SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Delhi blasts accused in ATS net
Lucknow, January 3
The Anti-Terrorist Squad has arrested a Lucknow-based engineering student, Hakim Abdul Karim, in connection with the September 2008 Delhi blasts. Hakim, a final year student in the city's Integral Engineering College, was carrying a reward of Rs one lakh on his head. He is reportedly an active member of the Indian Mujahideen (IM).

Engineer’s Lynching
Chargesheet filed against 10 persons
Lucknow, January 3
The Uttar Pradesh police today filed chargesheet against 10 persons in the murder case of PWD engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta. While six main accused had been arrested, four were at large.

Why so much hurry to hang Afzal? Asks Patil
Aurangabad, January 3
Former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil today expressed surprise over clamour from some quarters demanding execution of the Parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru, saying it was “politically motivated”.



EARLIER STORIES

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, atop a camel, visits the Suigam border in Tharad district of Gujarat on Saturday. BSF personnel escort him.
HIGH RIDE: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, atop a camel, visits the Suigam border in Tharad district of Gujarat on Saturday. BSF personnel escort him. — PTI
Bombs found near school in Assam
Guwahati, January 3
Two bombs were recovered from near a school while two bags packed with firecrackers, with wires protruding out, were recovered from separate locations in Assam today.

UGC panel wants students to rate teachers
New Delhi, January 3
The Academic Reforms Committee of the UGC is in favour of students rating the performance of teachers. In its report submitted to the UGC, the committee has recommended a series of reforms to improve the higher education system, and has asked universities to switch over to semester system instead of annual examination system.

NRI Meet
3,500 cops to be on duty for PM’s visit
Chennai, January 3
Security has been tightened in and around Chennai in an unprecendented manner and 3,500 policemen will be maintaining vigil for the visit of President Prathiba Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who are to attend the NRIs meeting here on January 8 and 9, in view of an e-mail threat in the name of Indian Mujahideen.

Pashupatinath Stalemate
Take up for Indian priests, Rajnath tells govt
New Delhi, January 3
BJP president Shri Rajnath Singh has expressed concern over the forced replacement of Indian priests by the Maoists to install their own appointed priests in the famous Pashupatinath Mandir in Kathmandu.

Need to promote young scientists: PM
Shillong, January 3
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh today asked various scientific institutions across the country to promote young talent to spot the leaders among them and also promised to double the investment in science from 1 per cent of the national income to 2 per cent.

Prez okays big salary hike for self
New Delhi, January 3
President Pratibha Patil has approved the law giving her a 300 per cent hike in salary, taking her monthly pay cheque in the New Year to Rs 1.5 lakh from the Rs 50,000 earlier.

Auto ban: Angry mob torches govt buses in Kolkata
Kolkata, January 3
Violence continued to mar the city for a successive second day over the ban on plying of two-stroke auto-rickshaws, as angry protesters burnt at least five government buses and six other private vehicles today. The police fired several rounds of tear gas shells and baton charged indiscriminately at several places for dispersing the violent mob.


Fire brigade personnel try to douse flames after irate auto-rickshaw drivers set a government bus on fire in Kolkata on Saturday. — PTI
Fire brigade personnel try to douse flames after irate auto-rickshaw drivers set a government bus on fire in Kolkata on Saturday.

Mumbai Heat
China rushing senior minister to India
New Delhi, January 3
Amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, China is sending its Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei to India on Monday when New Delhi will share with Beijing evidence about the involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists in the Mumbai terror attacks.

Dearth of funds, manpower in CBI shocks MPs’ panel
New Delhi, January 3
A parliamentary committee has asked the government to address CBI's concerns over lack of manpower and funds and expressed dissatisfaction over the steps taken to reduce the pendency of cases, some of which have been lingering for over 10 years.

Gehlot wins trust vote, BSP backs govt
Jaipur, January 3
The Ashok Gehlot government today proved majority in the 13th state legislative assembly through voice vote. It was smooth sailing for the Congress in the end as it got many more than the five seats required for proving the majority.

Prabhakaran should be handed over to India: Cong
New Delhi, January 3
With Sri Lankan troops closing in on LTTE’s last bastion Mullaitivu, the Congress today asked the island nation to hand over Tamil Tiger chief Prabhakaran once he was caught so that he faces trial for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Ammo cache recovered from ex-Col’s house
Udhagamandalam, January 3
A large cache of arms and ammunition was recovered allegedly from the house of a late retired Colonel at Singer post near here today, a top police official said.

Animation film on Lalu Prasad
Patna, January 3
An animation film has been made on Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav. According to Patna-based resident Pawan, the animation film has been characterised and conceptualised by him to show Lalu in a different light.

MP govt to desilt, deepen Upper Lake
Bhopal, January 3
The Madhya Pradesh government has finally come to the rescue of the Upper Lake. The lake has shunk to one-fourth of its size due to extremely deficient rainfall this year, and the government has decided to launch a massive drive to desilt it and enhance its storage capacity.

‘Ghajini’ makes record Rs 150 cr collections
Mumbai, January 3
‘Ghajini’, Aamir Khan's take-off on psycho-thriller ‘Memento’, has turned into a money spinner, touching the nearly Rs 150 crore mark in the very first week.

BJP to finalise candidates by Jan
New Delhi, January 3
The Central Election Committee(CEC) of the BJP would finalise all its candidates for the coming general elections in two phases before the end of January.

Spanish Dy PM on 6-day visit to India
New Delhi, January 3
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega is beginning a six-day visit to India today.

