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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Orissa Communal Clashes
Minister resigns, probe ordered
Bhubaneswar, December 28
An Orissa minister resigned today owning moral responsibility for the communal disturbances in Kandhamal district as the state government ordered a judicial probe into the violence and arson.

Manmohan hails Bhutto as South Asia’s outstanding leader
New Delhi, December 28
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today hailed former Pakistan Prime Minister late Benazir Bhutto as South Asia’s “outstanding” political leader who was committed to the cause of democracy and Indo-Pak friendship.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signs the book of condolences at the Pakistan High Commission Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signs the book of condolences at the Pakistan High Commission after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in New Delhi on Friday. — Reuters photo







EARLIER STORIES




‘Losing Bhutto is a severe blow to democracy’
New Delhi, December 28
The Guild of Service (GOS), a non government organisation, today said Benazir Bhutto’s loss has dealt a severe blow to democracy, to Pakistan and to the women’s movement in South Asia.

Security tightened in Mumbai
Mumbai, December 28
Security has been tightened in Mumbai in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto.

Fresh ultimatum against Taslima
Kolkata, December 28
The Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan mosque today served a fresh ultimatum on Taslima Nasreen, saying the self-exiled Bangladeshi writer would not be allowed to return to Kolkata until she offered unqualified apology for blasphemous writings.

BJP on a high after HP, Gujarat results 
New Delhi, December 28
Scoring an emphatic victory in Himachal Pradesh after its impressive performance in Gujarat Assembly elections, an elated BJP today saw the results as a pointer to a change of government in the next Lok Sabha elections.

Blast in hospital kills four
Bahraich, December 28
At least four people were killed and two others seriously wounded, when a blast occurred at the district hospital here this morning.

Delhi Airport - II
Hope of a Heathrow  in the making
New Delhi, December 28
The losses due to delays and diversions every year are mind-boggling. Aviation officials estimate that the domestic airlines industry loses around Rs 40 million a day due to flight delays and diversions.

Monk self-immolates for salvation
Patna, December 28
A pall of gloom descended on Buddhism’s holiest shrine at Bodh Gaya in Bihar today following self-immolation by James Lamo, a monk in her mid 80s.

Indo-Russia talks on Admiral Gorshkov soon
New Delhi, December 28
In another bid to iron out differences over cost escalation of weapons systems, including the aircraft carrier Admiral Groshkov, Indian and Russian defence officials would open crucial talks next week.

Russian shot dead in train
Chitrakoot, December 28
Unidentified assailants shot dead a foreigner and grievously wounded a woman and looted the passengers of Varanasi-Mumbai bound Kamyani Express here this morning.

WB Panchayat Poll
CPM’s allies plan to go big
Kolkata, December 28
The Forward Bloc (FB) and the RSP, two major partners of the Left front today asked the CPM leadership to abandon their big-brotherly attitude towards the small parties. Otherwise, they would leave the front, they warned.

Adivasis to float national political party
Guwahati, December 28
Riding the tide in the wake of Adivasis’ intensive campaign for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status in Assam, the leaders of the community have decided to form a national political party exclusively for Adivasis next year.

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Orissa Communal Clashes
Minister resigns, probe ordered

Bhubaneswar, December 28
An Orissa minister resigned today owning moral responsibility for the communal disturbances in Kandhamal district as the state government ordered a judicial probe into the violence and arson.

Steel and mines minister Padmanabha Behera, representing the Phulbani (SC) assembly constituency in tribal-dominated Kandhamal district submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at his residence.

“In the last few days, misleading statements in my district were spread through the media. In order to remove this public misconception and to restore age-old harmony between scheduled castes and tribes in my district, I decided to tender my resignation,” he said.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik, who visited the riot-torn area yesterday to take stock of the situation, said the government would soon name a judge for the probe and lay down the terms and conditions for the purpose.

Violence erupted in Brahamanigaon village of Kandhamal district on December 24 after the members from Christian and tribal communities clashed over the forceful erection of a gate on a disputed land to celebrate Christmas.

