SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
image
N A T I O N

Mamata launches anti-CPM front
Kolkata, December 30
Mamata Banerjee today announced formation of a 16-party front in which the BJP was not invited but the doors had been kept open for the Congress.

Ram Setu
Saffron brigade sets Jan 16 deadline
New Delhi, December 30
Riding high on the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly election triumphs, the saffron brigade today threatened a nationwide movement if its demands for protecting the Ram Sethu as a national treasure and world heritage site.
Demonstrators raise slogans at a rally organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in New Delhi on Sunday.
Demonstrators raise slogans at a rally organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in New Delhi on Sunday. — PTI photo

Star Deepika IGNOU student
New Delhi, December 30
She has grabbed eyeballs with her performance in “Om Shanti Om” and is the latest Bollywood heartthrob.






EARLIER STORIES




India to halt arms supplies to Myanmar
New Delhi, December 30
Myanmar foreign minister U.Nyan Win will arrive here on New Year day, close on the heels of India halting all arms sales and transfers to the country.

Foreign tourists and other onlookers watch Kalaripayattu, a martial art of Kerala, being performed in a competition in Kozhikode on Sunday.
Foreign tourists and other onlookers watch Kalaripayattu, a martial art of Kerala, being performed in a competition in Kozhikode on Sunday. — PTI photo

No insurance claim if policy cancelled: SC
New Delhi, December 30
The Supreme Court has held that an insurance company is not reliable to pay motor accident claim in case the cheque for payment of premium of the insurance policies has been dishonoured and the policy cancelled.

Helpline for overseas workers
New Delhi, December 30
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (OIA) plans to start a round the year helpline to extend a helping hand to overseas Indian workers in distress.

Samjhauta Express service restored
New Delhi, December 30
The bi-weekly Samjhauta Express between India and Pakistan, resumed its service today, 48 hours following its suspension. The train which runs on Wednesday and Sunday, was suspended on Friday due to security concerns following the assassination of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi.

Karunakaran back in Congress
New Delhi, December 30
Veteran Kerala politician K. Karunakaran today returned to the Congress, two-and-a-half years after he parted ways with it over differences with the state and Central leadership in the midst of rampant infighting in the party.

Censor board not for moral policing, says Sharmila
New Delhi, December 30
Chairperson of the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) Sharmila Tagore is opposed to the idea of using censorship for moral policing and preaching.

Karnataka
Unconventional year ends conventionally with hope
Bangalore, December 30
The year 2007 was marked by new lows in Karnataka with a virtual political circus paralysing governance even as Brand Bangalore came under threat when it was revealed that three highly educated youth from the city were accused of being involved in the failed Glasgow bombings.

Migrant-Loyalist issue
CD threatens to divide Karnataka Cong
Bangalore, December 30
The “migrant-loyalist” issue in the Karnataka Congress, which has already seen a scuffle between recent entrant and former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah and former minister M Mahadev is threatening to divide the party between caste and old versus new lines with Mahadev loyalists defying a party gag order and selling CDs of the fracas between the two leaders besides holding a procession in Mysore against Siddaramaiah.

Task force recommends scrapping of SEZs in Goa
Panaji, December 30
A task force headed by Goa Chief Minister Digamber Kamat today recommended the scrapping of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the state terming them “detrimental to the overall interest of Goa.”

Child Labour
Raghuvansh Prasad defends brother
New Delhi, December 30
Perturbed over charges of child labour against his brother, rural development minister and senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh today shot a letter to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, accusing him of acting with “political motive in instituting a second inquiry into the matter”.

All-women news channel a hit in Bihar village
Patna, December 30
Close on the eve of the new dawn to break in 2008, a unique all-women news channel focusing on development issues in a remote Bihar village has now literally set the stage on fire.

Human Trafficking Case
CBI chargesheets former MEA official
New Delhi, December 30
The CBI has chargesheeted senior diplomat and former special secretary in the external affairs ministry Rakesh Kumar for allegedly being involved in human trafficking.

Sunday services held in violence-hit Orissa dist
Phulbani, December 30
Amid tight security, Sunday services were held today for the first time in churches following an improvement in the situation in violence-hit Kandhamal district of Orissa.

Kiran Bedi to expose police reform process
New Delhi, December 30
Promising to expose how the police reform process is “sabotaged” by the establishment, country’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi is now planning to revise her biography by adding a new chapter, which depicts her past days in policing.

Farm growth remained key govt priority in 2007
New Delhi, December 30
The need for higher and inclusive economic growth coupled with threat of food security put the agriculture sector into the centre stage during 2007. The government also launched a number of schemes involving huge investments to bring farm sector back on track.

All-women news channel a hit in Bihar village
Patna, December 30
Close on the eve of the new dawn to break in 2008, a unique all-women news channel focusing on development issues in a remote Bihar village has now literally set the stage on fire.