Navy man beaten up for misbehaving with girl
Rameswaram (TN), January 3
A Navy man attached to the naval detachment at Mukundharayar Chattiram near here, who allegedly misbehaved with a girl from Jharkhand, was beaten up and spat at by a group of relatives and local fishermen.

India pledges relief for Gaza civilians
New Delhi, January 3
India yesterday pledged $1 million to a UN agency for providing relief to civilians in the Gaza Strip who have been affected by the Israeli air strikes and made a fresh appeal for the resumption of peace process in the region.

Don’t ostracise AIDS-affected kids, says CJI
New Delhi, January 3
Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan today asked NGOs to serve AIDS and HIV- affected patients and to ensure that children afflicted with the deadly ailment are not socially ostracised. He complimented Keraleeyam, a voluntary organisation of philanthropic-minded Malayalees, to continue with their good work of serving HIV/AIDS-afflicted patients, particularly children in the country.

Karunanidhi sees no wrong in extending freebies
Chennai, January 3
Strongly defending his government’s freebies to the people, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has asked “what is wrong with freebies, when they are benefiting people”.

India-Malaysia pact on ‘orderly’ recruitment
New Delhi, January 3
India and Malaysia today signed an agreement for the “orderly” recruitment and deployment of workers and procedures for monitoring recruiting agents and employers.

Mist fogs out flights, trains
New Delhi, January 3
The whole city continued to be under the blanket of thick fog with a visibility of 50 metres, which resulted, with the disruption of rail and air traffic today. Thus, it was yet another harrowing day for the commuters, with freezing cold still gripping the capital. Flight and train movement has been hit hard.

Tiger count dips in Madhya Pradesh
Bhopal, January 3
Though the figures are yet to be released officially, Madhya Pradesh has witnessed a sharp fall in the number of tigers in the state. The latest tiger census conducted using modern equipment, including infra-red cameras rather than the antiquated pugmark method, is reportedly loaded with bad news for the wild-life lovers and environmentalists.

LTTE’s retreat not defeat, say DMK allies
Chennai, January 3
Parties in Tamil Nadu supporting the LTTE today described the capture of its political capital, Kilinochi, by the Sri Lankan troops as a “victory equal to defeat” and asserted that the struggle for a separate Tamil homeland for Sri Lankans would not end, till the goal was achieved.

Jharkhand lawyer seeks CJI nod to defend Kasab
Jamshedpur, January 3
Amidst the ongoing debate over providing legal assistance to the arrested terrorist of 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Azmal Amir Kasab, a local lawyer from this industrial town has sought permission from the Chief Justice of India, Justice K G Balakrishnan, to defend Kasab.

Cong unfazed by Rane’s ‘exit’
Mumbai, January 3
Former Shiv Sainik-turned-Congressman Narayan Rane is all set to part ways with the grand old party with not many people ready to shed tears for him.





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Delhi blasts accused in ATS net
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, January 3
The Anti-Terrorist Squad has arrested a Lucknow-based engineering student, Hakim Abdul Karim, in connection with the September 2008 Delhi blasts.

Hakim, a final year student in the city's Integral Engineering College, was carrying a reward of Rs one lakh on his head. He is reportedly an active member of the Indian Mujahideen (IM).

A team of Delhi police has arrived in Lucknow to take Hakim to the national capital on a transit remand. Later, he would be taken to Mumbai for further interrogation.

Talking to mediapersons here today, ADG (law and order) Brijlal said the police had been receiving information that an IM activist was hiding in Lucknow. The accused was arrested from Gudamba police circle on Friday when he had come to take examinations at the Integral Engineering College. “During initial interrogation, Hakim admitted that he provided logistic support to his colleagues in the Indian Mujahideen," claimed the ADG.

Hakim has been part of the IM module active in Northern India with Delhi as its base. He had been in the Capital before the September blasts and had since been absconding, claimed Brijlal.

The accused was arrested on a tip-off provided by Amir Talha who was arrested on December 23 last by the ATS at Nagpur. Following Talha's interrogation by Mumbai ATS, sleuths in coordination with a Lucknow team traced the whereabouts of Hakim.

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Engineer’s Lynching
Chargesheet filed against 10 persons
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, January 3
The Uttar Pradesh police today filed chargesheet against 10 persons in the murder case of PWD engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta. While six main accused had been arrested, four were at large.

Revealing this here, DGP Vikram Singh said the BSP MLA Shekhar Tiwari and his henchmen had knocked at the slain engineer’s house in Aurraiya after midnight on December 23 claiming to be men from the CBI.

Elaborating on the modus operandi, the DGP said that when no one responded, the culprits broke open the door and pulled Gupta into the drawing room where they beat him up. When his wife raised the alarm, they locked her up in the bathroom.

The engineer was then brought to the GAIL guesthouse where he was given electric shocks by the then BSP district president, Yogendra Dohrey (alias Bhatia), who is absconding, and Vinay Tiwari, now in police custody.

Around 3 am, the legislator and his men took a grievously injured Gupta to the Dibiapur police station and dumped him there while declaring him to be an unknown ‘goonda’,” said the DGP.

Reiterating “teaching Gupta a lesson” as motive behind the crime, DGP Singh said the accused MLA was greatly displeased with the engineer, as unlike his predecessor Gupta never paid him courtesy calls nor brought gifts of cash for him. “What proved to be the proverbial last straw was when Gupta flatly refused to oblige when the MLA wanted him to give some contracts to his men.”

Confirming that the legislator's wife, Vibha Tiwari, had visited the slain engineer's house and the GAIL guesthouse later that night to remove evidence, the DGP said so far she had not responded to the police notice to appear for interrogation.

