SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

India examining all available options: Antony
New Delhi, January 7
Continuing with verbal-attack on Pakistan, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony today again indicated that India was examining ‘all possible available options’ on dismantling terror outfits operating in Pakistan. He refused to specify the options.

Mumbai Dossier
India fumes, calls it a ‘political rejection’
New Delhi, January 7
India today hit out Islamabad for rejecting in less than 24 hours the evidence provided to it on the Mumbai terror attack as New Delhi deputed a high-level ministerial team to visit Europe later this month to launch a high-voltage diplomatic offensive against Pakistan.

Let Pak prove it is not guilty: Intelligence
New Delhi, January 7
“Don’t convert the Mumbai attacks into a routine criminal court drama to nail Pakistan,” the Indian intelligence community has advised the country’s political leadership.

Mumbai Attacks
13 more cameras at CST
Mumbai, January 7
The Central Railway today inaugurated the new closed circuit television network (CCTV) at the Chatrapati Shivaji Railway Station, which was the target of the November 26 terrorist attack. Fifty persons were killed and 90 others injured in the attack.



 

EARLIER STORIES

6 aides of attackers sent to Kashmir: Dossier
New Delhi, January 7
Six terrorists, part of a Pakistani group involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, have been sent to Kashmir for some operations, according to the information dossier India handed over to Pakistan.

Raksha Mantri Discretionary Fund
More ex-servicemen to benefit
Defence Minister AK Antony with the three service chiefs at the inauguration of the 28th meeting of the Kendriya Sainik Board in New Delhi on Wednesday. New Delhi, January 7
Defence Minister AK Antony said today that more number of ex-servicemen would be eligible for financial assistance under the Raksha Mantri Discretionary Fund (RMDF). The pension criterion for the grant of assistance under the RMDF has now been removed and all ex-servicemen up to the rank of Havaldar, or equivalents in the Navy and the Air Force have been made eligible, said Antony as he addressed a meeting of the Kendriya Sainik Board here today.


Defence Minister AK Antony with the three service chiefs at the inauguration of the 28th meeting of the Kendriya Sainik Board in New Delhi on Wednesday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

One more held in Noida rape case
New Delhi, January 7
The police today arrested one more person in Noida gang-rape case and sent the other five accused, who were arrested yesterday, to 14-day judicial custody.

18 arrested for Guwahati blasts
Guwahati, January 7
Pursuing speedy investigations into the New Year’s Day serial blasts in the state capital, the Assam police has so far arrested 18 persons, including the person who carried and planted the bomb at Bhootnath, besides zeroing in on the identity of another prime accused and also releasing his photograph.

Infant beaten to death
Mother had objected to caste abuse
Shivpuri (MP), January 7
A dalit woman's three-month-old infant was beaten to death allegedly by some members of another community who objected to her wearing slippers while fetching water from a handpump in Pohari area here.

Shekhawat effect 
Rajnath backs Advani for PM post
New Delhi, January 7
Flabbergasted by veteran Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s newfound poll aspirations, the BJP today made it clear that LK Advani was the NDA’s “unanimous” choice as the prime ministerial candidate for the forthcoming general elections.

End family rule: TN opposition
Karunanidhi’s son Azhagiri targeted
Thirumangalam (TN), January 7
The campaign ended today for the crucial byelection here, in Madurai district, which is considered to be a bastion of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s son MK Azhagiri. The opposition here has called for ‘the end to family rule in Tamil Nadu’.

Bihar govt staff go on strike
Patna, January 7
Work in government offices across the state was affected to a great extent as majority of non-gazetted employees went on an indefinite strike from today, demanding implementation of Sixth Pay Panel recommendations. However, some of the employees’ unions decided to stay away from the strike. 

Chandigarh woman designs Asia’s biggest naval academy
Chandigarh, January 7
When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dedicates to the nation tomorrow, the Indian Navy’s Ezhimala Naval Academy, regarded as the biggest officers’ training institution in Asia, it will bring laurels to Chandigarh as well.

AP first to introduce biometric smart cards
Hyderabad, January 7
Andhra Pradesh has become the first state in the country to introduce biometric smart cards to make payment to the beneficiaries under National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP), a flagship programme of the UPA government.