Families of Nandigram victims receive compensation
Nandigram, December 30
Nine months after 14 persons were killed in the police firing during anti-land acquisition protest at Nandigram, family members of the dead today received their compensation.

BJP govt will end political victimisation, says Dhumal
New Delhi, December 30
The newly-elected Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal today said though state’s financial position was bad his government will work to provide relief to every section of society. The Chief Minister, who was in Delhi to attend a rally on the Ram Setu issue, will be back in Shimla tomorrow to make the last day of this year his first working day in the office.

 



Videos
Communal tension continues to simmer in Orissa.
(56k)
Sikkim is growing into an ecotourism hot spot.
(56k)
A look at the rocking Indian nightlife.
(56k)
The concept of brunch is picking up in India.
(56k)
Actor Irrfan Khan leaves shoot midway.
(56k)

 

Top









 

Mamata launches anti-CPM front
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, December 30
Mamata Banerjee today announced formation of a 16-party front in which the BJP was not invited but the doors had been kept open for the Congress.

Though the Congress had not responded to Mamata’s call so far, some UPA partners had joined the front, which was named as Progressive Secular Democratic Front (PSDF).

Mamata was made the chairperson of the front at today’s meeting, which also set up a 16-member steering committee to prepare their common minimum programme and finalise their future course of action by involving the people. The first meeting of the front will be held on Janaury 8.

Announcing the decision of the setting up of the new front at a press conference today, Mamata claimed she had held talks with some senior Congress leaders who had expressed their willingness to join the front since they were convinced that unless they were united, it would not be possible for any single party to oust the CPM from the power.

Mamata, however, did not name any Congress leader. External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee and information minister Priya Dasmunshi were also consulted before the formation of the new anti-CPM front, Mamata’s aides claimed.

The CPM did not make any comment officially on the formation of the new anti-CPM front, but Jyoti Basu felt disturbed at the growing political situation in the state.

Speaking to the party leaders on the second day of the state committee meeting at the Alimuddin Street, Basu expressed his resentment at the odd behaviour of some party men towards the partner parties and the people, which had been gradually damaging the party and the Left Front’s unity. He asked the party leaders to hold talks with the aggrieved leaders of the allies and settle their “disputes” so that the front was not broken.

Later talking to the mediapersons, Basu also expressed his anger and unhappiness at the present state of affairs in the CPM. He said he had told Biman Bose and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to meet Ashoke Ghose (FB), Debabrata Bandopadhyya (RSP) and other aggrieved leaders in the partner parties and redress their grievances.

Top

 

Ram Setu
Saffron brigade sets Jan 16 deadline
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 30
Riding high on the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly election triumphs, the saffron brigade today threatened a nationwide movement if its demands for protecting the Ram Sethu as a national treasure and world heritage site and Rameshwaram, a pious holy-city, were not agreed upon by the government.

At a rally staged in the Capital to protest against the controversial Sethusamudram project and boost the movement for protecting the Ram Sethu, in a resolution the Rameshwaram Ram Sethu Raksha Manch threatened the UPA government with countrywide agitation and an ultimatum of January 16 to concede to the demands.

Protesters demanded closure of the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project. Stressing that defection of Ram Sethu would create a security risk for the country, VHP general-secretary Praveen Togadia said the country’s entire south and southeast coastline would be in view of terror groups operating from Indonesia and Malaysia and Sri Lanka up to Nepal.

The rally was collectively organised by the VHP, RSS and other Hindu organisations at Swarn Jayanti Park in north-west Delhi.

Agency reports pegged the figure of those who attended the rally around six lakh with people from all parts of the country assembling at Rohini. Around 1,000 buses and 2,000 other vehicles were engaged to ferry people to Delhi.

The rally was addressed by RSS chief K.S Sudarshan and Ashok Singhal. Prominent BJP leaders Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Murli Manohar Joshi, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Rajashthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindhia, Uttarakhand Chief Minister B.C. Khanduri, MPs, MLAs, shankaracharyas and professional experts were present at the rally. The SAD was represented by Omkar Singh Thapar, who read a message of solidarity sent by Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal.

He said even economics were against the shipping canal. Argument in favour of the SSCP was that ships had to cross 440 oceanic miles in 36 hours, thereby wasting huge amounts of diesel. But even with the project, ships would only be able to save around 45 minutes,” he added.

“Besides if Ram Sethu was destroyed, we would lose thorium that is available at 31 per cent of Indian beaches…Vast chunks of thorium would merge into the ocean and lakhs of fishermen would lose their livelihoods.”

Top

 

Star Deepika IGNOU student

New Delhi, December 30
She has grabbed eyeballs with her performance in “Om Shanti Om” and is the latest Bollywood heartthrob.

But Deepika Padukone has not put academics on the back burner and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts course at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

The rising star evidently has interest in socio-economic issues, as shown by her choice of subjects.