The DGP informed that a reward of Rs 2,500 had been announced for any clues leading to the arrest of former Aurraiya BSP president Yogendra Dohrey. A similar reward has been announced for the arrest of Hoshiyar Singh, former SHO of Dibiapur police station, who was dismissed after the incident.

Meanwhile, Shekhar Tiwari, while speaking to a local news channel, blamed it all on his being in an inebriated condition that night. “Later my men informed me that the engineer had died during the beating,” he said.

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Why so much hurry to hang Afzal? Asks Patil

Aurangabad, January 3
Former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil today expressed surprise over clamour from some quarters demanding execution of the Parliament attack convict, Afzal Guru, saying it was “politically motivated”.

“There are 30-35 files pending (mercy petitions). Why do you single out Guru?” Patil asked, while talking to media on a private visit to Aurangabad. “Why this hurry in the case of Guru? The files of those involved in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case too are still pending,” Patil added. Patil, who resigned after the November 26 Mumbai terror attacks, alleged that the whole issue of Afzal Guru’s death sentence was being politicised.

Patil also asked whether killing men was an act of valour. “We have not sent Afzal to Pakistan. He is in a jail in India,” Patil said. Taking a dig at the opposition parties, Patil, without naming the BJP-led NDA government, said they had released Azhar Masood, head of Jaish-e-Mohammed, who is now in Pakistan. — PTI

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Bombs found near school in Assam

Guwahati, January 3
Two bombs were recovered from near a school while two bags packed with firecrackers, with wires protruding out, were recovered from separate locations in Assam today.

The police informed that the two bombs were found near a government primary school at Rowta in Udalguri district at around noon. Bomb disposal squads defused the bombs, but the police remained tight-lipped regarding further details.

A bomb scare was, meanwhile, reported from Bongaigaon district when two suspicious bags were found in Salakati township in the afternoon. — UNI

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UGC panel wants students to rate teachers
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
The Academic Reforms Committee of the UGC is in favour of students rating the performance of teachers. In its report submitted to the UGC, the committee has recommended a series of reforms to improve the higher education system, and has asked universities to switch over to semester system instead of annual examination system.

The panel has strongly pitched for a continuous assessment of students and disfavoured “too much importance to written tests”.

UGC chairperson Sukhdeo Thorat said the committee had recommended that the students might be able to pursue courses in parts in universities as per their preferences.

It has recommended several other reforms, credit accumulation and transfer and semester system being the primary. Credit accumulation and transfer implies that students will be able to pursue courses as per choice in the universities.

For the universities to start credit accumulation and transfer system, each academic programme can have certain credits, the committee has said. “The student can complete part of the programme in a specific university and accumulate certain credits from there. The remaining course can be pursued in another university so that there is no break in education,” the panel has said.

Whenever the credit system is adopted, grades will replace marking system. The UGC is, meanwhile, in the process of framing a regulatory mechanism for deemed universities and self-financing institutions in India. The idea, said Thorat, was to regulate the academic activities of institutions, including admission, examination and fee structure. “Two panels have been set up for the purpose. They will make the necessary recommendations in this regard,” Thorat said.

The regulatory mechanism is needed to prevent arbitrariness in admission and fee structure.

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NRI Meet
3,500 cops to be on duty for PM’s visit
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, January 3
Security has been tightened in and around Chennai in an unprecendented manner and 3,500 policemen will be maintaining vigil for the visit of President Prathiba Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who are to attend the NRIs meeting here on January 8 and 9, in view of an e-mail threat in the name of Indian Mujahideen.

While Manmohan Singh will inaugurate the “Pravasi Bharati Divas” on January 8, the President will deliver the valedictory address, the next day. We have ensured maximum protection, Suburban Police Commissioner SR Jangid told reporters after reviewing the security measures at the venue.

Entry into the centre had already been restricted and employees were being issued special pass, he said adding lodges and hotels in the vicinity were being checked thoroughly.

Apart from the President and Prime Minister, various Union Ministers and Chief Ministers of several states, including Tamilnadu, Kerala and Gujarat, are scheduled to attend the event.

An e-mail, purportedly sent by the Indian Mujahideen terror group and received at the CII office in Delhi, had said the group was keeping an eye on the developments related to the meet. The event was shifted from Delhi to Chennai considering safety factor.

Tamilnadu Additional Director General of Police T Rajendran today said about 3,500 police personnel would be deployed for security in view of the visit of President and Prime Minister.

Speaking to reporters at an awareness programme on Personal Habits and Gastrointestinal Diseases for police, Rajendran said that an enquiry was on to catch the culprits who had issued a threat through e-mail.

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Pashupatinath Stalemate
Take up for Indian priests, Rajnath tells govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
BJP president Shri Rajnath Singh has expressed concern over the forced replacement of Indian priests by the Maoists to install their own appointed priests in the famous Pashupatinath Mandir in Kathmandu.

Rajnath Singh said here this evening that he called up Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda and President Ram Baran Yadav and spoke to them on phone. He said, “They assured me that they will look into this matter and take necessary steps.”

Singh has also asked the government of India to immediately intervene in the matter since it concerns the faith and belief of millions of people in India and Nepal.

Highlighting the significance of Pashupatinath Mandir in the Indian subcontinent, the BJP president said, “Pashupatinath Mandir is a holy shrine visited by thousands of devotees every year from India, Nepal and other countries of the world. The Indian priests have led prayers at the historic Pashupatinath Mandir for the past three centuries and this tradition signifies the cultural bonds shared by India and Nepal. The ongoing crisis has resulted into an unprecedented situation at the temple.”

