SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Another BSP leader in dock
Non-bailable warrant issued against Jaunpur MLA in murder case
Lucknow, January 4
An increasing number of BSP leaders are finding themselves on the wrong of the law these days, compounding woes of the Mayawati government. Close on the heels of two party MLAs being booked for serious crimes recently, a non-bailable warrant has been issued against another BSP MLA by a fast track court here in connection with the sensational murder of director general of family welfare in 2000.

Goods train derails as ultras trigger blast
Guwahati, January 4
Three bogies of a goods train were derailed when suspected militants belonging to the Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel Garlosa) or the Black Widow triggered a blast on the railway track between Harangajao and Mailongdisa railway stations in North Cachar Hill district of Central Assam, this morning.

NIA must involve local police: Punjab
New Delhi, January 4
Just two days ahead of the proposed internal security meet of Chief Ministers with the Prime Minister, it has emerged that Punjab will be one of the states that will protest the “unilateral decision” of the Central government to form the National Investigation agency (NIA) without consulting the states.



EARLIER STORIES



Debris of a newly constructed overbridge which collapsed at Kankarbagh in Patna on Sunday. — PTI

Cong-Trinamool pact on cards
Kolkata, January 4
The Congress and Trinamool Congress have reportedly forged an electoral alliance to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls jointly in West Bengal.

Top cop accused of caste bias in AP
Hyderabad, January 4
The internal squabbles among IPS officers in Andhra Pradesh have taken a murky turn with a senior official accusing the state intelligence chief of caste bias in deciding postings.

No differences in party: Advani
New Delhi, January 4
After media reports suggesting that RSS wanted BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani to have the final say in matters of dispute in the party, Advani today denied them saying there were ‘no differences’ in the ranks.

TDP casts Balakrishna to flop Chiranjeevi’s political show
Hyderabad, January 4
N Balakrishna, a popular Telugu film star, has been roped in by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to counter the impact of actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, ahead of the Assembly elections, due in April.

Now, a card for someone you hate
New Delhi, January 4
Hitting out at someone without actually coming to blows just got easier! For all those who believe in the Gandhian way of making your opponent feel ashamed by protesting in a subtle, satirical and non-violent way, here is an opportunity to send that person a greeting card.

Lanka Conflict
Centre not fulfilling promises: Ramadoss
Chennai, January 4
Fuming over the Congress attitude towards the Sri Lankan Tamils issue, S Ramadoss, leader of the PMK, a constituent of the UPA, today flayed the Centre in a very strong language, raising speculations that the party was preparing grounds to quit.

In times of gloom, boom time for fortune-tellers
New Delhi, January 4
When disasters strike, be it in the form of terror attacks or stock market crash, its only the Almighty that people look up to for solace. There is no better way of knowing what the gods have in store than going to an astrologer.

Cabinet okays secondary education programme, highway expansion
New Delhi, January 4
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) took major decisions on expanding highways in certain sectors under the national highway development programme, universalising access to secondary education, enabling education through use of information and communication and building berths for coal and iron landing on Paradip coast. In addition to this, the government also cleared the way for $50 million foreign direct investment from Pepsico, by exempting the beverages major from fulfilling a requirement to divest 49 per cent stake in bottling firms to Indian companies.

Nitish to tour countryside, address people’s woes
Patna, January 4
With the intention to take his “Sarkaar Janata ke Dwaar (government to people’s doorsteps)”, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has decided to tour the countryside by road and spend the nights in tents pitched in remote villages. The tour named officially as "Vikas Yatra" would kick start from January 19 at Champaran, the land from where Mahatma Gandhi had launched his Satyagraha (movement against the Indigo planters).

I’m a misfit in politics, says Dharmendra
Jaipur, January 4
Dharmendra Star-turned-politician Dharmendra is in no mood to contest the next Lok Sabha polls. The Bollywood He-Man says the bitter five-year experience in politics has made him realise that he’s a misfit in this arena. “I have had enough. Politics is not my cup of tea,” said the man who was once voted among the top ten handsome men in the world, while talking to reporters at a function organised by Rotary Club here last night.

Bachchan’s aura built on sheer talent, performances: Aamir
Mumbai, January 4
Actor-filmmaker Aamir Khan has said that the mega superstar aura of Amitabh Bachchan has been built on sheer talent and powerhouse performances and not on lies.

12 states to adopt NCERT textbooks
New Delhi, January 4
Coming a step closer to bringing uniformity in school curricula across the country, students in a dozen states would read National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) books in government-run schools from the coming academic session in place of state text books. The states are Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab and Goa.

Central team in Bihar to assess flood damages
Patna, January 4
Responding to Bihar government’s demand for a special package of Rs 14,000 crore for carrying out rehabilitation and reconstruction work in flood-ravaged Kosi region, the Centre has sent a 15-member team to the state to assess the damage caused during the deluge.