Ramadoss asks docs to stay put in India
Rues shortfall of health resources
New Delhi, January 7
Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss was at his trademark best today when he exhorted the AIIMS passouts to stay put in India. The minister was reminding the AIIMS graduates of the massive investments made in them at the premiere medical institution of the country. “It is payback time” was his loud and clear message to the new doctors, who listened in attention as the minister attended the 36th AIIMS annual convocation ceremony in the capital today.

Scribes’ wage board may get new chief
New Delhi, January 7
Centre is likely to appoint a new chairman of the Wage Board for journalists and non-journalists soon. Union Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes stated this today.

SC says no to CBI probe against Lalu
New Delhi, January 7
The Supreme Court (SC) today declined to entertain a PIL seeking a CBI probe into allegations of corruption against Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, but allowed Janata Dal leader Rajeev Ranjan Singh Lallan to withdraw his petition and approach “appropriate authorities” for remedy.







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India examining all available options: Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7
Continuing with verbal-attack on Pakistan, Indian Defence Minister AK Antony today again indicated that India was examining ‘all possible available options’ on dismantling terror outfits operating in Pakistan. He refused to specify the options.

He was talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a function for ex-servicemen here in the national capital. Antony said, “There is no serious attempt by Pakistan to dismantle terror outfits working across the border. That is our major worry. So we will do everything to prevent this. For this, we are examining all possible available options”.

Asking Pakistan to act, Antony said those persons, who gave support and direction to the militants should be booked. Also more than 30 terror outfits across the border should be dismantled. It was the duty of the government of that country.

Antony’s remarks come a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accused Pakistan of having direct involvement in the Mumbai attacks on November 26 and using terrorism as a state policy.

Antony said, “We have got evidence and it has been shared with other countries. I hope the world will react seriously. ”

Even after the Mumbai attacks there is no serious attempt to dismantle the terror outfits. We will do everything to prevent this,” he said.

Antony also met Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor against the backdrop of a fierce gun battle in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir that entered its seventh day.

According to the minister, the operation was taking time, as the effort was to ensure ‘minimum’ casualties among Army personnel.

The minister pointed out that this infiltration was taking place at the height of winter. “There is snow and biting cold everywhere. Even then, militants are trying to infiltrate into J&K and India and create trouble. If this is the case now, after winter, there will be problems in the summer” he said. 

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Mumbai Dossier
India fumes, calls it a ‘political rejection’
Anita Katyal and Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7
India today hit out Islamabad for rejecting in less than 24 hours the evidence provided to it on the Mumbai terror attack as New Delhi deputed a high-level ministerial team to visit Europe later this month to launch a high-voltage diplomatic offensive against Pakistan.

And as the ongoing war of words between India and Pakistan refused to abate, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher was scheduled to meet Indian leaders here tomorrow after his talks with the Pakistani leadership in Islamabad.

“How can this rejection (of evidence) be credible or be based on a real examination and investigation of the evidence? This is political rejection without any basis. It is unfortunate that the Pakistan foreign office has chosen to regress into its previous patterns of denial of facts, evidence and reality,’’ said External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash.

Yesterday the Pakistan foreign office had accused India of ratcheting up tension and destroying all prospects of serious and objective investigations into the Mumbai attacks. And in a clear attempt to again distance itself from the Mumbai mayhem carried out by the LeT men with the support of elements in Pakistan, Islamabad had also offered to engage cooperatively with India to uncover the full facts behind the audacious attack.

The Indian spokesman dismissed Pakistan’s proposal to form a new mechanism and a high-level visit to India, wondering what purpose it would serve when Islamabad continued to maintain its attitude of deniability. “There are existing bilateral mechanisms set up at the highest level, such as the joint anti-terror mechanism, which Pakistan’s evasion and denial have made in fructuous. It is, therefore, unclear what purpose would be served by yet another mechanism, or by a high-level visit, especially if Pakistan continues to maintain the attitude revealed by the (Pakistan) foreign office press release,’’ he asked.

The spokesman added, “The issue is not words or statements or the situation in South Asia. The issue is what Pakistan does about terrorist attacks on India from Pakistan.’’ UPA sources, meanwhile, said

Union Ministers Kapil Sibal, Kamal Nath and Praful Patel and planning commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia would be leaving for Davos later this month for the World Economic Forum meet, on the margins of which they will meet ministers from other countries and present to them the evidence linking the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack with the elements in Pakistan.