The authorities imposed a curfew, deployed 30 platoons of police force and three companies of the CRPF after the situation went out of control.

The state government had also sought five more companies of the CRPF.

Four days after communal violence broke out at Kandhamal district, the state government today put at rest the confusion prevailing on the exact number of persons killed, putting the number at two dead and 25 injured.

Senior officers assigned to control the communal flare-up in the tribal-dominated district today said while one person died of stone pelting at Barakhama village on Christmas day another succumbed to police firing yesterday at Brahmanigaon village.

Patnaik had said the government had received reports of two deaths at Brahmanigaon village. He had, however, said the government was not sure on the number of persons killed in the police firing.

While putting the number of affected families at 300, revenue divisional commissioner southern division, Satyabrata Sahu said a total of 30 houses were burnt against an unofficial claim of over 300 houses.

He rejected the claim made by the archbishop that 55 churches including five major ones, were either ransacked or set on fire during the incident. — UNI, PTI 

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Manmohan hails Bhutto as South Asia’s outstanding leader

New Delhi, December 28
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today hailed former Pakistan Prime Minister late Benazir Bhutto as South Asia’s “outstanding” political leader who was committed to the cause of democracy and Indo-Pak friendship.

“It was with the deepest sense of horror and sorrow that I learnt of the tragic demise of Madam Benazir Bhutto,” Singh wrote in the condolence register kept at the Pakistan High Commission here.

“In her sad and untimely demise, Pakistan and South Asia have lost an outstanding political leader who was passionately committed to the cause of moderation, democracy and, peace and friendship between our two countries,” he wrote.

“I convey my heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family and the people of Pakistan,” the Prime Minister wrote. Singh earlier said in Panaji that the incident was a reminder of what terrorism can do and underlined the need for a joint fight against the menace.

“The grievous blow is the demise of Bhutto, this great tragedy once again is a reminder to all of us of the great harm that terrorism can do to the peace, prosperity and well-being of the region,” he said.

“We all have obligation to work together to deal with this menace which threatens the ways of civilised people living all over the world,” Singh added. — PTI

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Losing Bhutto is a severe blow to democracy’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 28
The Guild of Service (GOS), a non government organisation, today said Benazir Bhutto’s loss has dealt a severe blow to democracy, to Pakistan and to the women’s movement in South Asia.

In a statement issued here today, GOS chairperson Mohini Giri, who is also founder trustee of the Women’s Initiative for People in South Asia (WIPSA) said, “Not only was Benazir a shining example of how women leaders can influence world politics, but she was also a dedicated and committed human being, who cared about her motherland, and about the protection of human rights.

“It is most unfortunate and truly shocking that such a thing should happen to a dynamic lady like her, who came to her homeland after so long as a ray of hope.”Top

 

Security tightened in Mumbai
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, December 28
Security has been tightened in Mumbai in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto.

Security has been tightened around places of worship and areas where people are scheduled to gather for New Year celebrations.

City joint commissioner of police (law and order) K.L. Prasad said the alert was issued following developments in the neighbouring country.

Apart from increasing patrolling, the police will check vehicles and beef up VIP security.

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Fresh ultimatum against Taslima

Kolkata, December 28
The Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan mosque today served a fresh ultimatum on Taslima Nasreen, saying the self-exiled Bangladeshi writer would not be allowed to return to Kolkata until she offered unqualified apology for blasphemous writings.

‘’The fatwa against the foreign writer is still on and any attempt by the Centre and West Bengal government to bring her back would be prevented at all cost,’’ said the 60-year-old Imam, Nurul Rahman Barkati.

Today’s threats came just three days after veteran Marxist and former chief minister Jyoti Basu offered her to come if she liked to return Kolkata provided the Centre gave her security.

The Bangladeshi writer is now in New Delhi with 24-hour security cover, calls Kolkata her second home after she fled from Bangladesh a decade ago soon after a fatwa was proclaimed for her controversial books.