Assam CM wants to quit Unified Command
Guwahati, January 4
In the wake of terrorists showing belligerence by triggering blasts at regular intervals all over the state, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today announced that he was willing to give up his responsibility as the Chairman of the counter-insurgency Unified Command in order to pass the baton to the Chief Secretary of the state.

CMs’ meet with MHA to be stormy
New Delhi, January 4
The meeting of the state Chief Ministers with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on January 6 is expected to cut both ways. While the ministry has made up its mind to okay the demands of the states that fall within the parameters of “fighting terrorism”, states will be asked to fix things at their end within a specified time frame. This is been seen as one of the most important meetings of this year and will set the tone and pace of the government in the post- Mumbai attack scenario.

Lalu lecture in Japan
Patna, January 4
After drawing applause from different quarters for turning around the Indian Railways into a success story, Railway

Tribal body lifts blockade, gives admn 15 days
Midnapore (WB), January 4
The Committee Against Police Atrocities (CAPC), a tribal body today announced that it was withdrawing the blockade started by it in west Midnapore district from yesterday and would give the administration more time to fulfil their demands.

15 die after consuming spurious liquor
Kolkata, January 4
At least 15 persons were killed in the Port area at Hyde Road today after consuming spurious liquor and about 20 others were admitted to different hospitals and nursing homes in the city. Official sources, however, put the death toll at 12.

Culling on in West Bengal
Siliguri, January 4
Culling operations were on in Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts in north Bengal for the second day today as authorities banned the sale and consumption of chicken and poultry products with 10 km radius of the epicentre Benoy Krishna pally at Matigara near here.

India calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza
Kolkata, January 4
Describing Israeli raids in Gaza as disproportionate and totally unacceptable, India today called for immediate ceasefire in West Asia.

Deutsch girl ‘raped’ in Goa
Panaji, January 4
A 24-year-old Deutsch national was allegedly drugged, robbed and raped on Goa’s beach near Anjuna on December 31 mid-night when the entire state was on high alert.

Food, just a click away!
Bangalore, January 4
Spurred by the demand for online food services, more and more entrepreneurs are now foraying into this market segment, hoping to claim a sizable pie of this nascent but growing segment.

 







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Another BSP leader in dock
Non-bailable warrant issued against Jaunpur MLA in murder case
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, January 4
An increasing number of BSP leaders are finding themselves on the wrong of the law these days, compounding woes of the Mayawati government. Close on the heels of two party MLAs being booked for serious crimes recently, a non-bailable warrant has been issued against another BSP MLA by a fast track court here in connection with the sensational murder of director general of family welfare in 2000.

BSP MLA from Rari in Jaunpur, Dhananjay Singh, is an accused in the murder of Dr Bachi Lal, the then DG family welfare. Bachi was shot from a point blank range by some unidentified persons, while he was taking a morning stroll.

The non-bailable warrant has been issued against the MLA and his co-accused Babloo Ghosi. Notably, Dhananjay’s name figures in at least 25 criminal cases, including four under the Gangsters Act, registered at various police stations of Jaunpur and Lucknow.

During the 2007 assembly election, he was elected on a JDU ticket. The lone MLA to win from the party, he later joined hands with the ruling BSP and was tipped to be the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Jaunpur.

Dhananjay is said to have a ‘shady past’. His name first figured in the killing of a popular teacher of the city’s prestigious La Martiniere Boy’s College in Lucknow on March 7, 1997. Frederick Gomes, the assistant warden and physical training instructor at the school, was found murdered in his bungalow near the college ground.

The Jaunpur MLA is also an accused in the 1998 broad daylight shootout in Lucknow in which a PWD engineer Gopal Sharan Srivastava was killed.

However, he has not been arrested for any of these crimes. Interestingly, the Mayawati government had sent him to jail in November 2002, along with another independent MLA Raghuraj Pratap Singh, for his alleged attempts to topple her government by intimidating legislators.

During the last fortnight, a BSP MLA was accused of lynching an engineer and another BSP leader was arrested on charges of molesting a woman. Meanwhile, the MLA’s lawyer said they would appeal for change of the non-bailable warrant to a bailable one at the earliest.

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Goods train derails as ultras trigger blast
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, January 4
Three bogies of a goods train were derailed when suspected militants belonging to the Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel Garlosa) or the Black Widow triggered a blast on the railway track between Harangajao and Mailongdisa railway stations in North Cachar Hill district of Central Assam, this morning.

A source in Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) headquarters here said the goods train was proceeding to Badarpur Railway station in South Assam from Lumding junction in Central Assam through the metre-gauge hill section.

The threat from the Black Widow militants had earlier led to the suspension of running of passenger trains in the section at night.

Meanwhile, top contractors engaged by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) for the construction of the four-lane East West Corridor through North Cachar Hill district have stopped work out of fear of insurgents.

A security source said the contractors had told NHAI authorities that they were not feeling secure with the security provided by the Assam police in the insurgency ravaged district and asked them to provide adequate security for their workers and properties if they wanted the work to continue.

The Black Widow ultras keep the contractors under tremendous pressure through extortion demands not withstanding the state government’s claim to have provided adequate security.