The sources strongly refuted suggestions that India had been unable to turn screws on Islamabad over its failure to act on its commitment not to allow the misuse of the Pakistani territory for anti-India activities.

Asked how hopeful they were of Pakistan handing over the fugitives to India, the sources said, “They (Islamabad) have to act…they have to deliver on their commitment. If they don’t want to hand over these people to us, may be these terrorists could be handed over to a third country.” 

Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma attacked Pakistan for remaining in a “brazen denial mode”. He said the evidence, which has been given to Islamabad, was sufficient for it to act against terrorists operating from its soil provided it was sincerely willing to do so. “Pakistan remains defiant…it has no intention to take action.’’

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Let Pak prove it is not guilty: Intelligence
Man Mohan
Our Roving Editor

New Delhi, January 7
“Don’t convert the Mumbai attacks into a routine criminal court drama to nail Pakistan,” the Indian intelligence community has advised the country’s political leadership.

“Go for the most clinching evidence that is staring at everyone’s face - claim made by lone surviving terrorist Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab’s family in Pakistan,” top officers of the espionage agencies have suggested.

“Pakistan must explain to the world why an old man, Amir Kasab, and his family members in Faridkot have mysteriously disappeared after his claim that the arrested terrorist in Mumbai is his son,” they said.

The evidence handed over by New Delhi to Islamabad about the involvement of Pakistan-based elements in the Mumbai attacks “does not include” Amir Kasab’s claim about the arrested terrorist Kasab being his son.

The evidence includes only the confession of Kasab, who has admitted to his Pakistani nationality and given details of the planning behind the attacks. The evidence also includes the list of Pakistani items that were recovered from Kasab and the terrorists killed. Pakistan has disowned Kasab, claiming that he is not its national.

America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is carrying out an independent investigation in the Mumbai attacks, agree with Indian investigators that only Kasab’s Pakistani family members can nail Islamabad’s lies.

The FBI has promised its Indian counterparts to pass on any kind of evidence that may comes its way from its and other American intelligence sources in Pakistan or elsewhere.

Asking the political leadership to adopt a more offensive approach, India’s domestic and foreign espionage agencies have advised New Delhi to put onus on Pakistan to prove that it is not guilty.

“Tell Islamabad to produce the old man from Faridkot who, before disappearing, told Pakistani and foreign print media that Kasab is his son,” they said, observing that “at least, this old man is a Pakistani and he must explain why did he claim that Kasab is his son.”

“Otherwise,” a senior Intelligence Bureau officer said: “the whole thing will turn into a routine criminal court drama. India will continue to prosecute for the heinous Mumbai crimes and Islamabad will continue to defend itself by denying its involvement.”

“As far as Kasab is concerned,” the IB officer said: “there is no problem to prove him guilty during the court trial as he was caught at the scene of crime.” Also, he said, there was no hitch in proving Kasab a Pakistani in the court on the basis of his confession and several items that were recovered from his possession.

The seized items included a short black trouser with ‘South Pole, Made in Pakistan’ label; a jar of Touchme facial cream, made in Pakistan; detergent washing powder pouch carrying Pakistani brand signs; two packets of Nestle milk, manufactured by Nestle Pakistan Limited; and a 16-inch knife with a gun picture and some Urdu words written on its handle.

A scarf, generally used for offering Namaz, was also seized from Kasab. It carried a label - ‘Cashmilan best quality’ and a telephone number - 0614516729 - was also printed on it.

Soon after the attacks, Pakistan's leading newspaper The Dawn carried an interview with Kasab's father Amir Kasab in his home-town of Fairdkot. The old man not only admitted that Kasab was his son, but he also narrated the story why Kasab left home in anger.

“I was in denial for the first couple of days, saying to myself it could not have been my son. Now I have accepted it. This is the truth. I have seen the picture in the newspaper. This is my son Ajmal Kasab,” Amir Kasab had told The Dawn.

Amir Kasab told the Pakistani daily that Ajmal Kasab had left home four years ago. “He had asked me for new clothes on Eid and I had told him that I couldn't provide him. He got angry and left,” said the father.

“This was the first credible source of evidence found against Kasab. But his father and other family members have gone missing from Faridkot, where they had been living for many years,” an IB officer said, commenting: “New Delhi should take advantage of this and push Islamabad to explain the claims made by Faridkot’s old man about Kasab being his son.”