‘’No security can ensure her safety if she was allowed to come here because she offended islamist sentiments,” the Imam warned, amid thunderous applause from many of his followers at a news conference at the Tipu Sultan mosque in the heart of the city. — UNITop

 

BJP on a high after HP, Gujarat results 
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 28
Scoring an emphatic victory in Himachal Pradesh after its impressive performance in Gujarat Assembly elections, an elated BJP today saw the results as a pointer to a change of government in the next Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress, however, dismissed such suggestions, saying that Assembly poll victories did not, by themselves, transform into favouarble results in the Lok Sabha.

Soon after the BJP victory, party leaders sought to link the electoral defeats of the Congress with the “dissatisfaction” of people with the policies of the UPA government.

Senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, who is the party’s prime ministerial candidate, said the issues of price rise, terrorism and farmer negligence were the key issues in the poll and all of them concerned the government at the centre.

“The results of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh should be seen in the context of the rapidly growing unpopularity of the UPA government at the centre, which has failed on all fronts. The people of the country are eagerly looking for liberation from this non-performing government, which is not a coalition but a bundle of contradictions,” he said.

Recalling the Assembly elections in six states held in 2007, of which BJP did well in four, he said the year was ending with an “unmistakable” statement about the coming change in the political equation in the country. “2008 will be a parivartan varsh (year of change) in India,” he said.

He said if the BJP’s victory in Gujarat was on account of a strong pro-incumbency vote, in Himachal Pradesh, it was because of a strong anti-incumbency vote. In both states, the vote was against the Congress. Advani said the BJP’s comeback trail had progressed further and will reach its ultimate destination whenever the next Lok Sabha elections were held.

Advani telephoned BJP’s CM candidate P.K. Dhumal and seior leader Shanta Kumar to congratulate them on the party’s victory. He indicated that the party’s focus was now on Karnataka, which will be among the first states to face elections in 2008.

Party leader Arun Jaitley said development was an issue for the people in both Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat and the Congress government in the hill state had not performed well.

Referring to the top Congress leaders, he said aura of invincibility sought to be built around them had been broken.

BJP workers celebrated the party’s victory at the party office by bursting crackers and distributing sweets.

The Congress, whose leadership is still taking stock of the party’s debacle in Gujarat, cancelled its scheduled briefing today.

Minister of state for industry Ashwani Kumar said the party was disappointed at the results but was determined to reclaim the political space by addressing the reasons that caused its defeat.

He said there was an element of anti-incumbency at work but the party worked unitedly and fought a serious political battle. “I personally believe we will be able to show better results in the Lok Sabha elections,” he said.

Answering queries, Kumar said he saw no correlation between the Gujarat results and those of Himachal Pradesh, as the western state was an isolated case of its kind and saw polarisation for well known historical reasons.

He said though Virbhadra Singh government did a lot of development work, people expected more. “Political parties have to contend with this situation of increasing expectations of the electorate,” he said. 

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Blast in hospital kills four

Bahraich, December 28
At least four people were killed and two others seriously wounded, when a blast occurred at the district hospital here this morning.

The explosion occurred at a section of Malariya Hospital, Chandpur, where construction work was going on, district magistrate Sudhir Srivastava told UNI.

Official sources said the blast was of high intensity as the nearby shops collapsed and as a result one person died.

Three others also died after coming under the debris. The deceased had been identified as Munna (35), Sanjay Singh (42) and Jahid (40).

Srivastava said the blast could have occurred due to bursting of a gas cylinder, however, the police were investigating the matter keeping security reasons in view as the district lies at the Indo-Nepal border.

Rescue work is on, he added. — UNI

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Delhi Airport - II
Hope of a Heathrow in the making
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 28
The losses due to delays and diversions every year are mind-boggling. Aviation officials estimate that the domestic airlines industry loses around Rs 40 million a day due to flight delays and diversions.

A single flight diverted costs an airline close to Rs 4.5 Lakh. And this does not factor in international flights where costs caused by delays are higher as passengers have to be put up in hotels, the cost of which is, again, borne by the airlines.

These are the factors that come into play when conditions are beyond control and cannot be helped. But when such factors become routine due to man-made problems, then it hurts the airlines, some of which keep struggling to remain out of the red.

The Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) has an annual capacity to deal with 12 million passengers but at present it handles as many as 16 million passengers and the number has been rising by the day.

Any delay means crowding of passengers. The lucky ones get hard plastic seats and the unlucky ones either stand or sleep on the floor. Athough Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), which has been given the task of modernizing the airport, has taken certain measures but they are not enough to tackle the load.

Among the measures taken are that a basic Call Centre (011-25661080) has been set up to provide flight information and airlines' contacts numbers. The company's website (www.newdelhiairport.in <http://www.newdelhiairport.in>) has been upgraded to provide flight information to the passengers.

It is also providing a link of the Flight Information Display System (FIDS) on DIAL website for the benefit of passengers. But these are all temporary measures. The nightmare begins the moment you enter the airport premises.

Thanks to the ongoing renovation work there are missing trolleys, leaking ceilings, defunct conveyor belts and fewer check-in counters. And to put the icing on the cake is the crawling air traffic which not only increases the traffic on the ground but up in the Delhi sky also.

The trying time begins while standing in the serpentine queues as a result of less check-in counters. While the number of passengers has multiplied during the last couple of years, the number of check-in and emigration counters has remained the same.

IGIA has only 78 check-in counters. The problem worsened with some of the counters being shut down due to renovation.

DIAL wanted to shift the check-in counters to a different place but could not do so as the space that was earmarked was occupied by an X-ray machine of an international airline which refused to make way for the check-in counters.

While the government is going ahead with revising its air bilaterals with various countries, the process is putting additional burden on the airport and its operators. The increase in traffic can be gauged from the fact that traffic between India and Europe has increased from 70 flights a week to 204 in four years. During the same period, the Indo-US traffic rose from about 450,000 to almost 900,000.

However, the same has not been complemented with an increase in the number of the air traffic controllers. The result has been that not only there have been jams up in the sky but the number of air misses which put the lives of the passengers at risk has increased.

Although over the past few days the authorities have also put to use the secondary runway, leading to two separate runways being used for landing and take-off, but how far it would help in clearing the mess is still not clear.

In the absence of advance training for the ATCs, such measures can only be termed as short term. London's Heathrow Airport, which is one of the busiest in the world, has a 90-second frequency between every take-off and landing. With ATCs being provided with constant training and improvement in landing systems the authorities ensure there are no mishaps and there is minimum inconvenience to the passengers.

DIAL claims that the Delhi airports, when renovated, would be comparable to Heathrow and the Dubai airport.Top

 

Monk self-immolates for salvation
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 28
A pall of gloom descended on Buddhism’s holiest shrine at Bodh Gaya in Bihar today following
self-immolation by James Lamo, a monk in her
mid 80s.

The police said Lamo, who had burnt herself to death yesterday, was from Bhutan.

The police did not suspect any foul play behind the incident. Devotees and authorities at Bodh Gaya were said to be under the impression that she had come to get ultimate freedom from life -salvation- in the land of Buddha.

It was learnt that many devotees yesterday watched the octogenarian monk sit in meditation at the Mahabodhi temple. “The monk was in a meditation posture when she set herself on fire. She had been staying on the temple premises for some days,” the police said.

People, who rushed to save her, were stunned to see that the monk remained firmly seated without crying for help. She had over 90 per cent burns and died at a hospital in Bodh Gaya.

The police, however, were investigating the matter further before reaching any final conclusion.

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Indo-Russia talks on Admiral Gorshkov soon

New Delhi, December 28
In another bid to iron out differences over cost escalation of weapons systems, including the aircraft carrier Admiral Groshkov, Indian and Russian defence officials would open crucial talks next week.

The talks are being held after months of intensive informal counsultations and exchange of communication between the two sides on the issues, defence officials said here.

A Russian defence delegation and representatives of its armament industry will arrive here this month-end. It will hold talks with Indian officials led by defence secretary Vijay Singh and top officials of defence and finance.

Delivery of the naval carrier, which was scheduled in August next year, has been hit by Russians’ demand for a whooping $1.5 billion as the warship, now being upgraded in its shipyards, would need almost 2,000 km of extra wiring to make its command and operational integeration effective.

Under a contract signed in 2004, India had agreed to pay $1.2 billion for revamp of the carrier. — PTI

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Russian shot dead in train

Chitrakoot, December 28
Unidentified assailants shot dead a foreigner and grievously wounded a woman and looted the passengers of Varanasi-Mumbai bound Kamyani Express here this morning.

The incident occurred near Manikpur railway station, where few men barged into the AC-2 coach.

Few passengers, including a Russian and an Indian women, resisted.

The robbers shot at the two women, in which the Russian succumbed on the spot, whereas the other was grievously wounded.

Later, the criminals decamped with jewellery and cash worth Rs 50 lakh, official sources said. — UNI

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WB Panchayat Poll
CPM’s allies plan to go big
Subharngshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, December 28
The Forward Bloc (FB) and the RSP, two major partners of the Left front today asked the CPM leadership to abandon their big-brotherly attitude towards the small parties. Otherwise, they would leave the front, they warned.

The FB already decided to contest the forthcoming panchayat polls “separately and not as partner of the front”. The RSP and the CPI also would be taking the same steps for maintaining their own identity which had been damaged to a large extent during the past 30 years of the Left front rule in the state, when all the small partners were treated like ‘slaves’.

The FB party secretary, Ashoke Ghosh said if needed they would even field candidates against the CPM in those seats where their party strength was greater than other parties.

The RSP leader, Debabrata Bandopadhya said if they still continued to fight the elections as the Left front partners their ‘individual political identity’ would be erased. He felt they should have isolated themselves from the CPM much earlier to serve their political interest.

Jyoti Basu, however, requested the leaders of the partner parties, not to leave the front but to remain and fight against their common enemies, namely, the BJP and the Congress (l). 

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Adivasis to float national political party
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 28
Riding the tide in the wake of Adivasis’ intensive campaign for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status in Assam, the leaders of the community have decided to form a national political party exclusively for Adivasis next year.

A meeting of the Joint Adivasi Action Committee (JAAC), a national-level banner organisation of groups representing the Adivasi community in different parts of the country, held here decided to float a new political party next year to serve the exclusive interests of the community. The party will contest Lok Sabha poll in the year 2009.

The JAAC’s chief convenor and former MP, Salkhan Murmu today announced the decision to float a national-level Adivasi party here today. He said the party would give ‘voice to lakhs of voiceless Adivasis’ in the country.

The JAAC has also decided to launch an international campaign to mount pressure on the Indian government to provide equal political, economic and social rights to Adivasis. For the purpose, the JAAC will soon approach the United Nations, Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa.

The JAAC has also called for an indefinite economic blockade in Assam, Jharkhand and greater Jharkhand from January 27 to demand ST status for Adivasis living in Assam and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Murmu said, “The Adivasis will now form a national-level political party as we have realised that self-help is the best help. All existing political parties in the country are not interested in the welfare of our community.”

Murmu, who is also the chairman of the Jharkhand Disom Party, said, “Politicians don’t consider Adivasis as equals to other communities in the country. We will have to fight for a place of pride in the society.”

He said the indefinite economic blockade had been called from January 27 to press for their demand of ST status to Adivasis in Assam and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The blockade is likely to affect the Tata units in Jamshedpur, entry points into Assam from West Bengal at Srirampur and Boxirhat and also the Indo-Bhutan border.

“We want the government to realise our contribution to the economy of the nation through the impact of the economic blockade,” Murmu said demanding that the government must stop the displacement of Adivasis in the name of economic development

The JAAC also demanded a high-level enquiry by a sitting Supreme Court judge into the November 24 incident in Guwahati, when clashes between Adivasi agitators and locals resulted in the death of one Adivasi youth and the stripping of a teen-aged Adivasi girl.

The JAAC, in the meeting held on Thursday, resolved to go ahead with its earlier decision to boycott the panchayat election in Assam to register its protest against the non-scheduling of Adivasis in the state.

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