Singh also mentioned the order of Nepal Supreme Court and said, “The removal of Indian priests from the Pashupatinath Mandir is not only in complete defiance of the Supreme Court order but has hurt the sentiments of people in India.”

“By removing the Indian priests, the Maoist forces have not only dealt a blow to over 300-year-old tradition of the temple but have also tried to undermine the inherent Indo-Nepalese cultural ties,” he added.

Meanwhile, on the issue of the current tension between India and Pakistan over the Mumbai terrorist attack, the BJP president said, “We are not satisfied with the manner in which this Government tackled terrorism in past four years. But we will fully cooperate with the government in whatever steps it will take to stop terrorism from Pakistan.”

He said the government should use all its diplomatic skills to guard its national interests. He asked the government to pressurise the US to stop all aid to Pakistan as well as persuade the IMF to do so, reminding that after all “India is now a strategic partner of the US.”

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Need to promote young scientists: PM
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Shillong, January 3
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh today asked various scientific institutions across the country to promote young talent to spot the leaders among them and also promised to double the investment in science from 1 per cent of the national income to 2 per cent.

Inaugurating the Indian Science Congress at North East Hill University (NEHU) here, Dr Singh said: “The young know the science best. Hence, our institutions must be receptive to the needs of young people. They must promote younger talent and allow youth to lead. Seniority and age may be relevant in bureaucratic systems, but scientific institutions must be led by creative intellectual leaders, irrespective of their age.”

Advocating performance related incentives for scientific personnel, the Prime Minister said the government had accepted a special recommendation made by the pay commission in this regard to reward good performers. He also called upon the Indian industry to invest more in research and development and boost the demand for science and technology graduates and researchers.

“Look at the role played by public investment in nuclear energy, space and defence related industry in creating the demand for science and technology graduates. We need a new wave of such investment from the private sector so that our young people are encouraged to seek a career in science,” he said.

Lauding the theme of the congress - “Science Education and Attraction of Talent for Excellence in Research” - Dr Manmohan Singh said science education was a fundamental requirement for any modern nation to meet the challenges and avail of the opportunities of modern scientific and technologic age.

The Prime Minister said an autonomous ‘national science and engineering research board’ would be set up to take care of the funding of major scientific research.

Among other initiatives in the field, he said, he said an inter-ministerial group of secretaries in the biotechnology sector and the Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council had been set up and several schemes and programmes based on Public-Private partnerships had been launched.

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Prez okays big salary hike for self

New Delhi, January 3
President Pratibha Patil has approved the law giving her a 300 per cent hike in salary, taking her monthly pay cheque in the New Year to Rs 1.5 lakh from the Rs 50,000 earlier.

The President also gave her assent to another law that would hike the monthly salary of Vice-President MH Ansari from Rs 40,000 at present to Rs 1.25 lakh per month. Besides, post-retirement benefits for former Presidents and Vice-Presidents have been enhanced.

The hike comes close on the heels of government announcing a bonanza for its employees by implementing the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission report, under which a secretary at the Centre would draw Rs 80,000 a month. Immediately after the hike was announced, President Pratibha Patil contributed a month's salary to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for rehabilitation of those affected by Bihar floods. — PTI

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Auto ban: Angry mob torches govt buses in Kolkata
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, January 3
Violence continued to mar the city for a successive second day over the ban on plying of two-stroke auto-rickshaws, as angry protesters burnt at least five government buses and six other private vehicles today.

The police fired several rounds of tear gas shells and baton charged indiscriminately at several places for dispersing the violent mob. At least 30 people, including some police personnel, were injured during the process. As many as 90 protestors were arrested, but due to the public resistance and demonstrations, 50 of them were later released on personal bond.

Soon after the police action against the demonstrators, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee accompanied by several party workers and supporters staged a dharna in front of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s Palm Avenue residence in south Kolkata.

The trouble started during the 12-hour transport strike in the city called by the Auto-rickshaws Association belonging to the Trinamool Congress against the decision of banning the two-stroke auto-rickshaws without providing any alternative rehabilitation to them.

Around 3 pm, the demonstrating auto-pullers set fire to a state bus near the Park Circus ground and started pelting stones at the moving vehicles. The police soon arrived at the spot and lathi charged to disperse the mob.

But the violence spread to other areas at Park Street, Ballygunge, Rashbehari Avenue, Behala and the Esplanade area, where the angry auto-pullers began attacking the policemen, the moving vehicles and other passer-bys. They also burnt down two more state buses and several private vehicles. The situation was brought under control after 5 pm, with the arrival of a large contingent of the paramilitary forces.

Mamata demanded that the court’s order banning the two-stroke auto-rickshaws on pollution ground be kept in abeyance for some time till some alternative arrangements were made for the affected. She also suggested the state government should accordingly move to the High Court.

Contrary to that, Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty said the auto-pullers themselves would have to find out the alternative arrangement either by purchasing new LPG-run autos or convert their petrol-run auto into the LPG. He also reiterated that the government would be executing the court’s order against the plying of the existing two-stroke autos in the streets.

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Mumbai Heat
China rushing senior minister to India
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
Amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks, China is sending its Vice-Foreign Minister He Yafei to India on Monday when New Delhi will share with Beijing evidence about the involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists in the Mumbai terror attacks.

He had last week visited Islamabad soon after Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had spoken to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, urging India and Pakistan to deescalate the situation.

During his visit to the Indian Capital, the Chinese envoy will meet Mukherjee and may also call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Sources here said India would ask China to put pressure on Pakistan to ensure that the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks were brought to justice. The Chinese leader would also be told that Pakistan was solely to be blamed for the tension in the region because of its refusal to act against terrorist groups operating on its soil.

