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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

XEN Killing
UP suspends SP, sacks 3 cops

Lucknow, December 31
More heads rolled today in connection with the gruesome murder of PWD executive engineer MK Gupta as Mayawati government suspended former Superintendent of Police of Aurraiya, Ikramul Haq, and sacked three cops, including an inspector and two constables.

Cong preferred Omar over Farookh
New Delhi, December 31
It can no longer be termed as mere speculation that the Congress played a definite role in the selection of Omar Abdullah as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister. Congress sources have admitted that the party prodded National Conference leadership to decide in favour of Omar as against father Farookh Abdullah.

CMs meet on security
Advani keen on Modi model, but NDA not
New Delhi, December 31
Leader of Opposition LK Advani may find it difficult to present Gujarat as a security role model on behalf of the entire Opposition NDA to Union Home Minister P. Chidambram at the ‘State Chief Ministers and Home Ministers Conference’ here on January 6 because of subtle differences within the NDA.



EARLIER STORIES



CHARMING ACT: A Russian tourist catches a baby python with the help of snake charmers during a workshop on ‘Snakes: Myths and Realities’ at Nandankanan Zoological Park in Bhubaneswar
CHARMING ACT:
A Russian tourist catches a baby python with the help of snake charmers during a workshop on ‘Snakes: Myths and Realities’ at Nandankanan Zoological Park in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday. — PTI

No threat to INS Viraat, assures Chidambaram
New Delhi, December 31
India today dismissed reports of an aerial terror threat to INS Viraat, its solitary aircraft carrier currently docked in Kochi for a midlife refit. “As we speak today, there is no such threat to INS Viraat,” P Chidambaram said at his maiden press conference as Home Minister while replying to queries on a reported intelligence input from the United States.

Decision on Afzal Guru soon: PC
New Delhi, December 31
Facing flak from the opposition for delaying capital punishment of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru, the government today said it would take a decision in this regard soon.

B’lore blast accused in ATS net
Pune, December 31
In a prize catch, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) today arrested Hussein Shabbir Nairuddin Gangajali, who had allegedly supplied counterfeit currency notes to terrorists involved in the Bangalore bomb blast, which killed two people in July.

Flashback 2008
Economic trinity was at the helm
New Delhi, December 31
Who is the year’s main newsmaker? Currently the focus has shifted to the economic trinity of the finance ministry, the RBI and the Planning Commission. And the man who has been at the helm of all three by all counts - Manmohan Singh is the year’s chief newsmaker.

Third team of scientists flagged off for Antartica expedition
Vasco-da-Gama, December 31
The last and third 50-member team of scientists in the 28th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica was flagged here today. The successive Antarctica expeditions are in continuation of India's efforts at studying various aspects of climate variability, besides unlocking the secrets of life in the sub-zero temperatures.

Troops at icy heights to get chocolates, dry fruits
New Delhi, December 31
Troops stationed at icy heights at the Indo-China border can look forward to milk chocolates and dry fruits in the new year. Troops, who don combat fatigues at 12,000 ft and above, will now be supplied with milk food, coffee, biscuits, noodles, dry fruits, chocolate eclairs, chicken pickle, desi ghee, vermicelli and fruit juice.

Bihar to rein in corruption in public life
Patna, December 31
After tightening its noose around criminals and getting 23,000 of them convicted through “speedy trial” of major criminal cases by “special courts” in the past three years, the NDA government in Bihar has now decided to rein in corruption in public life in the NewYear (2009).

Acid attack victim succumbs
Hyderabad, December 31
A young engineering girl student, who suffered an acid attack by a jilted lover and his two accomplices, died here today after battling for life for three weeks. The tragic case of 21-year-old Swapnika, whose tormentors were subsequently eliminated in a police encounter, has evoked a wide sense of outrage in Andhra Pradesh.





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XEN Killing
UP suspends SP, sacks 3 cops
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, December 31
More heads rolled today in connection with the gruesome murder of PWD executive engineer MK Gupta as Mayawati government suspended former Superintendent of Police of Aurraiya, Ikramul Haq, and sacked three cops, including an inspector and two constables.

BSP MLA from Aurraiya, Shekhar Tiwari and his henchmen are accused of brutally lynching engineer Gupta at his official residence at GAIL Vihar Colony in the city on December 24.

Addressing a press conference today, DGP Vikram Singh said the SP has been suspended for dereliction in duty and failure to control the criminal elements in the district. The terminated policemen are Inspector Hoshiyar Singh — the station house officer of Dibiapur police station, under which the incident took place — and two gunners of the arrested MLA, Pal Singh and Gajraj Singh. Earlier, the SHO had been transferred and then suspended. The DGP said the state government has found that the former SHO was in connivance with the criminals. Raids are being conducting to nab Hoshiyar Singh, while attachment process has been started against expelled BSP Auraiayya district chief Yogendra Dohre, the top state cop added.

The two gunners allotted to the accused BSP legislator Tiwari have also joined their former boss inside the jail. The duo, whose services have been terminated for not reporting the matter to the police station, were arrested and sent to judicial custody till January 7. The DGP, however, tried to establish that the murder had no correlation to the reported collection of donations for Chief Minister Mayawati's birthday.

He said during interrogation of MLA Tiwari it was found that the deceased engineer did not pass the bills of the contractors close to the legislator and did not pay any money to them, which led to his killing. “ The MLA also said earlier the engineer who was posted there used to give them money,'' the DGP revealed.

The Tavera car used in the crime has also been seized today. He said the investigation was going at a fast pace and if required more policemen or senior officials could be punished. Singh also refused any need for a central investigative agency in the probe of the incident.

Earlier, a team of forensic experts had visited Aurraiya and collected vital evidence from the residence of the slain engineer. The squad also collected proofs from room numbers 3 and 5 of the GAIL guesthouse, which is barely 10 minutes away from the engineer's residence, where Gupta was given electric shocks after being kidnapped.

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Cong preferred Omar over Farookh
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 31
It can no longer be termed as mere speculation that the Congress played a definite role in the selection of Omar Abdullah as Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister.

Congress sources have admitted that the party prodded National Conference leadership to decide in favour of Omar as against father Farookh Abdullah. This, plus Peoples Democratic Party’s offer of unconditional support to a Congress-led government, added to the deterrent for the NC against making Farookh its choice.

That senior Abdullah was interested in the top post after results favouring the NC started pouring in. Apparently after feelers were sent in by the Congress, he made a change in stance and started projecting son Omar as the chiefministerial candidate.

Senior Congress leaders have admitted that party high command’s clear preference was Omar. Defending party’s choice, they say, “We are not anti-Farookh, but pro-Omar because he comes with no baggage of past history and has a clean copy book. He is experienced and has been party chief.”

Omar himself has also attempted to dispel any speculation of competition between him and his father. “I am not privy to what happened within the Congress....but at no point of time there was even a hint that the Congress was not comfortable with Dr Abdullah. It was his (Farookh Abdullah) personal choice not to become the Chief Minister,” he said, while talking to mediapersons at his residence in Delhi on Tuesday.

Sources say PDP’s effort to stall NC-Congress tie-up by offering support to Union Minister Saifuddin Soz or former state Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad raised apprehensions of uncertainty within the NC and led to Farookh withdrawing his claim.

Meanwhile, party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Wednesday said it was a collective, collaborative and conscientious decision to support the NC despite the PDP’s unconditional offer of support to the Congress.

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CMs meet on security
Advani keen on Modi model, but NDA not
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 31
Leader of Opposition LK Advani may find it difficult to present Gujarat as a security role model on behalf of the entire Opposition NDA to Union Home Minister P. Chidambram at the ‘State Chief Ministers and Home Ministers Conference’ here on January 6 because of subtle differences within the NDA.

With terrorism as its main electoral plank, the BJP wants to project an image of pursuing a more hard line than the Central government.

Towards that end, Advani in conjunction with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi plans to demonstrate to Chidambram the efficacy of a Modi model. He also needs to project that a united NDA endorses his line of urging a weak UPA government to further beef up security measures on the pattern of Gujarat.

To thrash this out, Advani has invited all NDA Chief Ministers at his residence here a day before the Home Minister’s meeting that is on January 5. Advani is expected to unveil the Modi model to the NDA chief ministers and seek their endorsement for this model at this meeting.

Sources in the Opposition alliance said not everyone in the NDA would be happy if Advani sought general endorsement for the Modi model there.

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No threat to INS Viraat, assures Chidambaram

New Delhi, December 31
India today dismissed reports of an aerial terror threat to INS Viraat, its solitary aircraft carrier currently docked in Kochi for a midlife refit.

“As we speak today, there is no such threat to INS Viraat,” P Chidambaram said at his maiden press conference as Home Minister while replying to queries on a reported intelligence input from the United States.

Chidambaram said such inputs were received from time to time, but it was the quality and assessment of such inputs, which was important.

“In our assessment, there is no real threat to INS Viraat. If there is a threat, certainly the Navy and everybody will be alerted in this regard,” he said.

Meanwhile, Defence Ministry officials here said the Navy usually remained alert when INS Viraat was docked, as warships were most vulnerable to attacks while at port.

“We already have security measures in place to thwart all sorts of threats, be it through land, sea or air, around INS Viraat when it is in the dock. So, the Navy is already geared up. There is no specific threat that has been brought to our notice,” officials said.

INS Viraat, India’s largest warship and the only aircraft carrier, has already completed 22 years of service with the Indian Navy this May.

The 28,000-tonne Centaur Class ship, which was bought from the British Navy in 1987, is currently under a refit programme to extend its service life till at least 2012, by which time India hopes to have INS Vikramaditya, bought from Russia in 2004, inducted and in service. — PTI

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Decision on Afzal Guru soon: PC

New Delhi, December 31
Facing flak from the opposition for delaying capital punishment of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru, the government today said it would take a decision in this regard soon.

“As I have told the Parliament, the government will look into the matter of Mohammad Afzal Guru,” Home Minister P Chidambaram told mediapersons, when asked why the decision on the convicted terrorist was being delayed.

Moreover, he pointed out that there were 27 people on death row in the country. The clemency petition of Guru, who was awarded death penalty by the Supreme Court, has been pending with the government. The opposition has been charging the UPA government with being soft on terror by not executing the death row of the terrorist.

However, following the Mumbai terror attack, the government has taken a tough stand against terrorism, amending laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.

It has also taken a number of steps to strengthen security both on land and at sea and beef up the intelligence machinery to prevent recurrence of terror attacks.

Moreover, the Home Minister has also called a meeting of CMs on January 6 to discuss terrorism and measures to counter it. The agenda note of the day-long conference has already been sent to the CMs. “The focus will be on terrorism and sharing of intelligence, including intelligence apparatus, coastal security, security of important establishment, both public and of iconic importance. The day-long discussion will be on terrorism and how to counter it,” he added. — UNI

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B’lore blast accused in ATS net

Pune, December 31
In a prize catch, the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) today arrested Hussein Shabbir Nairuddin Gangajali, who had allegedly supplied counterfeit currency notes to terrorists involved in the Bangalore bomb blast, which killed two people in July.

Pune ATS chief Peter Lobo said the accused was picked up from Janwadi slum of the city when he was visiting his relative early today.

Acting on a tip-off, the ATS sleuths raided the premises and took the accused into custody for interrogation, he added.

During interrogation, it came to light that Hussein had been funding the terror organisations by supplying fake currency. A total of more than 250 phony notes, in denomination of Rs 100, had been seized from Hussein, he added.The accused was produced before judicial magistrate first class GG Itkalkar, who remanded him in police custody till January 12. — UNI

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Flashback 2008
Economic trinity was at the helm

New Delhi, December 31
Who is the year’s main newsmaker? Currently the focus has shifted to the economic trinity of the finance ministry, the RBI and the Planning Commission. And the man who has been at the helm of all three by all counts - Manmohan Singh is the year’s chief newsmaker.

To have P Chidambaram included in this piece is somewhat platitudinous. He made maximum news over the past four-and-a-half years. It is sad to see him in a different role, though he has stirred up the sluggish waters of the home ministry.

The name that next comes to the mind is YV Reddy, former governor of the RBI, whose role was predominant when price rise turned out to be a thorn in the flesh for the ruling coalition at the Centre. The RBI kept raising rates, ironically when the Fed was cutting them. The decoupling theory seemed the hobbyhorse of some financial analysts.

We and China, it was then said, were largely immune to the mayhem being caused in the West, the collapse of Bear Stearns, Northern Rock, and all that.

Then the change in outlook came. And with it we got a new RBI governor, surprising though the decision was, because ever since the ICS days we have not had a serving officer under the government of India being appointed to that position. But the ICS was ICS. An officer then could serve as Assam governor and return to Delhi as Cabinet Secretary.

New RBI governor D Subbarao’s thinking was seen to be more in line with P Chidambaram’s, one assurance at least that two wings of our economic governance were not pulling different ways. The Fed is still cutting rates and so is our RBI. And the prices are coming down all the same. Goodbye to the decoupling theory.

If the US had its Hank Paulson, we have had Industry Minister Kamal Nath and Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh giving us their version of the $70 billion bailout package that the US had brought in. Ours is a moderate amount of Rs 30,000 crore. But what’s reassuring is that we are not calling it ‘bailout’, it’s a mere stimulus package. AIG, Northern Rock, Bear Stearns, Freddie Mac, they all leaned on the state, despite their vaunted faith in market mechanics. Our financial institutions treaded cautiously, though rumours were abroad that there was a run on ICICI Bank’s deposits, leading to its stock taking a hit. But the Bank was quick to allay our fears, through SMS.

For this and his decision to hand over the baton, CEO KV Kamath made more news than perhaps he did in his long tenure.

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Third team of scientists flagged off for Antartica expedition

Vasco-da-Gama, December 31
The last and third 50-member team of scientists in the 28th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica was flagged here today.

The successive Antarctica expeditions are in continuation of India's efforts at studying various aspects of climate variability, besides unlocking the secrets of life in the sub-zero temperatures.

Director Rasik Ravindra of the prestigious National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR), the nodal agency for organising the expeditions under the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences, told UNI here today that the expedition this time was led by Dr Pradeep Malhotra, a doctor of the central government health scheme, Kolkata.

He, along with 13 scientists and technicians from Geological Survey of India, NCAOR, defence electronic applications laboratory, border roads organisation, and Indo-Tibetan Border Police had already left Goa on October 31.

The scientists flew to Antarctica via Mumbai, Dubai and Cape Town in South Africa. They reached the Indian research base station “Maitri” by a chartered flight operated under Dronning Maud Land Air Network (DROMLAN) agreement.

A total of 75 members comprising scientists, engineers, doctors and logistic support personnel headed for Antarctica in three batches by two different modes - by air and ship - based on the operational requirements.

The second batch of 11 scientists and logistic personnel had left Goa on November 17. The third and final batch of 50-members, comprising scientists, doctors, engineers and helicopter pilots had left today for Cape Town and from thereon-onboard MV Emerald Sea. — UNI

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Troops at icy heights to get chocolates, dry fruits

New Delhi, December 31
Troops stationed at icy heights at the Indo-China border can look forward to milk chocolates and dry fruits in the new year. Troops, who don combat fatigues at 12,000 ft and above, will now be supplied with milk food, coffee, biscuits, noodles, dry fruits, chocolate eclairs, chicken pickle, desi ghee, vermicelli and fruit juice.

Twelve special items have been authorised to the jawans of the ITBP at the borders of Ladakh-Tibet, Himachal-Tibet, Uttaranchal-Tibet, Arunachal Pradesh-China and Sikkim-China borders.

A lot of these new items are canned and can withstand extremes of weather like sub-zero temperatures, the official added. — PTI

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Bihar to rein in corruption in public life
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, December 31
After tightening its noose around criminals and getting 23,000 of them convicted through “speedy trial” of major criminal cases by “special courts” in the past three years, the NDA government in Bihar has now decided to rein in corruption in public life in the NewYear (2009).

In its last cabinet meeting of 2008, held yesterday, the state government approved the draft of ‘Bihar Special Court Bill-2008’ with the view to confiscate properties and assets amassed by corrupt public servants disproportionate to their legitimate sources of income.

The provisions of the Bill would apply to all public servants, including ministers and public representatives, who come under the purview of the PC Act (Prevention of Corruption Act). Principal Secretary of Cabinet-Coordination Department Girish Shankar said the purpose of the Bill was to complete the legal formalities in such cases (read DA cases) within a specified time frame by constituting special courts to be headed by District and Sessions Judge or Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADJ).

The Bill will also ensure expeditious hearing of DA cases by the special courts. The state government will be the final authority to recommend such cases to the special courts, he said. The draft Bill will be placed in the Bihar Legislative Assembly during its coming session for its approval and then it will be sent to Raj Bawan for the Governor’s nod.

Following these mandatory formalities, it will be enacted and come into effect from the date of its enactment.

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Acid attack victim succumbs
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, December 31
A young engineering girl student, who suffered an acid attack by a jilted lover and his two accomplices, died here today after battling for life for three weeks.

The tragic case of 21-year-old Swapnika, whose tormentors were subsequently eliminated in a police encounter, has evoked a wide sense of outrage in Andhra Pradesh. The haunting image of the promising young girl, lying on a hospital bed with fourth degree burns, had prompted calls for new laws to tackle the growing gender crimes in the state.

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