“Padukone is a student of BA course in IGNOU since 2005. She has opted for sociology as her major subject with economics as a subsidiary subject,” said Srikant Mohapatra, the university’s registrar. “She has appeared in five papers at the end of first year in 2006. She has done well in the exams,” Mohapatra said. — PTI 

Top

 

India to halt arms supplies to Myanmar
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 30
Myanmar foreign minister U.Nyan Win will arrive here on New Year day, close on the heels of India halting all arms sales and transfers to the country.

Win’s talks with the Indian leadership would cover a wide swath of strategic, economic and political issues, including the Kaladan multi-modal transport project. The issue of India’s suspension of arms sales to Myanmar is also likely to figure in the discussions.

Though India has not made an official announcement of its recent suspension of arms sales to Myanmar, New Delhi has already shared it with the western community. The ministry of external affairs is reticent on the subject and has not offered any confirmation or denial of the move.

Win will hold talks with external affairs minister Pranab Mukherji and call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on January 2. New Delhi is looking at Win’s forthcoming visit as “substantive”, which will cement the strategic ties between the two neighbours and take their bilateral relationship to a new level.

One of the important talking points will be the highly strategic Kaladan project. The two governments had already sewn up the agreement, though the formal signing of the project was still some time away. India had committed $ 100 million for the project, which includes the building of a waterway, roads and developing the Sitwe port linking Myanmar to Mizoram through the Kaladan river.

India’s northeastern region will be efficiently integrated with the mainland and will emerge as a hub of trade with southeast Asia. The formal signing of the Kaladan project, which involves several ministries, will take time as paper work is not yet ready. Formal signing of the project will not be possible during Win’s visit. Moreover, the union cabinet has to give its nod as it involves such high financial commitments on behalf of the government of India.

Last month, the two governments had finalised several agreements that included the framework agreement on the construction and operation of a multi-modal transit transport facility, protocol on

facilitation of transit transport, protocol on financial arrangements and draft protocol on joint administration and management.

On political issues, India will stick to its three main talking points -- New Delhi’s support to national reconciliation of Myanmar, political reforms, and accommodation of various ethnic groups. India will also raise the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi, but its thrust will be on preparing a national reconciliation process, where all actors, not just Suu Kyi, are on board. India will reiterate its support to the Gambari initiative in this context.

On economic issues, the two countries will focus on beefing up the border trade which contributes very little to the $ 900 million bilateral trade.

Presently, border trade between India and Myanmar is allowed only through two points -- one each in Manipur and Nagaland. However, only 22 items figure in the border trade list. 

Top

 

No insurance claim if policy cancelled: SC

New Delhi, December 30
The Supreme Court has held that an insurance company is not reliable to pay motor accident claim in case the cheque for payment of premium of the insurance policies has been dishonoured and the policy cancelled.

A Bench, comprising Justices S. B. Sinha and Harjit Singh Bedi, observed, “We are not oblivious of the distinctions between the statutory liability of the insurance company vis-à-vis a third party in the context of Sections 147 and 149 of the act and its liabilities in other cases.” “However, the same liabilities arising under a contract of insurance would have to be met if the contract is valid. If the contract of insurance has been cancelled and all concerned have been intimated, we are of the opinion that the insurance company would not be liable to satisfy the claim,” the Bench added.

A young girl, Shantamma, died on the spot when she was run over by a tempo while sleeping in her hut on February 6, 1998.

Motor Accident Claim Tribunal, district Koppal in Karnataka, directed the National Insurance Company to pay a compensation of Rs 1,58,000 along with an interest of 12 per cent per annum.

The Karnataka High Court, however, set aside the order of the tribunal on an appeal by the insurance company.

The victim’s father approached the Supreme Court. The apex court, however, exercising its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, directed the insurance company to pay the amount of compensation to the appellant, as he hailed from the lower strata of society.

The court, however, permitted the insurance company to recover the amount of compensation from the owner of the vehicle.

The cheque for premium of the policy was dishonoured by the bank on account of insufficient funds on October 21, 1997 and subsequently, the insurance company cancelled the policy of insurance. — UNI

Top

 

Helpline for overseas workers
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 30
The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (OIA) plans to start a round the year helpline to extend a helping hand to overseas Indian workers in distress.

According to ministry sources, an overseas workers resource centre will be entrusted the task of managing the toll free helpline. Any Indian worker in distress abroad can call the helpline number 1800-11-3090 to seek advice and legal opinion.

The helpline can also be used by victims of fraud NRI marriages to enable the OIA ministry take remedial measures.

Top

 

Samjhauta Express service restored
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 30
The bi-weekly Samjhauta Express between India and Pakistan, resumed its service today, 48 hours following its suspension. The train which runs on Wednesday and Sunday, was suspended on Friday due to security concerns following the assassination of former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi.