Top officials of NHAI had a high-level security meeting with the Assam Director-General of Police (DGP) yesterday over the security threat to the highway project that was running far behind the schedule because of the constant threat from insurgents.

Over 100-km stretch of the East West Corridor falls in the North Cachar Hill district where the work has come to a standstill.

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NIA must involve local police: Punjab
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4
Just two days ahead of the proposed internal security meet of Chief Ministers with the Prime Minister, it has emerged that Punjab will be one of the states that will protest the “unilateral decision” of the Central government to form the National Investigation agency (NIA) without consulting the states.

However, Punjab, that has suffered terrorism, will back “all steps taken to counter terrorism by the Central government”.

Rather, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal will only pitch strongly to involve the local police at some level with the NIA in its nodes that will be established in the states or various regions.

Since the NIA will be probing specific cases relating to terrorism, the Chief Minister will make a point that at least the intelligence chiefs of the states should be on board the NIA in its regional offices and also any probe the agency will conduct in each state. The NIA cannot work isolated and the local police would known things the best, will be Punjab’s line during the meeting.

Badal will claim that the Punjab police was the only force to have successfully curbed terrorism and its expertise should be used. He will also questions how the NIA will be different from the CBI. In Parliament, MPs from the Shiromani Akali Dal had objected to the NIA in its present form. Just a day after the NIA was okayed by Parliament in December, former Punjab DGP KPS Gill and former IB chief Ajit Doval had raised objections to the NIA.

Separately, L K Advani will be meeting all Chief Ministers from his party and its partners in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Monday.

The meeting, followed by dinner, will be held a day ahead of a conference of all Chief Ministers convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on internal security. The agenda of the BJP meeting is terrorism and the failure of the government to prevent frequent attacks on the country. The BJP ruled states would come down hard on the Central government.

Party sources said the meeting would also discuss the alliance’s strategy for the Lok Sabha elections, expected to be held in three to four months.

The Chief Ministers of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, ruled by the BJP, and Orissa, Punjab and Bihar - ruled by the BJP allies - are expected to attend the meeting.

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Cong-Trinamool pact on cards
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, January 4
The Congress and Trinamool Congress have reportedly forged an electoral alliance to contest the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls jointly in West Bengal.

The agreement was reached upon at a meeting between AICC leader and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee here yesterday, sources in the state Congress disclosed. Several Trinamool leaders close to Mamata, too, substantiated the report.

However, any formal announcement, either by the External Affairs Minister or from Mamata Banerjee’s side, was yet to be made.

After the meeting, Mukherjee had a detailed discussion with the leaders of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee (WBPCC). The Minister, it is learnt, is slated to discuss the issue with AICC president Sonia Gandhi and party’s state in charge Mohsina Kidwai before making any public announcement about the alliance.

Notably, both the Congress and Trinamool Congress had already reached an electoral understanding for the Assembly bypolls at Nandigram and Sujapur, which are to be held tomorrow.

While the Congress did not field any candidate at Nandigram, Trinamool was supporting its partner’s (Congress’) nominee from Sujapur. The Nandigram by-election is being considered as a prestige issue both for the Trinamool and CPI (M), at least after the recent row over acquisition of land, chemical hub controversy and the march 14 mass killing incident.

Notably, the Trinamool Congress had recorded a landslide victory in both the panchayat and municipal elections in the area post these controversies.

Assembly bypolls today

All 169 booths under Nandigram and Sujapur Assembly segments, where polling is to be held on Monday, will be manned jointly by the CRPF and BSF. Over 10,000 security personnel and 300 central observers will be on duty to ensure smooth polling

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Top cop accused of caste bias in AP
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, January 4
The internal squabbles among IPS officers in Andhra Pradesh have taken a murky turn with a senior official accusing the state intelligence chief of caste bias in deciding postings.

A police complaint under Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Atrocities (Prevention) Act has been filed against Additional Director General of Police (intelligence) Aravinda Rao, the most powerful cop in the state.

The complainant - Sundar Kumar Das, an officer of the Andhra Pradesh police service promoted to the IPS rank - has alleged that Rao was resorting to character assassination and showing discrimination against him because he is a Dalit.

Das, currently chief vigilance officer at AP Power Generation Corporation, filed a complaint at Saifabad police station in the city, seeking prosecution of the intelligence head under the stringent SC/ST Atrocities Act.

The complainant alleged that Rao created “hurdles” every time his name was considered for the post of Superintendent of Police since 2004, causing “injury, insult and annoyance.”

“The intelligence chief is expected to brief the government objectively on the credentials of the officers. But he (Aravinda Rao) has been dishonestly, willfully, deliberately and continuously maligning me by resorting to character assassination and giving false and frivolous information with animosity and caste bias as I am an SC and untouchable according to him,” Das alleged in his complaint.

The police said they would investigate the allegations before registering a complaint.

On his part, Aravinda Rao has refuted the allegations and said it was the government which decides the matters of postings.