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Dearth of funds, manpower in CBI shocks MPs’ panel
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 3
A parliamentary committee has asked the government to address CBI's concerns over lack of manpower and funds and expressed dissatisfaction over the steps taken to reduce the pendency of cases, some of which have been lingering for over 10 years.

"The committee is of the opinion that a premier investigating agency such as CBI on whom the public, courts and governments have immense faith, should not suffer on account of shortage of funds," the MPs' panel said in its latest report.

"Therefore, austerity measures should not be a road block to ensuring highest professional acumen and operational efficiency in the organisation."

In its action taken report (ATR), the government had said budget grants were approved depending upon actual utilisation and requirement for the future on realistic estimates. Budget proposals from CBI were addressed also keeping in view the relevant instructions of the finance ministry.

The parliamentary standing committee expressed concern over the "shortfall" in the budgetary grant, especially under the heads "public prosecutors" (36.4 per cent) and "information technology" (66.01 per cent).

"The committee would like to impress upon the ministry (of personnel) that emoluments to be granted to the staff in CBI and availability of updated technological resources should not suffer for want of funds," its report stated.

On the government's response on pending cases, the panel said it was not satisfied by the reply in as much as "it does not spell out" the steps being taken. "Nor did they explain the strategy i.e., how this pendency is going to be reduced…The committee therefore impresses upon the ministry to furnish a detailed note while furnishing the ATN."

Earlier, the committee had described as "alarming" the number of vacancies in CBI - 30.8 per cent in the rank of prosecution, 66.2 per cent in technical and 58.8 per cent at the level of deputy superintendent.

The government said measures were being taken to fill up vacancies. The committee said a close watch had to be kept on the process of filling up the vacancies and "swift, effective measures" should be taken to remove the stumbling blocks as and when they arose."

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Gehlot wins trust vote, BSP backs govt
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, January 3
The Ashok Gehlot government today proved majority in the 13th state legislative assembly through voice vote. It was smooth sailing for the Congress in the end as it got many more than the five seats required for proving the majority.

Though the exact number of the members supporting the party could not be ascertained as the BJP did not press for division of votes, the magical number was more than 115.

Six independents led by Kirori Lal Meena had already supported the party. The BSP with its six members announced the support during the debate over the trust vote. Ten other independents also voiced support in favour of the Congress.

Chief Minister Gehlot stole the show at the day-long proceedings when he, in a hard-hitting speech, took BJP leaders to the task on their decisions, behaviour and policies during the BJP rule. He chose former Chief Minister and now Leader of Opposition Vasundhra Raje for special treatment terming her the “most insensitive” state head.

He charged her with allowing the police to kill people where dialogue should have been the best option. He also criticised her for taking 14 hours to meet Gujjar victims’ families and preferring to do personal work than meeting Chamunda Devi temple victims’ families.

Bitter debate preceeded the trust vote with BJP leaders led by senior members Ghan Sham Tiwari, Rajendera Singh Rathore, Gulab Chand Tiwri, Dr Deependera Singh saying that the Congress got a fractured mandate. They argued it had no moral ground to form the government as 63 per cent of voters did not vote for the party.

BJP stages walkout

The highly controversial and violent Gujjar controversy again came into the limelight in the state polity with the BJP boycotting the Governor's address on the issue that he sat over the Gujjar reservation bill for months even though it was passed by the Vidhan Sabha. The moment Governor S K Singh started his address, the BJP leaders rose from their seats seeking an explanation as to why he did not approve the bill. The BJP members staged the walkout when the Governor paid no heed to their protest. In his speech, the Governor listed the promises of the Congress government and stressed on increasing power generation in the state.

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Prabhakaran should be handed over to India: Cong

New Delhi, January 3
With Sri Lankan troops closing in on LTTE’s last bastion Mullaitivu, the Congress today asked the island nation to hand over Tamil Tiger chief Prabhakaran once he was caught so that he faces trial for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

“We will be happy if Prabhakaran is caught and handed over to India for the heinous crime he has committed. He should be brought to book for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi,” party’s chief spokesman M Veerappa Moily said.

Moily said the Sri Lankan government would do an excellent service to India if it handed over the LTTE chief after catching him. “We want his extradition...The request is pending,” he told reporters here.

The Congress leader, however, said the ethnic issue in Sri Lanka and the humanitarian concerns had to be looked into by the neighbouring country. “LTTE is a terror outfit and a banned organisation...But the ethnic and humanitarian issues will have to be dealt with by the government and the Tamil population cannot be discriminated against...One cannot mix issue of terror with the humanitarian ones,” Moily added.

On the statement of MDMK leader Vaiko, who had said it was a temporary setback for the LTTE and they will bounce back, Moily said it was the opinion of an individual and not the Government of India. — PTI

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Ammo cache recovered from ex-Col’s house

Udhagamandalam, January 3
A large cache of arms and ammunition was recovered allegedly from the house of a late retired Colonel at Singer post near here today, a top police official said.

The ammunition recovered from Colonel NG O'Connor, who died on December 27 last, included 5,214 AK-47 rounds, 378 SLR-5 chain rolls and one .303 ammunition among others, West Zone IG, Pramod Kumar said here this evening. Besides, two 390 Mark-II A missiles, two used cases of rocket launchers and one rocket launcher were recovered, he said.

The ammunition wrapped in newspapers was found in wooden boxes and a leather bag in the house, where he was residing since 1987.

The incident came to light when Maureen Edge, daughter of O'Connor, found the weapons while cleaning the personal room of her father and informed the police, they said. A case has been registered. — PTI

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Animation film on Lalu Prasad

Patna, January 3
An animation film has been made on Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav. According to Patna-based resident Pawan, the animation film has been characterised and conceptualised by him to show Lalu in a different light.

“I had been making cartoons on Lalu for a long time. So, I thought, how can I present Lalu in a different medium. These days animation films are in great demand. It was at this time that I thought of making a film on Lalu. Thereafter, I started working on this project and made a team to work on it,” said Pawan. — ANI

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MP govt to desilt, deepen Upper Lake
Tribune News Service

Bhopal, January 3
The Madhya Pradesh government has finally come to the rescue of the Upper Lake. The lake has shunk to one-fourth of its size due to extremely deficient rainfall this year, and the government has decided to launch a massive drive to desilt it and enhance its storage capacity.

Built in the 11th century, the Upper Lake, with an area of around 6 sq km, is a massive water body and a major source of potable water for the people of Bhopal. It is the hub of all water sports activities in the city, a major tourist attraction and a favourite destination of migratory birds.

However, with the monsoons playing truant this year, large tracts of the lake’s bed have emerged out of the water. Children play cricket on spots which were covered with over 10 feet of water till last year.

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‘Ghajini’ makes record Rs 150 cr collections
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 3
‘Ghajini’, Aamir Khan's take-off on psycho-thriller ‘Memento’, has turned into a money spinner, touching the nearly Rs 150 crore mark in the very first week.

According to information put out by Khan's PR machine, the movie grossed Rs 100 crore days after its Christmas release and New Year had another Rs 50 crore in their kitty.

Aamir Khan and his crew uncorked the bubbly just five days after the film's release at a pre-New Year's Eve party last week. Much of the credit for the monster hit should be given to Khan's PR drive. Every ad featuring the actor had him wearing the trademark ‘Ghajini’ haircut.

Sustained publicity about his heavy workouts also kept audience curiosity at its height. Though critics have panned the movie, the public seems to love the flick, which, Khan insists, is a remake of the Tamil remake of ‘Memento’.

Aamir's PR people are playing up his rivalry with Shah Rukh Khan whose ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ came second on the 2008 hit list. Opening only a week before Ghajini, the Shah Rukh Khan starrer garnered Rs 60 crore in the opening weekend and went on to collect gross Rs 90 crore in the first week.

In contrast, Shah Rukh Khan's ‘Om Shanti Om’ was the biggest hit of 2007 earning just Rs 156 crore worldwide. At the party for his crew, Aamir Khan insisted that the success was a result of the team effort.

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BJP to finalise candidates by Jan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
The Central Election Committee(CEC) of the BJP would finalise all its candidates for the coming general elections in two phases before the end of January.

A decision to this effect was taken at the meeting of the Central Parliamentary Board held here yesterday. The meeting was presided over by president Rajnath Singh in the presence of the Leader of Opposition, LK Advani.

The CEC would meet in the first phase from January 19 to 21 and in the second on January 28 and 29, said party general secretary Arun Jaitley. He also said that all the state units have been asked to send in their names before these dates. Already the BJP has announced 11 candidates from UP, including Rajnath Singh in the first list and seven others in the second list.

The BJP national executive and council are scheduled to meet in Nagpur on February 6, 7 and 8 and the party aims at finalising all the candidates before that, he said.

Besides this, the board has also instructed all state units to hold their meetings between January 16 to February 15 to chalk out their strategy for polls. One central leader would be present in all such meetings, BJP sources said.

The sources said this would help the party to concentrate on the preparation of party agenda and manifesto and in moving closer to the RSS.

The board also took up the issues to be discussed later with the RSS later in the day. Besides they discussed the manifesto preparation, finalisation of details of the election campaign and status of BJP's alliance with other NDA partners.

The missing cash worth Rs 2.60 crore from the party headquarters also came up for discussion, according to the sources. It was also expected to come up at the RSS-BJP meeting.

Those present at the parliamentary board meeting included apart from Advani and Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, M Venkaiah Naidu, Murli Manohar Joshi and Sushma Swaraj.

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Spanish Dy PM on 6-day visit to India

New Delhi, January 3
Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega is beginning a six-day visit to India today.

Fernandez will have detailed discussions here with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on January 5 besides calling on a number of other dignitaries.

The Deputy Prime Minister will also go to Mumbai, Bangalore and Anantpur.

Her visit follows the successful visit by Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero in July last. Trade between India and Spain has been growing and has more than quadrupled from $900 million in 2000 to $3,985 million in 2007. — UNI

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Navy man beaten up for misbehaving with girl

Rameswaram (TN), January 3
A Navy man attached to the naval detachment at Mukundharayar Chattiram near here, who allegedly misbehaved with a girl from Jharkhand, was beaten up and spat at by a group of relatives and local fishermen.

According to local fishermen, the fracas began when the volleyball being played by a group of naval personnel hit the 18-year-old girl while she was taking a dip in the sea along with 20 of her relatives.

One of the naval men who came to fetch the ball caused a flutter by hugging the girl after an argument.

Following this, local fishermen and the girl's family members beat him up. He along with his colleagues fled to the nearby detachment office.

After this, the fishermen and relatives of the girl picketed the detachment demanding that the naval man responsible for misbehaving with the girl be handed over.

The naval officials first refused to hand him over while assuring to take departmental action against him.

But they later relented and produced him before the crowd after which people spat on his face and left.

The local fishermen complained that some naval personnel misbehaved with their women whenever they go to take bath in the sea.