Sources in Rail Bhawan told The Tribune that the suspension of the train did not actually affect its run as the decision to restore the service was taken by the day of its scheduled run today. Sources said the decision was taken following consultations with the ministries of external affairs and home affairs.

“A clearance to restart the train was given by the MHA, MEA and the Pakistan government. Taking into account the overall security situation in Pakistan, it has been decided to restore the train service with immediate effect. The Attari bound train will leave from old Delhi railway station at 10.50 pm. The Pakistan Railways also requested the Indian government to restore the Samjhauta Express which is a vital rail link between the two countries.”

The Railway ministry expressed hope that the security situation would improve in the coming week and facilitate the restoration of the Thar Express linking Munabao in Rajasthan with khokrapar in Pakistan.

The Thar Express runs on Saturday. Chief public relations officer, northern Railway, Rajiv Saksena confirmed the decision to restore Samjauhta Express. He said the  zone had got a message on restoration  of the train from the Railway Board.

Top

 

Karunakaran back in Congress

New Delhi, December 30
Veteran Kerala politician K. Karunakaran today returned to the Congress, two-and-a-half years after he parted ways with it over differences with the state and Central leadership in the midst of rampant infighting in the party.

The 89-year-old leader met Congress president Sonia Gandhi to officially convey his desire to return to the party, which was accepted by her. However, there was no word from the Congress on how he will be accommodated in the party.

“My entering the Congress is unconditional. I want to serve the party because serving the party means serving the nation,” he told reporters after his meetings with Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A cheerful looking Karunakaran said he was satisfied and was ready to work wherever his services are needed for the party.

He also hoped that his son K. Muraleedharan, state NCP president who had left the Congress along with him, would eventually return to the party.

“I am sure whatever he may say publicly he cannot keep away from the Congress for a long time,” he said adding Muraleedharan was a “grown-up person” and was free to take his own decisions.

Karunakaran, who left the Congress to form the Democratic Indira Congress on May 1, 2005, said the party had weakened and is losing key states. It was his duty to return to the Congress to strengthen it. — PTI

Top

 

Censor board not for moral policing, says Sharmila
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 30
Chairperson of the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) Sharmila Tagore is opposed to the idea of using censorship for moral policing and preaching.

Addressing members of the board at a workshop here, Tagore said that though some kind of check was necessary, care should be taken not to stifle entertainment.

“India is a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic country. A majority of people want some kind of censorship and the government had to take note of that,” she said. 

Top

 

Karnataka
Unconventional year ends conventionally with hope
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, December 30
The year 2007 was marked by new lows in Karnataka with a virtual political circus paralysing governance even as Brand Bangalore came under threat when it was revealed that three highly educated youth from the city were accused of being involved in the failed Glasgow bombings.

This was not all. Bangalore saw communal rioting allegedly over the hanging of Saddam Hussein in faraway Iraq but more due to the flexing of muscles of the old ‘lion’ of Karnataka - Jaffer Sharief who has been sidelined in the Congress recently. The police took control of the situation only after it died a natural death itself. Street dogs mauled so many children that a hapless government launched into a drive to kill all stray dogs rather than effectively implementing the centrally sponsored sterilisation programme. The problem still lingers on. The state’s women workers came under threat from an over zealous minister who announced they could not work in night shifts but better sense prevailed when the minister got a tongue lashing from the liberated women themselves.

There were some bright spots even if they were more in the form of individual initiatives. A young visually challenged girl - Vaishnavi Kasturi challenged the selection criterion of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and used the Right to Information Act (RTI) to force the institute to disclose its admission procedure. Another young girl - Lakshmi’s story put the focus on Bangalore doctors when they successfully removed a conjoined parasitic twin from her body. Lok Ayukta Santosh Hegde continued to do the good work started by his predecessor and took on corrupt police officers and even got them suspended even though he had to wait for imposition of President’s rule to see this happen.

Above all there was reason to cheer at the end of the year with residents feeling a stint of President’s rule may be good for the state. Governor Rameshwar Thakur announced that infrastructure upgradation in Bangalore would be his top priority and unlike politicians has set about fulfilling his promise with a number of projects starting in the city in December. The way to the upcoming airport outside the city which opens in March, which many thought would not be navigable, is also being made traffic friendly. The metro rail project has also taken off.

The political circus enacted in Karnataka this year has been unprecedented in the state’s history. Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and his son H D Kumaraswamy gave a new meaning to opportunism by refusing to transfer power to the BJP despite an understanding to do so after enjoying power for twenty months. When the BJP refused to accede to Gowda’s demands to let Kumaraswamy continue in power, the government fell. However, the game only started from here. When the Gowda clan realised that the Congress was ready for an alliance with his party minus him and his family he took a u-turn and announced a patch up with the BJP. B S Yeddyurappa of the BJP could remain Chief Minister for only one week as Gowda set up impossible conditions, including signing of a memorandum of understanding (mou) as a precondition for supporting the confidence vote moved by him besides insisting on retaining prime portfolios.