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No differences in party: Advani

New Delhi, January 4
After media reports suggesting that RSS wanted BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani to have the final say in matters of dispute in the party, Advani today denied them saying there were ‘no differences’ in the ranks.

Sources in the BJP said media reports pushed the party rank and file into a serious brainstorming, culminating in a phone call from RSS general secretary Mohan Bhagwat to Advani, who was touring Gujarat on Sunday. After talking to Bhagwat, Advani told reporters that there were no differences between him and party President Rajnath Singh.

“Let me tell you very frankly that there are no differences at all between us. Rajnath Singh is a great party worker and is working very hard to see BJP’s victory in next parliamentary elections,” Advani said in Gandhi Nagar. Sources said Advani also called up Singh and had a detailed talk with him on the issue.

“A day after RSS advice of proper dialogue and coordination among the top brass, the report seemed very ironic and it urgently needed to be clarified,” said a leader of RSS.

A top BJP functionary too denied the reports. “Even in times of Vajpayee’s unchallenged leadership in the party, there have been many party presidents and there have been no questions of a clash between the leadership. All decisions by the president are taken in consultation with the seniors,” he said.

On Friday, the RSS and top BJP functionaries had met at Advani’s residence for a brainstorming session to discuss the forthcoming parliamentary elections. — PTI

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TDP casts Balakrishna to flop Chiranjeevi’s political show
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, January 4
N Balakrishna, a popular Telugu film star, has been roped in by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to counter the impact of actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi, ahead of the Assembly elections, due in April.

After making a grand political entry at a youth rally in November last, NTR’s son Balakrishna is slowly emerging as a power center in the Telugu Desam Party, prompting a section of partymen to project him as future chief minister.

Balakrishna, who is also brother-in-law of party chief N Chandrababu Naidu, is playing an active role in the party affairs and increasingly seen as a rallying point for the ticket aspirants.

The 49-year-old mass hero, who is expected to embark on road shows later this month to campaign for TDP, is cultivating a new band of loyalists within the party and taking keen interest in solving internal differences in some of its district units.

Several young TDP leaders and ticket-hopefuls are making a beeline to his residence here to build a rapport with him and keep him posted of the developments within the party.

Recently, he met the leaders of Krishna, Guntur, Anantapur, Nellore and Mehboobnagar districts separately and reviewed the party position. His independent style of functioning and lobbying for party tickets has raised eyebrows in the TDP circles.

Already, the party leadership has not taken kindly to the whisper campaign in some quarters favouring Balakrishna as the future chief ministerial candidate.

“There is nothing wrong in wishing that Balakrishna should become the chief minister of the state but we have made it clear that Chandrababu Naidu is our leader and he will be our Chief Ministerial candidate,” the TDP’s leader in the Parliament, K Yerran Naidu, said.

A mass hero in the mould of his legendary father, Balakrishna had campaigned for the party in the past. His initiation into active politics was apparently to revive the regional party’s electoral fortunes.

On the issue of contesting the elections, he said he would abide by the party’s decision. “It is my obligatory duty to help the party floated by my father and to work for realisation of his ideals,” Balakrishna said.

Balakrishna had started his career as a child actor under his father’s direction and acted in about 90 films. The TDP chief is banking on the glamour of NTR’s clan to revive the party’s past glory and enthuse the cadres, particularly in the face of large-scale migration to Chiranjeevi camp.

After losing power in the 2004 elections, Naidu has been making conscious efforts to get closer to NTR family. His only son Lokesh was married to Balakrishna’s daughter Brahmani last year, further cementing the family ties.

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Now, a card for someone you hate

New Delhi, January 4
Hitting out at someone without actually coming to blows just got easier! For all those who believe in the Gandhian way of making your opponent feel ashamed by protesting in a subtle, satirical and non-violent way, here is an opportunity to send that person a greeting card.

So, the next time you desire to vent out your anger at a high-ranking minister for allowing criminals a free run in your city or your neighbour for playing music at high decibels, design a personalised 'Gandhigiri card' to 'thank' them for making your life miserable.

In a novel endeavour inspired by the filmy Munnabhai, web portal 'Papam' has launched a series of 'Gandhigiri' cards to enable customers vent out their feelings in the way advocated by the Father of the Nation.

"The Gandhigiri cards are designed to depict the pain people have on issues of personal, local and national interest. While initially the series covers a total of 14 common issues, it will be kept updated with new causes and concerns," Manish Pathak, director of www.papam.in. said.

Gandhigiri cards, starting at a price of just Rs 9, can be ordered online. The cards will be delivered to the targeted person via courier service.

"While it is easy for an official or a minister to avoid coming face to face with a mass agitation against him or her, it is very difficult to refuse to accept a greeting card that is delivered by post," he said.

The portal offers an online interface, which lets users design their own cards in an online studio with a personalised message to be delivered by courier.

The series is a set of pre-designed cards that give you a picture, some hard facts and a thank you or congratulatory message in a Gandhian way.