“If Amir Kasab was telling a lie,” the IB officer said: “then India should ask Pakistan to explain why the old man and his family members from Faridkot have disappeared. Islamabad should, at least, produce him to disown whatever he earlier said about Kasab being his son.”

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Mumbai Attacks
13 more cameras at CST
Shiv Kumar/Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 7
The Central Railway today inaugurated the new closed circuit television network (CCTV) at the Chatrapati Shivaji Railway Station, which was the target of the November 26 terrorist attack. Fifty persons were killed and 90 others injured in the attack.

The network will have 13 hi-tech cameras installed at various locations of the railway station.

“The closed circuit television cameras will allow us to monitor the CST railway station round the clock. The cameras will pan 180 degrees and allow us zooming facility,” Sriniwas Mudgerikar, Chief PRO of Central Railway (CR), said.

The new cameras will be in addition to the 38 existing cameras that operate in a stationary mode. All the 51 cameras will be connected to a control room equipped with four LCD television sets. These will be monitored round the clock, the CR spokesman said. The footage shot by the cameras will be stored for two weeks. The Central Railway has spent nearly Rs 70 lakh in upgrading surveillance equipment at the CST railway station. In addition to the cameras, there will be 20 sniffer dogs deployed at the railway station.

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6 aides of attackers sent to Kashmir: Dossier
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7
Six terrorists, part of a Pakistani group involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, have been sent to Kashmir for some operations, according to the information dossier India handed over to Pakistan.

Citing the interrogation report of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the sole-surviving member of the terror group that struck in Mumbai, the dossier says that the six terrorists had undergone training in various parts of Pakistan, along with seven of the 10 terrorists who were responsible for the November 26 carnage.

The terrorists were trained at the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) camps in Muridke, Manshera and Muzaffarabad (in PoK), says the lengthy dossier, which includes Kasab’s interrogation report as part of evidence to show Pakistani linkages to the three-day long siege.

Initially, the group consisted of 32 terrorists who were imparted basic knowledge of firearms, ammunition, grenades and explosives, it disclosed. Later, they were taught to handle and fire Kalashnikov (AK) rifles and 9 mm pistols and how to fabricate explosive devices. They were also imparted training in techniques to counter interrogation and tolerate pain. They were also indoctrinated to become suicide bombers, Kasab has revealed during interrogation.

Ultimately, 13 persons out of the group (of 32) were selected for carrying out attacks in India. Six of the 13 were sent for some operations in Kashmir, the dossier said.

The dossier provides crucial details of telephonic links between the perpetrators of the attack and their handlers. It describes how the handlers provided real-time commando-style advice to the terrorists inside the Raj Mahal and the Oberoi-Trident hotels.

The evidence also includes data from the GPS equipment recovered from the fishing trawler Kuber, photographs of ordnance used in the attack and items of daily use recovered from the Kuber, all with clearly identified Pakistani markings, and an account of the money trail linking Pakistan-based operatives to the purchase of the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) calling platform used by the handlers to try and mask their physical location.

The dossier also speaks about the role of LeT commander Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi in the training of the terrorists involved in the Mumbai strikes.

It also contains an outline of what India expects of Pakistan to do in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

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Raksha Mantri Discretionary Fund
More ex-servicemen to benefit
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7
Defence Minister AK Antony said today that more number of ex-servicemen would be eligible for financial assistance under the Raksha Mantri Discretionary Fund (RMDF).

The pension criterion for the grant of assistance under the RMDF has now been removed and all ex-servicemen up to the rank of Havaldar, or equivalents in the Navy and the Air Force have been made eligible, said Antony as he addressed a meeting of the Kendriya Sainik Board here today.

Every year highly skilled servicemen retire and they possess a rich repository of knowledge in fields like security, mechanical, technical, administrative, medical, aviation, tourism and hospitality. Antony said, “We cannot and must not let this potential go unutilised”.

The corporate sector has begun to appreciate the human resources and repository of knowledge in ex-servicemen. He said the states should set-up a grievance redressal mechanism in every district to help the families of serving soldiers. The minister said that another 196 polyclinics would be opened throughout the country.

Meanwhile, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, while attending the meeting said that there should be no distinction in the quantum of ex-gratia payments for martyrs. At present, there was a variation for deaths in an officially declared war and deaths while fighting militants.

Hooda sought a fresh look at pension benefits for ex-servicemen and suggested that the one rank-one pension scheme may be implemented for all pensioners.

Hooda said the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) would develop “Defence Colonies” at Rohtak, Jhajjar, Rewari, Hisar, Jind, Narnaul, Bahadurgarh, Karnal and Dadri exclusively for ex-servicemen, widows of ex-servicemen and serving defence personnel.

Meanwhile, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, who represented Punjab also wanted the one rank — one pension scheme, besides, seeking and increase in quota for Punjab in the forces. He said as on date the recruitment quota of Punjab in the defence forces was 2 per cent, which was very meagre and the same was required to be enhanced. Punjab needed additional quota. Later, a spokesperson of the Punjab government said the Defence Minister had assured for active consideration to raise the quota for Punjab.

Capt Kanwaljit also demanded the exemption of toll tax for ex-servicemen. The National Highway Authority should incorporate this exemption in all MoU’s being signed and the same be followed up by the states. He also requested for central funding for the Department of Saink Welfare.

The Defence Minister also announced introduction of four new trophies: (i) Maximum number of ex-servicemen employed by a state in government services during the year, (ii) maximum number of war widows rehabilitated by a state government during the year, (iii) maximum number of ex-servicemen employed by a defence PSU during the year and (iv)maximum contribution by a defence PSU towards Armed Forces Flag Day Fund.

Address troops’ pay issue: Capt Kanwaljit 

New Delhi: Taking up the cause of the disgruntled armed forces personnel, Punjab Cooperation Minister Capt Kanwaljit Singh today demanded immediate removal of the “anomalies” in the Sixth Pay Commission. 

Singh said: “The demands of the soldiers have to be addressed at priority… The announcement of a separate pay panel is welcome but why wait for 10 years when the present Sixth Pay Commission can be separated for soldiers immediately.”

The government, he said, had partially addressed the issue of Lt Cols and that too with riders. “Pay Band IV needs to be considered afresh to in-corporate all Lt Cols rather than only those on combat duties, as this would create disparity.” 

Also, the grade pay for all ranks of officers should be at par with civilian ranks, the Minister demanded.

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One more held in Noida rape case

New Delhi, January 7
The police today arrested one more person in Noida gang-rape case and sent the other five accused, who were arrested yesterday, to 14-day judicial custody.

Meanwhile, hitting out at UP Chief Minister Mayawati, Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chaudhary today said incidents like the Noida rape raised questions on the role of the state government in maintaining law and order.

A day after five youth were arrested for allegedly raping an MBA student in Noida, Chaudhary said none of the boys should get bail. “How did they think that they could do such a thing and get away? And when that question arises, you start questioning the government. So, I think we have to start questioning the CM of Uttar Pradesh...what she has to say about this,” she said. — Agencies

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18 arrested for Guwahati blasts

Guwahati, January 7
Pursuing speedy investigations into the New Year’s Day serial blasts in the state capital, the Assam police has so far arrested 18 persons, including the person who carried and planted the bomb at Bhootnath, besides zeroing in on the identity of another prime accused and also releasing his photograph.

“So far, 18 persons have been arrested in connection with the January 1 blasts. Among them, six have been held for the Bhootnath blasts, two for Bhangagarh blast and 11 for Birubari blast,” Additional Superintendent of Police Debojit Deuri said.

The suspects have been held from in and around Guwahati, he said, adding most of them were new recruits of ULFA, with the outfit blamed primarily for the triple blasts.

“Several others have also been picked up and investigations are on to nab all the accused,” Deuri added.Among the key suspects arrested is Sanjeev Talukdar, who

 was held from nearby Rangiya, and is charged with carrying the explosives to the city and also planting the bomb at Bhootnath.

The police had already released the photograph of another prime accused Pranjal Deka wanted in connection with the Birubari blast. As many as six persons were killed and over 50 injured in the triple blasts that rocked the city on New Year’s Day. — UNI

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Infant beaten to death
Mother had objected to caste abuse

Shivpuri (MP), January 7
A dalit woman's three-month-old infant was beaten to death allegedly by some members of another community who objected to her wearing slippers while fetching water from a handpump in Pohari area here.

Seven persons of Dhakad community belonging to the OBC have been booked for thrashing the woman, Saroj Jatav, and killing her daughter yesterday, the police said.