While politics dominated the state, the Glasgow incident saw a city youth - Kafeel Ahmed ramming a gasoline filled truck into the Glasgow airport and putting Bangalore on the international terror map. While Kafeel died later and his brother Sabeel Ahmed is facing trial in Britain for hiding knowledge of the conspiracy from the authorities, what captured the public’s imagination was the plight of their doctor cousin Mohammad Haneef. The doctor was arrested dramatically while trying to leave Australia after the Glasgow incident. The over zealousness on the part of the Aussie authorities to frame Haneef and the reprieve he won from the courts there and subsequent restoration of his work visa indicated Bangalore exports knowledge workers predominantly and the act of the Ahmed brothers was an aberration best forgotten. 

Top

 

Migrant-Loyalist issue
CD threatens to divide Karnataka Cong
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, December 30
The “migrant-loyalist” issue in the Karnataka Congress, which has already seen a scuffle between recent entrant and former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah and former minister M Mahadev is threatening to divide the party between caste and old versus new lines with Mahadev loyalists defying a party gag order and selling CDs of the fracas between the two leaders besides holding a procession in Mysore against Siddaramaiah.

Besides being bought by Congress activists, the CDs are also a hit with the BJP and the JD(S) who are likely to use them to damage the Congress in the run-up to the assembly elections in the state.

According to sources, Mahadev is in no mood to let the issue rest as had been advised by the Pradesh Congress as well as AICC general secretary Prithviraj Chavan. He has also sent a copy of the CD to party president Sonia Gandhi in an attempt to clip the wings of Siddaramaiah whose importance in the party is being resented by the old guard. Mahadev claimed today that he would also seek an appointment with the party president to explain the entire matter to her.

Both Siddaramaiah and Mahadev were at the centre of a controversy last Sunday when the latter complained about the importance being given to “migrants” who he claimed wanted to “hijack” the party. Following this remark, Siddaramaiah lunged at Mahadev and even scuffled with him besides giving him a tongue lashing.

The issue also laid bare the caste divisions in the Congress with members of the Lingayat the Vokkaliga communities, which are the dominant castes in the State, staging a combined procession against Siddaramaiah who belongs to the backward classes. The procession was attended by Congress leaders despite a diktat against doing so issued by the party District President.

The protesters, including the former Deputy Mayor as well as many corporators, held placards with anti-Siddaramaiah slogans. The protesters said they would continue an agitation in the town until Siddaramaiah apologises for his behaviour.

Top

 

Task force recommends scrapping of SEZs in Goa

Panaji, December 30
A task force headed by Goa Chief Minister Digamber Kamat today recommended the scrapping of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the state terming them “detrimental to the overall interest of Goa.”

“The intention of permitting SEZs is to reap the benefits of industrialisation and consequent employment generation. These can be served without SEZs (also) if incentives are extended to incoming industries,” internationally renowned architect and vice-chairman of the task force, Charles Correa said while reading out the body’s resolution here.

The task force took into account the growing anti-SEZ sentiments in the state. However, it maintained silence on Rajiv Gandhi Habitat Project, which had been opposed by locals terming it as a “real estate scam”.

The task force, comprising veteran architects including Correa, Edgar Rebello, S.P. Deshpande, Dean D’cruz, Rahul Deshpande, convener of Goa Bachao Abhiyaan Oscar Rebello, representative of Goa Chamber of Housing Industry Datta Nayak and representative of Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry Blaise Costa Bir, was set up to work out a regional plan 2021 for Goa.

The anti-SEZ movement in the state, which was initiated by the BJP was later joined by the Congress, the NCP and Catholic Church.

Goa had received 15 applications from SEZ promoters to set up their shops in the state. Of these applications, seven were approved by the centre while eight are pending approval.

The task force observed that Goa will not have a substantial revenue benefit by means of direct and indirect taxes through SEZs.

Conceding with the anti-SEZ agitators’ contention, the task force members said the employment benefit derived through SEZs would not accrue largely to locals.

“A huge amount of land had been blocked for product- specific SEZs who seem to have invested on seemingly speculative ground without specific data and analysis, for a large period of time without any government control. This will deprive opportunities of genuine entrepreneurs and companies which require land for setting up industrial units which are not product specific and not dependent on government incentives," it said.

The members opined that the entire process of land allotment to SEZs had to be seen in light of government’s role in land acquisition for government projects of public purpose vis-a-vis allotment of government acquired land to private developers. — PTI

Top

 

Child Labour
Raghuvansh Prasad defends brother
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 30
Perturbed over charges of child labour against his brother, rural development minister and senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh today shot a letter to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, accusing him of acting with “political motive in instituting a second inquiry into the matter”.