"It's a tough task to be negligent in duty, or to consider nation's pride and security useless. Still you do it with complete focus, so that we stand united... Thanks for supporting all terror attacks which unite us strongly," reads a message on a 'thank you' card directed at authorities for failing to prevent terror attacks in the country. — PTI

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Lanka Conflict
Centre not fulfilling promises: Ramadoss
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, January 4
Fuming over the Congress attitude towards the Sri Lankan Tamils issue, S Ramadoss, leader of the PMK, a constituent of the UPA, today flayed the Centre in a very strong language, raising speculations that the party was preparing grounds to quit.

“Is the Centre planning to intervene in the island conflict after all the Tamils are dead,” he asked in an angry tone and added, “The time has come for the Centre to choose between law abiding Tamils in India and the Sinhalese chauvinists in Sri Lanka.”

This open outburst against the Union government, in which his party holds the health ministry, had led to speculations that the party was thinking of joining the AIADMK front, where another pro-Tiger leader Vaiko is already present. The party had declined to support the DMK-Congress alliance in the Thirumangalam bypoll to be held on January 9.

Speaking to reporters at Dindigul, a southern district of Tamil Nadu, Ramadoss said the Centre had not fulfilled its promise to the parties in Tamil Nadu, that he would send External Affairs Minister to Colombo to find a solution to the plight of Tamils.

He also asked Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, about the steps he was going to take to ensure a save Tamils in Sri Lanka and added that problem would not be solved Tamils got equal rights in the island.

The Centre was watching the crisis, since Tamils were at the receiving end of the conflict, he said and added that capturing a ghost town which was vacated by the people and the Tigers, with the military support of many nations, after losing thousands of soldiers in a fight that lasted for a year was not a great achievement. “What the Sri Lankan government has achieved by capturing Kilinochi?,” he asked.

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In times of gloom, boom time for fortune-tellers

New Delhi, January 4
When disasters strike, be it in the form of terror attacks or stock market crash, its only the Almighty that people look up to for solace. There is no better way of knowing what the gods have in store than going to an astrologer.

"Nowadays, not only businessmen or celebrities but even people who earn far less, come to know their fate. They take it as a one-time investment. The trend has seen an increase from last year after the mayhem at the bourses and the terror attacks," says numerologist Neeraj Mancchanda.

The feeling of insecurity after the global meltdown and the terror attacks has resulted into a surge in the increased demand of priests, astrologers or numerologists, say fortune-tellers.

Usually every year-end is good for his business and there is an increase in the number of visitors to his office, but Mancchanda says, “This year it is more than expected. And most of them are concerned about monetary gains. People who have lost money in the stock market are coming in great numbers.”

Ram Pandey, a priest, brandishes his hi-tech mobile phone and minces no words in suggesting his clients to seek blessings of the Almighty to keep evil forces at bay. Pandey, who hails from a small town in Bihar, says that the first day of every new year brings good money from his regular clients. The offerings on the first day of the year ranges from Rs 101-5000 depending upon the economic condition of the client, he adds.

Psychiatrist Samir Parikh says that the last year’s 'market blues' have contributed towards people visiting sacred places or psychiatrists.

"Being religious and clinical are both different things. Even we don't tell anyone to stop believing in numerology or astrology. When people think they are left with no option, they try different things. Our reports clearly indicate increase in the number of registrations as compared to last year," Parikh says. — PTI

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Cabinet okays secondary education programme, highway expansion
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) took major decisions on expanding highways in certain sectors under the national highway development programme, universalising access to secondary education, enabling education through use of information and communication and building berths for coal and iron landing on Paradip coast. In addition to this, the government also cleared the way for $50 million foreign direct investment from Pepsico, by exempting the beverages major from fulfilling a requirement to divest 49 per cent stake in bottling firms to Indian companies.

The implementation of a centrally sponsored scheme to universalise access to and improve quality of education at secondary stage is called Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) during the 11th Five Year Plan. As regards the financing pattern, the Union government shall bear 75 per cent of the project expenditure during the 11th Five Year Plan, with 25 per cent of the cost to be borne by state governments. Sharing pattern will be 50:50 for the 12th Five Year Plan.

National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has been envisaged as a centrally sponsored scheme to leverage the potential of ICT, in providing high quality personalised and interactive knowledge modules over the Internet/intranet for all the learners in Higher Education Institutions. An amount of Rs 4,612 crore is to be incurred during the 11th Five Year Plan and there is a budget provision of Rs 502 crore during the current financial year 2008-09.

The project of construction of deep draught coal and iron ore berth at Paradip Port on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis . For the coal berth, an estimated cost of Rs 479.01 crore, out of which Rs 408.90 crore will be borne by the BOT operator while Rs 70.20 crore will be borne by the Paradip Port Trust. The estimated cost of iron ore berth will be Rs 591.35 crore, out of which Rs 506.25 crore will be borne by the BOT operator while Rs 85.10 crore will be borne by the Paradip Port Trust. These projects will help in de-congestion of port due to handling of coal and iron in higher capacity vessels upto 1,25,000 DWT.

