries (REDD) -that would allow the poor nations to sell carbon offsets to the rich countries in return for not burning tropical forests.

Some environmental groups felt the Bali agreement lacked teeth. Narain felt that Bali could extract nothing substantial from the US. Agency reports quoted Bjorn Lomborg, dubbed in 2004 by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people, saying that the Kyoto Protocol and Bali were expensive and inefficient ways to tackle the climate change.

But for Pachauri, Bali was a success. The US was made to commit to do more to arrest global warming and Bali is just the beginning.

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4 cops hurt as rivals attack Cong MLA’s house
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 26
Four policemen, including the officer-in charge of a police station were seriously injured in a panchayat election-related violence involving the ruling Congress and the opposition Asam United Democratuc Forum (AUDF) in Assam’s Goalpara district today.

Police sources here said four policemen were injured, while trying to control a mob of supporters of the AUDF, who had attacked the residence of Congress legislator of Goalpara West constituency Abdul Rashid Mondol this morning.

The attackers threw stones at the house and smashed window panes and damaged the furniture. The MLA, who was inside the house at the time of the attack, managed to escape unhurt. The personal security officers of the MLA had to fire several rounds in the air to disperse the agitators, who threatened to assault Mondal.

Four policemen of the Boguan police station, including the officer in-charge, who rushed to the spot to control the mob were injured in the violence. They were later brought to Guwahati Medical College Hospital (GMCH) in a critical condition. The police is yet to arrest anyone in the connection with the incident.

Mondal had come under another mob attack on December 18 last when he had gone to participate in an apolitical rally organised by the Non-Rabha Coordination Forum at Mailapathar to protest the calling off of the Panchayat election in the Rabha-Hasong areas in western Assam, which also has the non-Rabha population.

Sporadic incidents of clashes between workers of the opposition AUDF and the ruling Congress have created tension in many minority-dominated areas in Assam in the run up to the panchayat election.

Moreover, the All-Adivasi Students Association of Assam (AASAA) and the Assam Tea Tribes Students Association (ATTSA) have also indulged in violence in their bid to prevent ruling Congress workers from entering in thee Adivasi inhabited areas in the state during the poll 
campaigns.

The Adivasi groups have vowed to disrupt panchayat polls scheduled for December 31, January 4 and January 9, in protest against the government’s failure to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to the community. 

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Maths wizard plans varsity
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 26
Mathematics genius Shakuntala Devi is planning to start a mathematics university in Hyderabad to explore the world of numbers with a particular focus on vedic mathematics.

Often referred to as “human computer”, Devi, who found a place in the 1995 Guinness Book of World Records, wants to replace the fear for mathematics in the minds of youngsters with love for the subject.

To be christened as "Ganitha Kshetra", the proposed university will focus on research in mathematics, personality development, mind dynamics and organise mathematical Olympiads and seminars with best mathematicians from around the world.

“People are generally afraid of mathematics thinking that it is very tough. Our centre will help drive away the scare and replace it with passion for the subject,” Devi, who was on a visit to the city, said.

She met Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and sought five acres for setting up the university. The Shakuntala Devi Foundation Trust, started by the mathematics wizard, is developing a mathematics centre in Banga lore, her home town.

Enthused by the positive impact of her workshops on students, she decided to set up the university to address the general phobia of students toward the subject and open to them the wonderful world of numbers.

Devi had approached the previous TDP government for land to set up the university. Before she could submit a detailed project report, the government had changed.

An internationally acclaimed mathematician, Shakuntala Devi also evinces keen interest in the mystic field of Astrology. She had authored several books, including “Puzzles to Puzzle You”, “Fun with Numbers”, “Astrology for you” and “Matheablity”.

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Forward Bloc threatens to sever ties with ‘capitalist’ CPM

Barasat, December 26
All India Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas warned of his party’s severing ties with the Left Front’s major stakeholder CPM in West Bengal, if the latter maintained its “capitalist policy”, adopted in the name of industrial development in the state.

Addressing a gathering here yesterday on the occasion of unveiling the bust of former party general secretary late Chitta Basu, Biswas criticised the CPM’s policy of “patronising the capitalists staying away from its anti-capitalist policy”.

The AIFB general secretary’s view came almost at the same time when Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and industry and commerce minister Nirupam Sen maintained, during their addresses in the CPM District Conference, that without industry in West Bengal, sustainable development would not be possible. And development of industry in the state was inevitable for which they would have to go all out raising confidence of the people of the state.

Criticising the dual role of the Left party, the Forward Bloc leader said the nature of the CPM had come to light and they would have to disclose the facts publicly.

“Dissociation from the CPM may put the Forward Bloc in trouble by losing its seats in the state Assembly in West Bengal or in the Parliament from the state, but Forward Bloc can not do away with its anti-capitalist policy,” Biswas reiterated.

“We could identify the enemies and there is no way out to go against such evils,” he stated.

Referring to the Gujarat elections, Biswas reminded the Left Front major that the latter would have to face consequences in West Bengal, if they “shook hands with the capitalists and went against the interests of the masses”.

“Forward Block can not rely on such strategies as CPM adopted in patronising the Tatas for Singur project at the cost of state exchequer,” he pointed out.

He observed that communist parties in the country and their ideology had been crippled and thus parties like the CPM had to make abortive attempts to beg for a seat in the Gujarat elections tying with the 
Congress.

He, however, defended the role of his state party leadership under Ashok Ghosh for arranging a public rally in Nandigram, where the CPM allegedly maintained double standards for the last 11 months.

“Forward Bloc had never supported the actions taken in Nandigram and will never support them in future,” he maintained. — UNI

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Seers at loggerheads with one ‘crossing the seas’
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, December 26
One of Hinduism’s oldest traditions of treating “Sagarollanghana” or crossing of the seas as sacrilege for its clergy is set to be challenged by Sugunendra Theertha Swami of the Puttige Math, who has announced his decision to perform a ceremonial prayer known as “paryaya pooja” as part of an elaborate ritual that will mark his taking over headship of the Krishna math in the coastal town of Udupi on January 18.

Sugunendra Theerth Swami today asserted that he had every right to perform prayers at the Krishna temple and that he could not be prevented from doing so. The Swami has been criticised by the head of the Pejawar Math - Visvesha Theertha Swami and other followers of the ‘dwaitha” philosophy for undertaking trips to the USA. The Pejawar Math Swami and others had claimed that though the Puttige seer could take over the administration of the Krishna temple, which is headed by rotation by seers of eight ‘maths’ associated with it, he could not perform the symbolic “paryaya pooja’’ to Lord Krishna.

They say this is in line with the traditions of the temple whose heads are not allowed to cross the seas and in case they do they are not allowed to ascend the seat.

The performance of the “paryaya pooja” is, however, symbolic with the taking over of the affairs of the temple for a two year period with “paryaya” meaning rotation and resistance to holding of the symbolic prayer is said to be a precursor to denying the Puttige seer a chance to manage the affairs of the temple.

The Puttige seer is in no mood to bend before the orthodox clergy on the issue of crossing of the seas. He asserted that going abroad did not make anyone impure and that there could not be any distinction between pure and impure in any part of the world. He asserted that both Christian and Muslim communities were also believers and any place associated with the two communities could not be termed as “unholy”. Sugunendra Swami had earlier made it clear that he had visited the USA to spread the “dwaitha’ philosophy and oversee the establishment of Krishna temples in that country.

The seer is apparently winning the war of words as of now with his followers determined to ensure he holds the special prayers, which attract lakhs of devotees to the Krishna temple, as scheduled. A Paryaya Reception Committee, which had been formed to oversee the entire function, announced today that the Puttige seer would perform “pura pravesha” (entry) into Udupi on December 28. He is to be brought into the city in a procession and will perform prayers at various temples, besides the Sri Krishna temple, and will also be given a public felicitation.

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Sahitya Akademi Awards
Amar Kant awarded for ‘Inhin Hathiyaron Se’

New Delhi, December 26
Novelists and poets dominated among the 23 winners of the Sahitya Akademi Awards for 2007 announced today with eminent Hindi novelist and freedom fighter Amar Kant bagging the award for his novel ‘Inhin Hathiyaron Se’.

Bengali poet Samarendra Sengupta, Kashmiri short story writer Rattan Lal Shant and Rajasthani critic Kundan Mali were among other prominent writers to receive the award. The Sahitya Akademi Award for the English category would be declared later, a press note issued here said.

Six novelists besides Amar Kant, who have been conferred the prestigious literature awards, are - Purabi Bormudoi (Santanukulanandan, Assamese), Veerabhadrappa (Aramane, Kannada), Devidas Kadam (Dika, Konkani), A. Sethumadhavan (Adayalangal, Malayalam), B. M. Maisnamba (Imasi Nurabee, Manipuri) and Neela Padmanabhan (Llai Uthir Kaalam, Tamil).

Three playwrights chosen for the awards were Lakshman Srimal (Curfew, Nepali), Kherwal Saren (Chet Re Cikayena, Santhali) and Vasudev ‘Nirmal’ (Vijoon Vasna Aayoon, Sindhi).

The winners will be presented with the awards, each comprising Rs 50,000 and a plaque, at a special function on February 20. The awards were decided at a meeting here today, which was presided over by Sahitya Akademi president Gopi Chand Narang. — UNI

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Naxals plan unarmed struggle in Bihar jails
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 26
The virtual siege of the high security Beur Jail in Bihar last week by about 300 inmates led by the Naxals protesting against “suicide” by a member of the banned outfit, Nagina Manjhi, inside the jail on December 14, finally prompted the Nitish government to have a fresh look at the security aspect in 54 jails in Bihar, including six central jails.

Sources said in the backdrop of the unprecedented development in Beur Jail the state government had now decided to keep shuffling the hardcore Naxals periodically from one central jail to another. The move reportedly was aimed at preventing them from developing proximity and getting organised.

With around 700 hardcore Naxalites now lodged in different Bihar jails, the jail administration reportedly had been of late finding it difficult to deal with them which were manifested from the virtual siege of Beur Jail by the Naxals. Beur Jail alone housed over 150 Naxals.

The move by the Nitish government to shuffle the Naxals from one jail to other periodically also assumed significance after the reported plan by the Left extremists to wage “unarmed war” against the government from the prisons. Beur Jail incident was said to be first such experiment by the ultras.

While the well-organised agitation by the Naxals indeed caught the Beur jail officials off guard, intelligence inputs was said to have already cautioned the state government against such plans by the Naxals in future too.

The intelligence inputs reportedly were based on the resolution of the Ninth Party Congress of the Naxlas held in January-February this year at a forest located on Bihar-Jharkhand border.

It was learnt at the conference that the top Naxal leaders exhorted the party cadres to transform the prisons into political universities. “The Ninth Congress of the Naxals called for developing the prisons as centres of struggle. The resolution adopted also asked the cadres to grab every opportunity to express solidarity with the struggle of prison inmates,” sources disclosed.

The higher-ups in the Nitish administration was said to be now taking a serious look at the resolution adopted in the Ninth Party Congress of the banned Naxal outfit in the backdrop of Beur Jail development.

What was more alarming was the fact that while summing up the resolution on prisoners’ struggle, the banned outfit resolved to strive out every possible means to free the Naxal leader and cadres from jails across the country.

The development came at a time when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reviewed the internal security situation in the country at a meeting of Chief Ministers’ in Delhi on last Thursday in context of the recent jailbreak in Chhattisgarh. Besides, the Prime Minister himself described the Naxalite menace as the biggest threat to the internal security of the country.

The public memory here is still fresh of the daring jailbreak at Jehanabad in Bihar by 150 Naxals in November 2005. This was still considered the biggest ever escape by the ultras in the memorable past.

The enormity of the situation could be felt from the remarks made by Rajnitik Bandi Rihayee Samiti convener Ramdhar Singh.

A former Naxalite, Singh warned of more such ugly outbursts in many jails in Bihar in near future by charging the Nitish government with allowing an explosive situation to prevail inside the jails across the state.

“Nagina was murdered on December 14 by Beur Jail authorities who later spread the rumour that he committed suicide,” alleged Singh.

The reasons behind the widespread resentment, which the Naxals now plan to convert into a struggle within the prisons against the government, are reportedly based on the overcrowded conditions in the jails of Bihar and related alleged inhuman conditions.

Sources said at present about 40,000 prisoners were lodged in 54 jails of Bihar, including the six central jails, against the capacity to accommodate nearly 24,000. In Beur jail, around 2,600 inmates were lodged against the total capacity of 2,360.

The problem of overcrowding was further compounded by the understaffed manning the jails. The staff selection board was said to complete yet the formalities to fill up 4,500 vacant posts in Bihar jails. Besides, the Bihar government was said to be still waiting for 1,000 SLRs promised to them by the Centre to upgrade the jail security in the aftermath of Jehanabad jailbreak in 2005.

And what perhaps made the qualitative distinction between the incident of anarchy that prevailed in Beur Jail last week compared to such incident by other prisoners in the past, was the involvement of the Naxals in leading such “unarmed” agitation.

This reportedly also unfolded the growing vulnerability of Bihar jails as the Left extremists, unlike other criminals and high profile law breakers were known to be more organised to turn any situation to their advantage.

The recent jailbreak incident in Chhattisgarh or the Jehanabad jailbreak in Bihar in 2005 only confirmed that.

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Criminals target judicial officers in Bihar
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 26
The campaign for justice through speedy trials of lawbreakers and related-record number of convictions in the past two years of the NDA rule seemed to have exposed the judicial officers to greater threats from contract killers in Bihar.

This is evident from the recent directive to all SPs by the state police headquarters here to beef up security of lawyers, public prosecutors and additional public prosecutors (APP) dealing with cases involving hardened criminals.

Going by official statistics, there were over two-dozen incidents of attack on APPs, judicial officers and lawyers in the past one year.

The decision to beef up security of judicial officers across the state reportedly followed after the recent killing of two APPs in Jehanabad and Begusarai. “The frequent attacks on the APPs and advocates in the recent past may be linked to the growing rate of convictions through speedy trials. The trend may also be viewed as an effort by some quarters to affect the drive against hardcore criminals”, sources claimed.

Over 4,000 lawbreakers were convicted in the past two years, including life term and death sentences.

Following speedy trials with proper security provided to witnesses by the police, an active judiciary in the state, besides hardcore criminals, also had convicted high profile criminal-turned-politicians in the past one year.

Cutting across party lines, the high profile politicians included controversial RJD MP from Siwan Mohd Shahabuddin, suspended JD (U) MLA Sunil Pandey, former JD (U) MP Anand Mohan among others. 

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Ballia Bypoll
Another FIR against BSP nominee

Ballia, December 26
Another FIR has been registered against Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate for Ballia bypoll, scheduled for December 29. This is the third FIR against BSP nominee Vinaj Shankar Tiwari within a week.

Superintendent L.V. Antony Dev Kumar today said the FIR was lodged against Tiwari, his gunner and driver for issuing life threats to the chauffeur of senior Samajwadi Party (SP) leader and former Uttar Pradesh rural development minister Narad Rai near Chitto Pande crossing.

Tiwari, son of former UP minister and strongman Hari Shankar Tiwari of Gorakhpur, is one of the strongest contenders in fray for the coming bypoll, following the polarisation of brahmin and Dalit votes in the state.

Recently, the BSP candidate was booked for violating the model code of conduct for using a cavalcade of about 115 vehicles without taking prior permission of the district administration. Later, Tiwari was also booked for another breach of model code of conduct.

Besides, FIRs had been lodged against almost all other candidates of prominent political parties, including the principal opposition SP, the BJP and the Congress, for violating the model code of conduct during the past few days.

Cases had been registered against SP candidate and son of former Prime Minister and sitting MP Chandrashekhar, Neeraj Shekhar, BJP’s Virendra Kumar Mast and Congress nominee Rajeev Upadhyay. — UNI

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Polavaram project may go the Narmada way
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 26
Is the prestigious Polavaram multi-purpose project in Andhra Pradesh, billed as India’s first river networking initiative, going the Narmada way? It appears so, going by the setback the government received in the wake of the National Environmental Appellate Authority (NEAA) quashing the clearances granted earlier by the union ministry of forests and environment.

The NEAA order puts a question mark over the fate of the Rs 8,000-crore project, pending for nearly six decades, aimed at providing irrigation facility to 24-lakh acres spread over six coastal districts, besides setting up a 960-MW hydel power plant.

Rechristened as ‘Indira Sagar’ by the Congress government after it took over the reins in 2004, the project, which links two major rivers - Godavari and Krishna - is being opposed by environmentalist groups and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), fighting for separate Telangana state, on the ground that it would displace lakhs of tribals from AP, Orissa and Chattisgarh and submerge several villages.

Based on a complaint filed by two NGOs, the NEAA cancelled the environment clearance given in October 2005. “It is evident that no public hearing was conducted in the affected areas of Orissa and Chattisgarh,” the appellate authority said.

The state government today moved the high court challenging the NEAA’s order. It contended that only about 40,000 families would be affected by the project and the best possible rehabilitation package had been put in place for them.

“It is unfortunate that the appellate authority has quashed the environmental clearance. We had obtained all necessary clearances two years ago. Subsequently, some of the guidelines were changed a year later and based on these guidelines, the order has been issued,” the state major irrigation minister The mega project envisages construction of a dam at Polavaram in West Godavari district with 181.50-km-long left main canal and 174-km right main canal.

It is a long-cherished dream of the coastal region and benefits people of six coastal districts of Krishna, West Godavari, East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam. Godavari is the largest river in South India and second largest in the country, after Ganges.

Following the NEAA order, the main opposition TDP demanded a white paper on the status of the project. It accused the Rajasekhar Reddy government of going ahead with the project, without doing proper homework.

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Delhi Airport - I
Shortage of trained pilots adds to chaos
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

“We’re home now, back in rural northwestern Massachusetts, quite literally a world away from India, but only after a harrowing and frustrating struggle at the Delhi airport."

Overall airport impression of another traveller: dirty, old, hard to get information in and non-existing service from the staff.

None other than non-resident Indian families travelling out of India following a stay here has posted messages of this kind on various websites. This, incidentally, is the story of most of the travellers at the Delhi airport, whether domestic or international.

The modernisation work of the airport is now underway. As a result, half of the airport has been blocked for renovation. The new construction being undertaken at a massive scale outside the building is creating further trouble with the rising dust.

This is not all. The thick fog that envelops Delhi during the winter season is the biggest bane of the travellers now. While yesterday as many as 50 flights were delayed, there have been days in the past month or so or when the number has crossed over a 100.

Besides fog, there is a lot that is plaguing the Delhi airport at present. Consequently, there is chaos almost on a daily basis, with the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) all expressing their helplessness at the present state of affairs.

While flight delays are almost a daily routine, what is surprising is the number of air misses which have occurred over the city skies and which have put the lives of the passengers at risk. Experts point to various reasons for this.

From increased traffic to lack of pilots trained for CAT-III landing to problems with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) all have a hand to play with the present state of affairs.

The first problem starts with the shortage of pilots trained to fly on CAT-III system. Apart from national carrier Air India, only Kingfisher, IndiGo and Go Air pilots are trained with CAT-III, an instrument that helps in operating flights in dense fog.

Air India, including the former Indian, Kingfisher, IndiGo and Go Air have 457, 43, 16 and 13 pilots respectively who can operate at Delhi airport during peak fog time.

But as is the case, except Air India, which ensures that all its CAT-III pilots are available to peak fog traffic time, the other airlines have a problem in adjusting these pilots.

The DGCA rules stipulate that the pilots cannot have more than eight hours of duty time. The other regulation of adequate rest time for the pilots proves to be a handicap for these airlines.

In the absence of adequate number of pilots, the airlines are forced to use some of those pilots who are not trained for CAT-III during the peak traffic hour, leading to delays.

Incidentally, CAT-III is a system that allows compatible aircraft and trained pilots to land even when the runway visibility range (RVR) is up to 50 metres. Flight movement at the Delhi airport is completely aborted when RVR falls below 50 metres. This has not happened so far during this season.

Jet, JetLite and Spice Jet pilots are only trained with CAT II procedures which is applied when RVR falls to 1,500 m, top DGCA officials said. DGCA has plans to disallow slots (flying hours) given to private airlines if they cancel any of their flights this winter due to any reason. The Directorate has issued orders where airlines have been asked to roster their CAT-III pilots to Delhi airport.

Officials point out that private airlines were not training their pilots under the CAT-III programme as it is very costly and its dynamics change with advances in technology. Airlines prefer to reschedule flights, instead of spending money on pilot training.

To be concluded 

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Miscreants chop off ‘magical leg’ of baba
Ramesh Kandula
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 26
A small-time baba in Andhra Pradesh, who claimed to possess magical powers in his right leg, landed in deep trouble with some miscreants chopping off the leg and taking it away in the hope of benefiting from its mystic powers.

Eighty-year-old Yanadi Kondaiah was the centre of attraction at Yagamreddy Kandriga village in Anantapur district as the word spread far and wide that his right foot had magical powers that could cure any ailment.

A steady stream of followers from far off places, including Bangalore, made a beeline for his darshan in the hope of finding solution to their problems. The baba would bless his devotees by touching them with his leg.

Life was going on fine till he was confronted by visitors of a different kind. Posing themselves as devotees, two persons befriended him, requested him to have drinks with them.

The baba agreed. After the drinking binge, the duo sawed away his miracle leg and fled the village. The old man was left bleeding till the villagers rescued him. Kondaiah is now undergoing treatment at a hospital in the temple town of Tirupati. 

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Youth dies midway in race

Bikaner, December 26
A youth participating in a 1500m race for his selection in the railway police today died midway through the race, a senior divisional officer said.

Kirori lal Meena, 25, of Rajasthan’s Dabari village was among 1000 candidates participating in the railway recruitment test for his selection to Group D post this morning, senior divisional personal officer of Bikaner division, Kailash Panwar said.

He said Meena collapsed just after completing the third lap of the race and a medical team called to the spot, declared him dead there.

Unofficial sources, however, said the youth died of heart attack. — PTI

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Narang ‘not to seek reelection’

New Delhi, December 26
Bowing to strident opposition from a group of prominent litterateurs, Sahitya Akademi president Gopi Chand Narang today announced that he would not seek reelection for the Akademi's top post.

“...considering all aspects, including the past conventions, I have taken a decision on my own to withdraw my name and not to seek reelection,” Narang said in a press note issued here.

Barely some days ago, Janwadi Lekhak Sangh (JLS) - an All-India Association of Hindu and Urdu Writers - had alleged that Narang was manipulating his re-election by violating all norms and moral values.

In a memorandum to union culture minister Ambika Soni, JLS general secretaries Chanchal Chauhan and Murlimanohar Prasad Singh accused Narang of packing the organisation with his “followers and friends” in order to ensure his re-election.

They also appealed Soni to order an inquiry into the Akademi’s alleged irregularities and financial bungling.

The signatories to the memorandum included Mahasweta Devi, Ajeet Cour, Krishna Sobti, Manglesh Dabral, Chitra Mudgal, Aslam Pervez, Satish Kalsekar, Vishnu Khare, Ashok Vajpeyi and Giriraj Kishore.

JLS had earlier submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former information and broadcasting minister S Jaipal Reddy, demanding a thorough inquiry into the alleged irregularities committed by Narang in his capacity as the akademi president. — UNI

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Police kills 3 kidnappers

Warangal, December 26
Three of the accused in the kidnap and murder of an 11-year-old girl were killed in the police firing after they tried to flee on the outskirts of Thaatikaayala village in the district early today.

The police said the trio - Thokala Raju, Ladella Ashok and Bandi Naresh - were brought to the well, from where Manisha’s body was found on December 16, to examine the area for further evidence and know the sequence of events to strengthen the case.

The prime accused, Thokala Raju, snatched the pistol of Matwada Circle inspector K. Dakshana Murthy and opened fire at the police and tried to escape. In self-defence the police too fired at them killing all three.

The abductors, after kidnapping the girl from school on December 10, had demanded a ransom of Rs 25 lakh from the girl’s father M. Sadanandam. — UNI

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ULFA cadre killed in encounter

Guwahati, December 26
A hardcore ULFA cadre was killed in an encounter in Assam’s Sivsagar district late last night, Army sources said today.

The slain militant had been identified and reportedly belongs to Lethera, which falls under Borhat police station.

The operation was carried out jointly by the Army and Sivsagar police.

A grenade and an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) had been seized from the slain militant, the sources said. — UNI

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