Singh also accused Sushil Modi, BJP minister in Kumar’s government, of violating the Official Secrets Act. He alleged confidential official files related to the second inquiry were leaked to the media by Modi and demanded his dismissal for violating the law.

“I am surprised over politics being played by your government over the alleged violation of the Child Labour Act by my brother Raghuraj Singh,” the union minister wrote in the letter. There was no need for another inquiry into the charges after the local administration had brought out facts in its inquiry, he added.

“We are of the firm belief that child labour was a crime and its perpetrators should be brought to book, but the matter should not be politicised...It seems the report of the preliminary inquiry was not liked by your government, so you went for a higher-level probe. I don’t object even to this. But why a second inquiry? People should know,” Singh questioned in the letter. Raghuraj Singh was reportedly held guilty by the Bihar Labour Commissioner of violating labour laws after a media report said that children were being used to till land owned by the family of the union rural development minister in place of oxen in Vaishali.

The Nitish Kumar government ordered an inquiry that finally found the minister’s brother guilty of using child labour. Modi defended the government’s stand, saying that reports of the use of child labour were found to be true after officials of the labour department visited the spot.

Top

 

All-women news channel a hit in Bihar village
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 30
Close on the eve of the new dawn to break in 2008, a unique all-women news channel focusing on development issues in a remote Bihar village has now literally set the stage on fire.

Located in Ramlila Gachi village on the crime-ridden banks of the Gandak river,"Appan Samachar" (our news), as the programme is aptly called, has become popular in over a dozen villages in Muzaffarpur district. It was first aired early this month.

Unlike glossy newsrooms of the established news channels across the country, the single room centre of operations for Appan Samachar is asbestos roofed that has one table, two chairs and an old potable television.

The village has had no electricity for the last four years, and has never had cable television and landline phone. Cell phone network reached Ramlila Gachi just a year ago.

In this age of mad TRP races and cutthroat advertising, Aapaan Samachar is free to air. In addition to providing news that is of use to the villagers, the network is also said to be a vehicle for women empowerment.

Carrying a low range Sony Handycam, a tripod and a microphone with the channel logo, four young girls on a cycle reportedly bump along on the dusty narrow village tracks to talk to people and shoot their stories.

Khusboo Kumari, one of the four girls, is barely 15. But this does not prevent her to read and anchor her 45-minute news programme at breakneck speed. 

Top

 

Human Trafficking Case
CBI chargesheets former MEA official

New Delhi, December 30
The CBI has chargesheeted senior diplomat and former special secretary in the external affairs ministry Rakesh Kumar for allegedly being involved in human trafficking.

The CBI filed the chargesheet against Kumar, a 1972 batch Indian Foreign Service officer, and certain others including an official of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) for allegedly entering into a criminal conspiracy and sending people abroad on false pretexts, official sources said today.

The chargesheet was filed in the court of duty magistrate Kamini Lau recently after the CBI received sanction for his prosecution from the ministry of external affairs.

The MEA had been provided with the report of superintendent of police in July this year and the sanction came only after reminders were sent to them for expediting the decision for Kumar’s prosecution.

Besides Kumar, the CBI chargesheeted programme officer of the ICCR Kehkeshan Tyagi, owner of a Punjabi dance troupe Har Gulab Singh and Shiv Kumar Sharma, the sources said, adding that Sharma allegedly acted as a conduit and took huge amounts of money for sending people abroad.

In its chargesheet, the CBI alleged that Kumar, during his tenure as director-general of the ICCR, and Tyagi had entered into a criminal conspiracy with Singh and Sharma to facilitate trafficking of nine individuals to Germany. — PTI 

Top

 

Sunday services held in violence-hit Orissa dist

Phulbani, December 30
Amid tight security, Sunday services were held today for the first time in churches following an improvement in the situation in violence-hit Kandhamal district of Orissa.

Sunday services were held in about half-a-dozen churches, which were untouched by vandalism, as members of the minority community thronged their places of worship for the first time since Christmas day violence in the district headquarters town here, official sources said.

Security personnel, including the CRPF, were deployed at the churches to ensure smooth and peaceful services held in the evening, they said.

Prayers were also held in places, including G Udayagiri and Raikia. However, church services in several remote areas could not take place as people appeared to be scared of participating in the ritual, the sources said.

A tight security net would also be thrown around churches in the riot-torn district to ensure smooth services on the New Year day, revenue divisional commissioner (southern division) Satyabrata Sahu and IGP Pradip Kapur told reporters here.

While tension prevailed in worst hit Barakhama and Brahmanigaon, curfew was relaxed during the day to enable the people to attend to their work and buy daily necessities in Baliguda, Daringbadi, Brahmanigaon and Phulbani, Sahu said.

“The situation is tense, particularly in Brahmanigaon and Barakhama, but under control. Efforts are on to restore normalcy in the district,” Sahu said.