Four-laning of highway was approved in Armur-Adloor Yellareddy Section of NH-7 in Andhra Pradesh under NHDP Phase III on BOT basis. Development of two laning of Karaikudi-Ramanathapuram Section of NH-210 in Tamilnadu under NHDP Phase III. The CCEA also approved in the state of Orissa highway development of Panikoili-Keonjhar-Rimouli, Rimouli-Roxy-Rajmundra sections of NH-215 and Chandikhole-Duburi-Talcher Section of NH-200.

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Nitish to tour countryside, address people’s woes
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 4
With the intention to take his “Sarkaar Janata ke Dwaar (government to people’s doorsteps)”, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has decided to tour the countryside by road and spend the nights in tents pitched in remote villages. The tour named officially as "Vikas Yatra" would kick start from January 19 at Champaran, the land from where Mahatma Gandhi had launched his Satyagraha (movement against the Indigo planters).

Announcing this resolution on January 1, Nitish said that he had decided to undertake this tour with the intention of interacting with the common people and knowing their grievances with the government machinery and addressing them on the spot. The Chief Minister's Yatra would be supported by an entire system of governance with a moving secretariat to assist him in passing instructions and monitor their compliance.

Apparently enthusiastic over his concept of "Vikas Yatra", he said that it would certainly be an interesting experience for him and also keep the government officials at ground level on their toes. He had been repeatedly asking all the field officers - DM, SP, SDO and Dy SPs to go to the villages and interact with the common men to get a first-hand experience of the status of different development schemes initiated by the government. Barring a few exceptions, no officer paid much heed to it. They merely maintained official records about holding "Janata Durbaar" (interactive meeting with the common people). Finally, he, himself, decided to move with his officers to the villages.

As per the tour itinerary, the Chief Minister will meet the people in the first half and listen to their problems and then interact with the officers concerned in the second half and review the progress of development. He will spend the night at the Swiss Cottage erected for this purpose at the village itself before moving the next morning to another village at a distance of 20-25 km.

Though, Nitish denied that his "Vikas Yatra" was planned with a political motive just before the LS polls, other political parties view it as a political exercise to gauge people’s mood and woo them before the polls. The Chief Minister says that it was directly related to governance and could be termed as an extended "Janata Durbaar".

As yet, the Chief Minister was holding a "Janata ke durbaar mein mukhyamantri" programme at his residence every Monday to interact with the common people and address their problems. The concept of "Janata durbaar" became an instant hit with people from across the state thronging to attend it and put their problems straight to the Chief Minister. Most of the problems were addressed with the intervention of the department heads, right from the principal secretary to the minister present, on the spot.

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I’m a misfit in politics, says Dharmendra
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, January 4
Star-turned-politician Dharmendra is in no mood to contest the next Lok Sabha polls. The Bollywood He-Man says the bitter five-year experience in politics has made him realise that he’s a misfit in this arena.

“I have had enough. Politics is not my cup of tea,” said the man who was once voted among the top ten handsome men in the world, while talking to reporters at a function organised by Rotary Club here last night.

Known to be a highly emotional man, Dharmendera candidly admitted he was never comfortable with the job. “It’s not for emotional people. You have to be quite cunning to survive,” said the MP, who won from Bikaner last time with a record margin.

The voters of his constituency are said to be disappointed with him, as the leader ‘rarely visits the place’.

Ask him about it and he fumes, “No one talks about the development work I have done in Bikaner. The roads, overbridges, girls’ college and Sur Sagar lake revival, the list is endless.”

When asked would he like to give politics another shot, he replied, “Adakaari meri mehbooba hai, my first love. That would remain my first priority.” Interestingly, five years ago when Dharmendra forayed into politics, he had said his entry was ‘dil se’ and there would be no looking back.

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Bachchan’s aura built on sheer talent, performances: Aamir

Mumbai, January 4
Actor-filmmaker Aamir Khan has said that the mega superstar aura of Amitabh Bachchan has been built on sheer talent and powerhouse performances and not on lies.

"It is inspirational and amazing to see how he has carved a niche for himself despite the fact that the film industry was reluctant to accept him initially. In the film industry, success is not necessarily proportionate to the talent and hardwork. But, Amitabh Bachchan is an exception," Khan said, after releasing 'Bachchanalia: The Films and Memorabilia of Amitabh Bachchan', co-authored by Bhawana Somaaya to mark the 40 years of the legend's illustrious career at the Tata theatre in NCPA here yesterday.

"Since I come from a film family, we had copies of Filmfare magazine which carried pictures of young actors struggling to make a mark in the industry. As a kid, I recall laughing with disdain at some pictures of young people who were aspiring to become actors. As I grew up, I hung my head in shame that one of the picture which I laughed at was that of Amitabh Bachchan," Khan said.