A few months ago, a departmental enquiry was ordered against a naval man for misbehaving with a fisherwoman. Naval officials said an enquiry had been ordered into today's incident. — PTI

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India pledges relief for Gaza civilians
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
India yesterday pledged $1 million to a UN agency for providing relief to civilians in the Gaza Strip who have been affected by the Israeli air strikes and made a fresh appeal for the resumption of peace process in the region.

“In response to the appeal made by the United Nations Refugee Welfare Agency (UNRWA), the Government of India has decided to extend an assistance of $1 million for use by the agency to provide shelters and essential household items to affected families in Gaza,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said here.

“The Government of India urges an immediate end to the violence witnessed in Gaza and its environs, so that further casualties amongst civilians are averted,” the spokesperson said.

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Don’t ostracise AIDS-affected kids, says CJI

New Delhi, January 3
Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan today asked NGOs to serve AIDS and HIV- affected patients and to ensure that children afflicted with the deadly ailment are not socially ostracised. He complimented Keraleeyam, a voluntary organisation of philanthropic-minded Malayalees, to continue with their good work of serving HIV/AIDS-afflicted patients, particularly children in the country.

His remarks came in the backdrop of reports that children afflicted with HIV/AIDS were denied admission by some schools in Kerala. He said it was for the organisations like Keraleeyam to ensure that there was no social ostracism of children suffering from AIDS.

The CJ made the remark while presenting the annual Kerala Ratna Puraskaram-2008 awards to six individuals at a ceremony held at the AP Bhavan. He said he was happy to see that Keralites had been doing exceptionally well in various fields. The awards are given annually to prominent Keralites in recognition of the philanthropic activities carried by individuals. — PTI

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Karunanidhi sees no wrong in extending freebies
N. Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, January 3
Strongly defending his government’s freebies to the people, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has asked “what is wrong with freebies, when they are benefiting people”.

The DMK leader, who introduced the free colour TV and free gas connection scheme after he came to power in 2006, asked “what about annadhanams (feeding rice to the people) in temples”. Criticising a section of the media for ridiculing the freebies to people, he said, “Why those magazines and dailies are giving free supplements along with the main issues.”

Launching yet another free scheme providing gift hampers with ingredients for preparing sweet Pongal on Pongal Day (the cultural festival of Tamils) at a function on Thursday night, the Chief Minister said, “There is nothing wrong with freebies? There are lakhs of people in this country receiving freebies provided by the government and even rich people who owned cars received flood relief of Rs 2,000, given by the state government recently.”

The Chief Minister said the gift hampers would be distributed through PDS shops till Pongal Day. He said the free dhoti and saree scheme at a cost of Rs 260 crore to the exchequer would benefit weavers, besides those who receive them.

During the 2006 Assembly elections, the DMK chief came out with a manifesto, which promised rice at Rs 2 per kg, free colour TVs and free land to the poor, which brought it back to power.

After coming to power, the DMK government gave more than what it had promised. It reduced the price of PDS rice Rs 1 per kg, besides distributing free TVs, gas stoves and gas connections. It also increased the number of eggs in the noon-meal scheme to three per week, while increasing the amount for marriage assistance scheme and pension for senior citizens.

In fact, Karunanidhi also introduced the free spectacles scheme, besides providing free rickshaws to the poor, when he came to power in 1971. AIADMK founder MGR followed the path shown by his former leader and introduced free tooth powder scheme, besides improving the noon-meal scheme.

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India-Malaysia pact on ‘orderly’ recruitment
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
India and Malaysia today signed an agreement for the “orderly” recruitment and deployment of workers and procedures for monitoring recruiting agents and employers.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Indian Overseas Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi and Malaysian Human Resources Minister S Subramaniam.

The draft agreement had first been discussed in February 2007 during the fourth joint commission meeting in Delhi. After formal negotiations ended and the MoU was initiated, the Government of India gave its approval on March 20, 2008.

Describing the agreement as a “major milestone” in relation between the two countries, Ravi said one of the “important components is to check unscrupulous agents”.

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Mist fogs out flights, trains
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
The whole city continued to be under the blanket of thick fog with a visibility of 50 metres, which resulted, with the disruption of rail and air traffic today. Thus, it was yet another harrowing day for the commuters, with freezing cold still gripping the capital. Flight and train movement has been hit hard.

After a relatively clear day on Friday, fog descended from the capital’s skies before midnight, with the runway visibility taking a dip to 100 metres, which is way below the normal 150 metres. This led to the cancellation of eight international and 20 domestic flights and delay of six domestic flights at the Indira Gandhi International airport.

According to airport officials, fog has taken a toll on the air traffic since the beginning of this week, leading to the delay of more than 500 flights and cancellation of around 75 others.

Similarly, train movement was also severely hampered with more than 70 trains held up by over three hours. The northern railways spokesperson informed that six trains from Delhi were cancelled today and 13 another would not be running from tomorrow until 31 of this month.

“The intense fog has led to consistent delays of more than 70 trains since the past one week in the northern India, besides several others being short terminated,” said the northern railways’ spokesperson.

As per the met department, fog would continue to envelop the skies of the capital in the coming days, leaving the city’s dwellers to battle the freezing cold and the biting waves. In fact, the whole northern India already reporting numerous deaths would have a grilling time due to the persistent cold waves.

Today, Delhi recorded a maximum of 15 degrees and a minimum of 5.4 degrees Celsius, as against yesterday’s 4 degrees Celsius that declared Friday as the coldest day of the season. Meanwhile, the weatherperson, forecasting a clear sky for tomorrow with the visibility ranging from 50-100 metres, said the capital would witness a maximum of 16 degress and a minimum of 9 degrees celsius.

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Tiger count dips in Madhya Pradesh
Amrish Herdenia
Tribune News Service

Bhopal, January 3
Though the figures are yet to be released officially, Madhya Pradesh has witnessed a sharp fall in the number of tigers in the state. The latest tiger census conducted using modern equipment, including infra-red cameras rather than the antiquated pugmark method, is reportedly loaded with bad news for the wild-life lovers and environmentalists. How drastic the fall has been is evident by the fact that the Panna Tiger reserve, supposed to be home to 34 tigers, now seems to have been left with only one.

Madhya Pradesh once accounted for almost one-fourth of the country’s tiger population, earning it the sobriquet of “Tiger state”. More than 700 tigers stalked the nine national parks and 25 wildlife sanctuaries in the state. Kanha National Park alone held more than 100 big cats and was an international tourist destination.

Over the past one decade, poaching has claimed hundreds of tigers in the state. The claws, nails and other body parts of the tiger are highly prized in China and far eastern countries for their supposedly aphrodisiacal properties. It is to fulfil this demand that poachers kill tigers in MP and other parts of the country. Their remains are then smuggled abroad for a fabulous profit.

Every time the report of yet another fall in tiger population comes in, the state government comes out with yet another scheme to counter the poachers. How much these schemes have actually worked on the ground can be gauged by the fact that successive tiger censuses have been reporting tigers vanishing from the tiger reserves, created for their protection.

Perhaps, anticipating the flak it would draw once the Tiger Census report becomes public, the state government has announced the constitution of “Tiger strike force”. It will be headquartered in Bhopal and co-ordinate with the already existing six regional anti-poaching centres.

As a matter of abundant precaution, the forest department has started the blame game in advance. The management of the Kanha National Park has complained that the police was reporting confiscation of tiger skins to it but was not revealing the details i.e. when, where and from whom were the skins were seized. The oblique suggestion is that the policemen were themselves getting tigers killed for the Rs 25,000 award each seized tiger skin brought to them.

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LTTE’s retreat not defeat, say DMK allies
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, January 3
Parties in Tamil Nadu supporting the LTTE today described the capture of its political capital, Kilinochi, by the Sri Lankan troops as a “victory equal to defeat” and asserted that the struggle for a separate Tamil homeland for Sri Lankans would not end, till the goal was achieved.

Dravidar Kazhagam, parent body of the DMK and AIADMK, said the Sri Lankan troops had entered a ghost town, after the LTTE and entire civilian population, who were solidly behind the organisation, had vacated the area. As the entire Tamil population had followed the LTTE, the government’s victory was equal to a defeat, MK Veeramani, president of DK said.

Even the Sri Lankan government and the military could not claim that the war had ended, he said. Citing a Tamil proverb meaning “Tigers hide before they leap”, the DK leader, a close ally of the ruling DMK,said.

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Jharkhand lawyer seeks CJI nod to defend Kasab

Jamshedpur, January 3
Amidst the ongoing debate over providing legal assistance to the arrested terrorist of 26/11 Mumbai attacks, Azmal Amir Kasab, a local lawyer from this industrial town has sought permission from the Chief Justice of India, Justice K G Balakrishnan, to defend Kasab.

Rajiv Kumar Singh, in his letter, copies of which have been sent to the Union Home Minister, National Human Rights Commission and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, said, ''It is admitted that Kasab is a terrorist who ransacked peace and harmony of India by attacking innocent people. But it is necessary to conduct the trial by providing every legal assistance to him. Otherwise the proceedings will be deemed to be vitiated.'' He has also sought permission to initiate the trial in the Jamshedpur court itself.

Talking to UNI here today, Singh said he was even ready to go to Mumbai as a defence lawyer, if need be. ''No one can intimidate me. I will never withdraw as I am doing this for the cause of principle of natural justice. As a lawyer, I am not supposed to be limited by any geographical or religious boundry.

Moreover, we don't have any extradition treaty with Pakistan, so the trial will take place here only. If this country can afford a lawyer for the assasins of its Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, I see no wrong in giving Kasab legal assistance. This act will only increase the repute of the country in the eyes of the world,'' he said.

Last month Shiv Sena activists ransacked the house of a lawyer, Mukesh Deshmukh from Amravathi in Maharashra, for giving a similar proposal. — UNI

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Cong unfazed by Rane’s ‘exit’
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 3
Former Shiv Sainik-turned-Congressman Narayan Rane is all set to part ways with the grand old party with not many people ready to shed tears for him.

Though Rane can still cause some damage to the Congress in his bastion of Konkan during the elections, senior party leaders are prepared to face the losses.

Rane has at present been suspended from the party and any sign of launching his own front or signing up with another party would result in his immediate explusion. “I will announce my new movement from January 6, 2009. I am not interested in staying with the Congress party,” Rane told reporters in the city on Friday.

Whether he joins Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena or Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party remains to be seen, but the general consensus is that Rane may launch his own party. But few in the Congress seem to care about Rane now that he has outlived his usefulness for the party. The feeling within the party is that Rane had more than extracted his pound of flesh for helping shore up its numbers after he joined the outfit more than two years ago.

The state Assembly has another ten months to go before elections and several MLAs who owe their position to Rane are waiting and watching. Congress party leaders are said to be wooing several Rane loyalists in the Konkan region to undercut the base of the man who is seen as a perpetual Chief Minister aspirant.

On the eve of his formal split from the Congress, Rane himself admitted that he is friendless in the the party. “No one has tried to persuade me from the Congress party and even if they did it would not have any effect on me,” Rane said.

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