Christians for CBI probe into carnage

Bhubaneswar: Holding both the Centre and Orissa government responsible for communal violence in Kandhamal, a leading Christian group has demanded a CBI probe into the carnage, immediate rehabilitation and compensation to victims and a long-term economic package for the backward district.

“We are not happy with the judicial inquiry ordered into the incident by the Orissa government. Since both Central and state governments failed to check spread of arson in Kandhamal, there must be a CBI probe,” president of Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) Sajan K. George said here.

Observing that Christians in riot-hit areas of Kandhamal were denied the right to worship on Christmas due to widespread violence and attack on places of worship, he said while the Centre failed in timely dispatch and deployment of forces, the state machinery failed to deal with the situation.

Claiming that the injured and others had taken shelter in forests due to fear, George said the state government should pay at least Rs 5 lakh ex gratia to the next of kin of those killed and adequate compensation to those injured.

Seeking immediate rehabilitation of those rendered shelter-less due to large-scale violence in the tribal dominated district, he said houses and places of worship damaged in arson should be reconstructed on a war footing.

The government should also chalk out a long-term economic package to ensure speedy, balanced and equitable economic development of Kandhamal district, besides setting up camps and providing relief to those affected by violence, he said.

If normalcy is not restored, the Centre should declare Kandhamal district as riot-affected and deploy Army for the safety of Christians, he said. — PTI, UNI

Top

 

Kiran Bedi to expose police reform process

New Delhi, December 30
Promising to expose how the police reform process is “sabotaged” by the establishment, country’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi is now planning to revise her biography by adding a new chapter, which depicts her past days in policing.

The 58-year-old Magsaysay awardee, whose nearly 38-year-long association with the police came to an end on a bitter note last week, will add a new chapter to “I Dare”, a best seller written by Parmesh Dangwal on policing and state of police reforms in the country.

“Believe me, actually the police reform policies formulated by the home ministry are a part to sabotage it completely,” an irate Bedi, whose voluntary retirement plea was accepted last week, claimed.

She claimed that it was only during her stint as the director-general of Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D) she understood the functioning and policy making of the ministry of home affairs.

“My biography will have another chapter soon. It would be an eyewitness account of the policy making process and its poor implementation in the police force,” said Bedi.

Revising the book was a step towards achieving the goal of police reforms in the country, she said, adding that she would now campaign for police reforms.

“I sacrificed my job for the best and police reforms is my mission now,” she said.

Bedi’s biography described her early career years, the role she played in Delhi, Goa and northeast and the work done by her for the betterment of prisons and prisoners, especially in Tihar jail.

She was sulking since she was superseded by Y.S Dadwal for the post of Delhi police commissioner in July and had applied for VRS on November 15.

Bedi was also critical about the role of women in the police force.

“Women are still an unknown entity in the force. They remain anonymous,” she said.

Bedi had alleged in July, when she was overlooked for the post of Delhi police commissioner, that the government was biased towards women in police. — PTI 

Top

 

Farm growth remained key govt priority in 2007

New Delhi, December 30
The need for higher and inclusive economic growth coupled with threat of food security put the agriculture sector into the centre stage during 2007. The government also launched a number of schemes involving huge investments to bring farm sector back on track.

Enthused by signs of turnaround in farm sector, which contributes only about 18 per cent of the GDP with more than 60 per cent population depending on it, the Centre announced two major schemes -- Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY) and National Food Security Mission (NFSM) -- during the year involving total investment of about Rs 30,000 crore.

Based on the recommendation of National Commission on Farmers, under the chairmanship of eminent farm scientist M.S. Swaminathan, the government also approved a 'National Policy for Farmers' to improve the economic viability of farming by substantially enhancing farmers' net income.

"Agricultural growth has improved significantly in the last two years (2005-07) of the 10th Plan, and based on evidence for the current year, we expect that in these three years, agricultural growth will average four per cent," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said at the National Development Council meeting held in December.

Realising that Indian agriculture cannot be rejuvenated without states' cooperation, the Centre launched RKVY that aims to encourage states to invest more in the farm sector.

The scheme will be implemented during the 11th plan period (2007-12) with an allocation of Rs 25,000 crore. For the first time, district-level agricultural planning has been introduced in the country under the scheme.

With threat of food security looming large in the backdrop of climate change and its impact on farm output, the government launched another ambitious programme - NFSM - in 2007 with a plan outlay of nearly Rs 5,000 crore.

NFSM, launched at some select districts in 14 states, envisages an additional production of 10 million tons of rice, 8 million tons of wheat and 2 million tons of pulses by 2012. The scheme primarily aims to bridge the demand-supply gap and to prevent import dependence for cereals. An amount of Rs 200 crore has been released to 14 states in 2007.

"I will be failing in my duty if I do not draw your attention to the impending problem of food security... Global trends in food production and prices and our patterns of consumption are going to put increasing pressure on both the availability and prices of basic food items," Singh had said.