Stressing the need for archiving film memorabilia, he said 'Bachchanalia' was a visual delight. "It is image-heavy and not word- heavy and takes you through the journey of an amazing actor through images," he added.

Bachchan said he would complete 40 years in the film industry on February 15, 2009 and thanked fans who have stood by him through all the trials and tribulations, ups and downs in his personal and professional life. — PTI

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12 states to adopt NCERT textbooks

New Delhi, January 4
Coming a step closer to bringing uniformity in school curricula across the country, students in a dozen states would read National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) books in government-run schools from the coming academic session in place of state text books. The states are Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Punjab and Goa.

With this, 31.3 per cent of the senior secondary level students across India will study books prepared by NCERT.

This became possible after the NCERT granted the copyright to 12 states to use its text books in their respective state board schools.

The move to grant copyright is in keeping with the mandate of National Curriculum Framework (NCF), 2005. Its objective is to bring uniformity in course curriculum across boards and improve the quality of education. The framework has been ratified by almost all the states.

The move would also do away with any disparities among the state boards and give students enough confidence to compete at the national level with ease, said an NCERT official.

For the records, several state boards have carried out a series of changes in their course curricula in line with the present mandate. The changes include bifurcating the course curriculum at the plus-two level and updating syllabus on a par with CBSE schools.

NCERT books might also make inroads into schools in other states also. The official said several states have expressed a keen interest to use NCERT books.

While NCERT will provide the course content, the state boards would be in charge of getting the text book printed and translate the content in their respective regional languages. — PTI

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Central team in Bihar to assess flood damages
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 4
Responding to Bihar government’s demand for a special package of Rs 14,000 crore for carrying out rehabilitation and reconstruction work in flood-ravaged Kosi region, the Centre has sent a 15-member team to the state to assess the damage caused during the deluge.

Led by Sadakant, joint secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, the team is already on its job-making aerial survey of the flood-affected areas and holding meetings with Bihar government officials to apprise them of the necessary requirements.

Earlier, the state government had submitted a detailed memorandum to the Centre about the extent of damage and the funds required to rehabilitation. The memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister by JD (U) president Sharad Yadav, who also happens to be the convenor of NDA.

According to the Principal Secretary of Bihar's Disaster Management Department, RK Singh, financial assistance provided to the flood-hit families, particularly for reconstruction of their houses or desiltation of their agricultural fields, was too meager.

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Assam CM wants to quit Unified Command
Bijay Sankar Bora

Tribune News Service

Guwahati, January 4
In the wake of terrorists showing belligerence by triggering blasts at regular intervals all over the state, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today announced that he was willing to give up his responsibility as the Chairman of the counter-insurgency Unified Command in order to pass the baton to the Chief Secretary of the state.

Gogoi today informed that he wants to quit the responsibility of Unified Command subject to approval from the Centre in order to concentrate more on facilitating development in different sectors in the state.

“I want to focus more on development works as I believe that over all development will ultimately wipe out insurgency from the state. The tackling insurgency has already stretched the state exchequer too much,” he said.

It may be mentioned that Union Home Minister P Chidambaram during his visit to the state on January 2, a day after the serial blasts in the city triggered by suspected ULFA ultras, informed that media that he had asked the Assam Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues to focus their entire energy towards ushering in development, leaving the responsibility of tacking insurgency to the security forces operating under the Unified Command structure.

Gogoi today claimed that he had, in fact, volunteered to give up his responsibility in relation to the Unified Command, but the Prime Minister told him to continue.

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CMs’ meet with MHA to be stormy
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 4
The meeting of the state Chief Ministers with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on January 6 is expected to cut both ways. While the ministry has made up its mind to okay the demands of the states that fall within the parameters of “fighting terrorism”, states will be asked to fix things at their end within a specified time frame. This is been seen as one of the most important meetings of this year and will set the tone and pace of the government in the post- Mumbai attack scenario.

Apart from meeting the state-specific demands of border states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, among others, the day-long conference will focus on terrorism and measures to counter it. The agenda note has already been sent to the CMs. The prime focus will be on terrorism and sharing of intelligence, including intelligence apparatus, coastal security, security of important establishments, both public and of iconic importance.

Since sharing of intelligence has been the focus of the Home Minister, he is expected to make it clear to the states that sharing will be on real-time basis. But actions have to match the sharing. All the states will be asked to have IG-level nodal officers to collate and analyse the information sent out from the Delhi-based multi-agency centre.

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Lalu lecture in Japan
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 4
After drawing applause from different quarters for turning around the Indian Railways into a success story, Railway

Minister Lalu Prasad has now been invited by the Japan government on a “study and lecture” trip.

According to RJD national spokesman, Shyam Rajak, the Railway Minister will leave for Japan on January 11.

During his 10-day trip to the country having first introduced high-speed bullet trains, Lalu, the management guru, would not only study the functioning of railways there, he would also give lectures in the universities of Japan, including one, in Tokyo.

Earlier, Lalu had also visited Europe on a similar trip. He had also addressed the students of Harvard and lectured them about the “mantras” he had used for the economic turnaround of the Indian Railways in his typical rustic manners.

On his return from European tour, the Railway Minister was all praises for the upkeep of trains there. To put it in his words, “the trains in Europe look like Planes - sleek and absolutely neat and

clean, but all of them are running in loss.” Lalu’s partymen in RJD are quite enthusiastic about this trip with the hope that it would further certify his image as a successful minister and help the party garner votes in the coming Lok Sabha polls.

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Tribal body lifts blockade, gives admn 15 days

Midnapore (WB), January 4
The Committee Against Police Atrocities (CAPC), a tribal body today announced that it was withdrawing the blockade started by it in west Midnapore district from yesterday and would give the administration more time to fulfil their demands.

“We are lifting our blockade today. But the administration has to fully implement the agreement we had signed with them (administration) on December 7 within 15 days, otherwise we will be forced to go for an indefinite blockade,” CAPC convenor Chatradhar Mahato said.

The CAPC members had yesterday dug up roads near the Katra jungle, while it was blocked at Lalgarh, Jhargram, Goaltore, Chandrakona Road and Salboni citing non-fulfillment of the agreement signed by them with the administration.

District Magistrate N S Nigam had said that the state government had sanctioned Rs 30 crore for development in the area and the CAPC should come forward to help the administration.

On December 7 the administration had acknowledged that there could be truth behind charges of police atrocities on tribal women during raids at Chhotopelia in Lalgarh after the November 2 landmine blast. — PTI

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15 die after consuming spurious liquor
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, January 4
At least 15 persons were killed in the Port area at Hyde Road today after consuming spurious liquor and about 20 others were admitted to different hospitals and nursing homes in the city. Official sources, however, put the death toll at 12.

The incident occurred when several people, mostly, port workers were consuming country liquor at a private wine shop in the port area last night. The owner of the wine shop was arrested and his shop was sealed. The samples of the liquor were also sent to the state central laboratory for testing.

According to the official report, those who had consumed liquor soon fell sick and began vomiting after consuming it. In the morning, the sweepers and some staff found a large number of people lying on the floor unconscious, when they arrived at the shop.

Four persons were killed on the spot and the mother of a victim present there too died following a massive heart attack.

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Culling on in West Bengal

Siliguri, January 4
Culling operations were on in Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts in north Bengal for the second day today as authorities banned the sale and consumption of chicken and poultry products with 10 km radius of the epicentre Benoy Krishna pally at Matigara near here.

Siliguri SDO Sharad Dwivedi said culling started at Rajgunj block of Jalpaiguri, Matigara block of Siliguri police station, 34 wards of Siliguri Municipal Corporation and at Pubung under Takda block of Darjeeling sadar.

A total of 22 teams of nine members each, including two policemen, are carrying out the operation and only 262 birds have been culled since morning.

A total 21,000 birds were targeted to be culled within 3 km radius of the affected areas in the two districts, he said.

Last night 126 birds were culled at Benoy Krishna Palli said the deputy director of animal husbandry department and in charge of the operations, Rabindra Nath Ghose. — PTI

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India calls for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Kolkata, January 4
Describing Israeli raids in Gaza as disproportionate and totally unacceptable, India today called for immediate ceasefire in West Asia.

“There should be immediate ceasefire and both sides must exercise restraint,” said External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee while expressing concern at the situation.

The retaliation by Israel was not only disproportionate but also totally unacceptable, he said.

Mukherjee said, “There should not be any further aggravation as innocent people at Gaza are being killed. There is immense suffering of the people there.” — PTI

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Deutsch girl ‘raped’ in Goa

Panaji, January 4
A 24-year-old Deutsch national was allegedly drugged, robbed and raped on Goa’s beach near Anjuna on December 31 mid-night when the entire state was on high alert.

The girl, who is in the state with her mother, has filed a complaint with Anjuna police station accusing a group of Nigerians for the crime.

“We have received the complaint and sent her for medical examination. The report is awaited which will confirm whether there was a rape,” a senior police officer stated. The examination was conducted at the state owned Goa Medical College and Hospital.

According to complaint, the girl was taken to the beach, drugged her belongings were robbed and later raped.

The woman who was not sure about the police station jurisdiction was reportedly shunted between two police stations before Anjuna police recorded her statement. — PTI

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Food, just a click away!

Bangalore, January 4
Spurred by the demand for online food services, more and more entrepreneurs are now foraying into this market segment, hoping to claim a sizable pie of this nascent but growing segment.

Websites with innovative names like www.hungryzone.com, www. eveningflavor.com,www.webdhaba.com or menulog.com, offer a rich platter, ranging from the option of ordering food at your doorstep, booking a table, planning a party, providing food reviews, locating a restaurant to posting updates on discounts and a comparative menu price list. The demand for online food services has been triggered with several consumers facing an acute time crunch.

Consumers demanding value-for-money count on online food services to help them make informed choices by gleaning information on the cuisine and restaurant offers. — PTI

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