According to the police, when Saroj, an anganwadi worker, with daughter Anchal in her lap was fetching water in Adrouni village, an accused Makhan objected to her wearing slippers.

Soon, he was joined in by Hari, Satish, Dayal, Jagdish, all from Dhakad community, and some others who abused her on caste lines. Upset with the insult, she headed for the police station to lodge a complaint but was stopped enroute by the accused who assaulted her, the police added.

The accused snatched Saroj's daughter from her lap and beat her to death, the police said. — PTI 

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Shekhawat effect 
Rajnath backs Advani for PM post
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7
Flabbergasted by veteran Bhairon Singh Shekhawat’s newfound poll aspirations, the BJP today made it clear that LK Advani was the NDA’s “unanimous” choice as the prime ministerial candidate for the forthcoming general elections.

Setting doubts about the leadership issue to rest, party president Rajnath Singh firmly downplayed former Vice-President Shekhawat’s urge to contest the Lok Sabha polls and said, “Those who have taken a dip in the Ganges do not swim in the well.”

Singh was projecting a United Front on the sensitive issue of leadership for the forthcoming polls and even cited the tradition to back his words. “Someone, who has held a constitutional post, should not return to the poll fray. It is not in our tradition,” Rajnath said, reacting sharply to Shekhawat’s yesterday’s statement that created a flutter within the party, putting a question mark to the issue of leadership in the BJP.

But Rajnath proclamation of Advani as the NDA head came in handy for the party, which has been grappling with speculations of a rift between Rajnath and Advani. Shekhawat added fuel to fire yesterday by saying in Jaipur that he had no information about the BJP projecting Advani as its prime ministerial candidate. “People choose the Prime Minister,” Shekhawat said, putting the BJP in a spot.

The BJP was quick to set the record straight, with Rajnath Singh today indicating that Shekhawat could not contest elections on the BJP ticket. “It has been a custom in the Indian politics that anyone, who has earlier held a higher constitutional post, does not contest any elections. Shekhawat has been Vice-President and has contested the election for President,” Rajnath said, inviting a sharp reaction from Shekhawat, who today said he had not sought a ticket from the BJP.

Shekhawat almost indicated his intention of contesting as an independent. No wonder Rajnath Singh played safe when asked today if the BJP would give a ticket to Shekhawat. “He is like our guardian. I will meet him soon,” he said.

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End family rule: TN opposition
Karunanidhi’s son Azhagiri targeted
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Thirumangalam (TN), January 7
The campaign ended today for the crucial byelection here, in Madurai district, which is considered to be a bastion of Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s son MK Azhagiri. The opposition here has called for ‘the end to family rule in Tamil Nadu’.

Even though DMK treasurer MK Stalin was campaigning vigourously in the constituency, AIADMK supremo and MDMK leader Vaiko reserved their attacks for Azhagiri, who controls the DMK machinery here.

Summing up the campaign theme at a public meeting here, Jayalalithaa said “vote for the two leaves symbol to end Azhagiri raj in the state. Vote for the AIADMK to put an end to Azhagiri’s atrocities”.

Recalling the mysterious death of an 18-year-old Dalit girl, at Chithalai village, which falls under this constituency, Jayalalithaa alleged that the death occurred at the house belonging to a close friend of Azhagiri. She charged that the police had performed postmortem examination even before the girl’s (Karpagavalli) parents could reach the hospital.

The CB-CID enquiry ordered by the state government was an eye-wash, since the police closed the case saying that the girl had committed suicide, she said and asked the people to vote for her party, if they wanted the truth to be revealed.

Vaiko, who shared the dais with Jayalalithaa, recalled the murder of T Kiruttinan, a district secretary of the DMK in the neigbouring Sivaganga district, and said Azhagiri was one of the accused in the case. He was later acquitted, since most of the witnesses turned hostile, after the DMK came back to power, he said. “The court has acquitted him. Hence, we are appealing in the people’s court. End Azhagiri’s atrocities, by voting for the AIADMK”, he said.

CPM state secretary N Varadarajan, started the tirade against Azahgiri, by recalling the attacks on the office of Tamil daily ‘Dinakaran’, owned by Marans. He said three persons died in the attacks and no one had been punished. The people knew who was accused of masterminding the attacks and they should punish the culprits, he said.

Though, the opposition took up several local issues like drinking water and irrigation scheme for villages and setting up educational institutions, they had virutally turned the campaign as a referendum on ‘Azhagiri’s misdeeds’.

Banners and posters of Azhagiri outnumbered those of Stalin and Karunanidhi in the town, as well as the villages surrounding it.

The DMK leader addressed only a single meeting here and Azhagiri, who is heading the DMK’s election work committee, is spearheading the party’s campaign, along with his brother Stalin.

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Bihar govt staff go on strike
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 7
Work in government offices across the state was affected to a great extent as majority of non-gazetted employees went on an indefinite strike from today, demanding implementation of Sixth Pay Panel recommendations. However, some of the employees’ unions decided to stay away from the strike. 

But the major faction of non-gazetted employees, particularly working in the district offices, did not come to office. The attendance in the Secretariat offices was also thin. The Bihar State Non-Gazetted Employees Federation (Gope Faction) and Bihar Secretariat Services Association (BSSA), who are on strike, are demanding actual payment of arrears with effect from January 1, 2006, as per the recommendation of the Sixth Pay Panel whereas the state government had announced to pay them actual arrears from January 1, 2007. 

The government had, however, decided to give them notional benefits from January 1, 2006. The state cabinet had already approved the decision and directives had been issued by the finance department to revise salary to all state government employees accordingly. Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, who also happens to be the Finance Minister, tried to reason it out with the employees’ unions by holding a formal meeting with them last night. But, he failed to convince them in withdrawing the strike call.

Meanwhile, the state government had issued a stern warning to implement the “No work, No pay” policy from Wednesday. The government warning further says that those going on strike would not be considered for interim arrear and revised pay scale.

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Chandigarh woman designs Asia’s biggest naval academy
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 7
When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dedicates to the nation tomorrow, the Indian Navy’s Ezhimala Naval Academy, regarded as the biggest officers’ training institution in Asia, it will bring laurels to Chandigarh as well.

A prominent architect of the city, Namita Singh, has designed the academy. Completed at a cost of over Rs 720 crore, this world-class project in Kerala’s north Malabar coastline has several distinguishing features that make it unique. Encompassed by a picturesque 7-km stretch of beach and seven hills, it is all set to be one of the most beautiful basic technical education training centres in the continent.

Namita, who was a member of the Chandigarh Housing Board, has designed several prestigious buildings and complexes in the region. Her late husband, Satnam Singh, was also a consultant architect to the Punjab government and associated with several prestigious projects, including initial planning of the Anandpur Sahib heritage complex.

Namita is otherwise an alumnus of the Chandigarh College of Architecture. She had won the national competition for designing this naval complex way back in 1988-89. The start of the project, however, was delayed for various reasons and it could take off only in 2000.

Namita is now also designing the Chandigarh Centre of Performing Arts in Sector 34. Among her recently completed projects in the city has been renovation of Tagore Theatre as well as revitalising of the Punjab Engineering College campus.

According to an official statement, the new institution will start various basic training programmes, including four-year BTech in electronics and communications and mechanical engineering in June for all newly inducted trainee officers. The All-India Council of Technical Education recognises all the courses.

Many friendly naval powers, including Japan and Korea, are also keen to send their men for training programmes at Ezhimala. Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Suresh Mehta had recently said the Navy would accommodate foreign cadets within four years when things stabilise in the new academy.

“The opening of this world-class academy will be a major landmark in India’s naval history as well as people of Kerala,” Southern Naval Command Vice-Admiral Sunil K Damle, who oversees the project implementation, said.

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AP first to introduce biometric smart cards
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, January 7
Andhra Pradesh has become the first state in the country to introduce biometric smart cards to make payment to the beneficiaries under National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP), a flagship programme of the UPA government.

As part of the initiative aimed at preventing frauds in social welfare schemes, the smart card project has been launched in Krishna district on pilot basis. It will soon be extended to other districts, officials said.

The beneficiaries under the Social Security Pension Scheme (SSPS) will also be covered under the programme. All the payments under the twin schemes are being made through the smart cards in Krishna district from January 1 and the facility will be extended to other districts in a phased manner.

About 4 lakh beneficiaries of NREGP and SSPS in the district would receive payments through the smart cards from 1,000 service delivery points.

The members of the women self-help groups have been appointed as customer service providers who will help eliminate bogus claimants and ensure foolproof payments to genuine beneficiaries.

The smart cards, similar to the ATM cards, contain encrypted fingerprints of the beneficiaries. Every month, the pension or the wage amount will be credited to the account of the beneficiary who can withdraw the money from the point of transaction device installed in the villages.

The state government has identified certain banks and NGOs to implement the smart card scheme at remote locations.

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Ramadoss asks docs to stay put in India
Rues shortfall of health resources
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 7
Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss was at his trademark best today when he exhorted the AIIMS passouts to stay put in India. The minister was reminding the AIIMS graduates of the massive investments made in them at the premiere medical institution of the country. “It is payback time” was his loud and clear message to the new doctors, who listened in attention as the minister attended the 36th AIIMS annual convocation ceremony in the capital today.

He was speaking in the backdrop of a mounting human resource crisis in the health sector, which currently short of six-lakh doctors, two-lakh dental surgeons, and 10-lakh nurses.

“The country is in huge need of quality medical human resource. You have been offered quality education in the best institute of the country and you are valuable commodities in the light of the massive shortfall of specialists in the country,” a desperate minister said, going on about how AIIMS had offered its graduate not just the knowledge but also a robust framework of ethics and values.

As Ramadoss voiced his concerns, Nobel Prize winner chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change RK Pachauri looked on, later seconding the minister’s advice of not abandoning the homeland for monetary gains.

“Action is here and tremendous spiritual and professional satisfaction is to be gained by working in India,” Pachauri said, strengthening Ramadoss’ bid to prevent brain drain.

Second AIIMS campus soon

Ramadoss said a second campus for AIIMS would be established soon in the light of growing demands. Talks are on for 300-acre land with the governments in the NCR region, he said. The new campus will boost facilities and research prospects in AIIMS. Ramadoss also took the occasion to announce the upcoming launch of National Urban Health Mission covering urban slums. The launch is slated early next month. Further, the National School Health Programme will now be screening children all over the country for various health related issues. For the future, Ramadoss said combating lifestyle and non-communicable diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and mental problems, would be the ministry’s top priority; so would be campaigning against alcohol, tobacco, junk food and drugs, he said.

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Scribes’ wage board may get new chief

New Delhi, January 7
Centre is likely to appoint a new chairman of the Wage Board for journalists and non-journalists soon. Union Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes stated this today.

He said after getting 30 per cent interim relief for journalists and non-journalists employees of newspaper organisations, “We would like to start our work on the main agenda of wage revision as soon as the chairman is appointed.” — PTI

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SC says no to CBI probe against Lalu
R. Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 7
The Supreme Court (SC) today declined to entertain a PIL seeking a CBI probe into allegations of corruption against Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, but allowed Janata Dal leader Rajeev Ranjan Singh Lallan to withdraw his petition and approach “appropriate authorities” for remedy.

According to the petition, Lalu Prasad had taken land for providing jobs in the Railways and awarding contracts and was misusing his official position in several other ways to amass wealth. The JD(U) leader had also sought a direction to the Tax Department for an assessment of the Minister’s wealth.

The petitioner’s counsel, Rajiv Dhawan, said the matter had been reported to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who instead of ordering an inquiry by the CBI or the Central Vigilance Commission, asked the Vigilance Department of the Railways to look into the complaints.

Since the Railways Vigilance Department was functioning under the Minister, its findings could not be fair, Dhawan said and pleaded for a CBI probe. The Bench, headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, however, advised the petitioner not to make such presumptions.

Lallan had resigned from the Lok Sabha recently along with other JD(U) MPs on the issue of attacks on North Indians by Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

Warrants against Thackeray stayed

The Supreme Court today stayed till further orders the execution of non-bailable warrants against

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray and virtually exempted him from personal appearance before the Jharkhand High Court in a case pertaining to violence against North Indians in Maharashtra.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam also issued notices to the complainants in all the eight cases pending against the MNS chief in various courts in Bihar and Jharkhand.

The court issued the orders after senior counsel UU Lalit, appearing for Thackeray, sought the clubbing of all cases and their transfer to a neutral state. He contended that the cases had been filed aginst his client to harass him.

A Jamshedpur court had issued warrant against Thackeray on a complaint filed by an advocate Hamid Raza Khan, while seven other courts had issued summons to him.

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