Increased credit flow to the farm sector and considerable jump in the food grain production were other major highlights for the agriculture sector during 2007.

Credit flow to the agriculture sector recorded 21.17 per cent increase from Rs 1,67,775 crore in 2005-06 to Rs 2,03,296 crore in 2006-07. Till October 2007, credit of Rs 1,20,062 crore has been made available to farmers.

Wheat production increased to 74.89 million tons against 69.35 million tons in the previous year but the government still had to import the food grain to boost the buffer stock.

Record output of sugarcane helped India to produce 283 lakh tons of sugar, a record, much to the discomfort of the industry but a big relief to consumers as prices fell.

Edible oil and pulses remained a cause of concern for the government, evident from the fact that it is considering a buffer stock for these two commodities, due to lower output of oilseeds and pulses compared to demand. — PTI

Top

 

All-women news channel a hit in Bihar village
Ambarish Dutta
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 30
Close on the eve of the new dawn to break in 2008, a unique all-women news channel focusing on development issues in a remote Bihar village has now literally set the stage on fire.

Located in Ramlila Gachi village on the crime-ridden banks of the Gandak river,"Appan Samachar" (our news), as the programme is aptly called, has become popular in over a dozen villages in Muzaffarpur district. It was first aired early this month.

Unlike glossy newsrooms of the established news channels across the country, the single room centre of operations for Appan Samachar is asbestos roofed that has one table, two chairs and an old potable television.

The village has had no electricity for the last four years, and has never had cable television and landline phone. Cell phone network reached Ramlila Gachi just a year ago.

In this age of mad TRP races and cutthroat advertising, Aapaan Samachar is free to air. In addition to providing news that is of use to the villagers, the network is also said to be a vehicle for women empowerment.

Carrying a low range Sony Handycam, a tripod and a microphone with the channel logo, four young girls on a cycle reportedly bump along on the dusty narrow village tracks to talk to people and shoot their stories.

Khusboo Kumari, one of the four girls, is barely 15. But this does not prevent her to read and anchor her 45-minute news programme at breakneck speed. 

Top

 

Families of Nandigram victims receive compensation

Nandigram, December 30
Nine months after 14 persons were killed in the police firing during anti-land acquisition protest at Nandigram, family members of the dead today received their compensation.

The relatives of 13 victims, except for those of Joydeb Das, received Rs 5 lakh as compensation, which was fixed by the Kolkata High Court early this month.

Nobody was found in Das’ residence to receive the money from the block development officer, BDO Nandigram-I Shantiram Garai said.

Garai said a new front would chalk out a common minimum agenda and have a steering and coordination committee.

Meanwhile, state Congress working president Pradip Bhattacharya said there was no party-to-party discussion with Trinamool Congress on the formation of the new front, nor “our party was informed of today’s meeting”.

Bhattacharya, however, said he would talk to the Trinamool as well as the Congress high command regarding the new front. — PTI

Top

 

BJP govt will end political victimisation, says Dhumal
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 30
The newly-elected Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal today said though state’s financial position was bad his government will work to provide relief to every section of society. The Chief Minister, who was in Delhi to attend a rally on the Ram Setu issue, will be back in Shimla tomorrow to make the last day of this year his first working day in the office.

Talking to The Tribune here, Dhumal said providing relief to marginalised sections of society and ending “political victimisation” of the party workers and government employees will be among the first priorities of his government .

Dhumal, who has become Chief Minister for the second time, said false and flimsy cases had been registered against several BJP workers, often when they were engaged in political agitations such as “rasta roko”. He said relatives of some BJP workers had faced victimisation and they had been transferred repeatedly by the previous Congress government. “There are instances where employees have faced upto 18 transfers,” he said.

The Chief Minister said his government was keen to tackle the issue of unemployment which had proved to be nemesis of the Congress in the assembly polls. Referring to the controversial Congress assurance of giving job to a member from each family which was not fulfilled, he said the BJP will stick to the promises made in the party manifesto.

In making appointments, the state government will work out a match of open competition and batch-wise recruitment, he said, adding that it would also look at the possibility of regularising services of contractual workers.

The party’s manifesto, which talks of evolving a master plan to raise the hydro electric power production in the state to 12,000 MW in the next five years, promises that cooperatives would be formed of educated unemployed and they will be given small hydro projects.

Dhumal said a cell would be formed in the Chief Minister’s office to monitor the implementation of the promise to provide 70 per cent employment in all industry and projects to the people of the state.

On the issue of price rise, he said the state government would strengthen the PDS system and also seek requisite help from the Centre. The government, will also look at the provision of providing Rs 100 crore subsidy to see if it had been properly implemented. He said the government will take steps to provide relief to daily wagers and increase old age pension.

Sources said Dhumal had preliminary discussion on the formation of cabinet with the party’s central leaders and he is likely to come back to Delhi for the purpose.

Top

 

 

 

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |