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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

All officers fall under combat or ready-for-combat category, MoD told
New deal for Lt Cols

New Delhi, January 9
In less than 10 days after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) conveyed its decision to the Ministry of Defence on the pay-related anomalies of the armed forces, the latter have found a way out to get enhanced status for all Lt Colonels and their equivalent ranks in the Navy and the IAF.

Obama extends Mulford’s stay
New Delhi, January 9
The incoming Barack Obama administration has asked US ambassador to India David C Mulford, who is credited with giving a new direction to Indo-US ties, to continue in his post for some more time.
US Ambassador to India David C Mulford speaks during a farewell luncheon organised for him by the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi on Friday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal US Ambassador to India David C Mulford speaks during a farewell luncheon organised for him by the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi on Friday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal



EARLIER STORIES



Mumbai Heat
End talks with Pak: Ex-envoys
New Delhi, January 9
Ten former Indian ambassadors have asked the government to suspend the composite dialogue process with Pakistan and downgrade diplomatic ties with it since the neighbouring country has not has not taken any meaningful action to combat terrorism in the wake of the Mumbai attack.

It’s for Rahul to decide when to be PM: Cong
New Delhi, January 9
Amidst rising chorus within the Congress of Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi being the ideal choice for the next Prime Minister of the country, the party on Friday attempted to play down the latest observation on this issue, this time by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Govt, Cong tread cautiously on Gaza
New Delhi, January 9
The Congress on Friday condemned “in the strongest possible terms”, the land invasion of Gaza by Israel. The party, which leads the government at the Center, called upon “Israel to halt its action which has crossed all norms of civilized human behaviour”, demanding an “immediate intervention of the United Nations Security Council for cessation of hostilities”.

BJP dares UPA to cut diesel price
New Delhi, January 9
The BJP today dared the Congress-led UPA coalition to immediately announce the promised diesel price cut and not wait for the Lok Sabha polls to do so. Speaking for the striking truckers today, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani said he saw misplaced priority in the fact that while the government had revised ATF prices several times offering relief to air-cargo operators, it had reduced diesel only by Rs 2.

Mamata wins Nandigram
Kolkata, January 9
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee won the Nandigram byelection by routing the CPM and other left parties, while the young Congress candidate Masum Benajir Noor retained her mother’s, late Rubi Noor’s seat at Sujapur(Malda).

Cong feels Soren should quit CM post
New Delhi, January 9
The Congress today indicated that Jharkhand CM Shibu Soren should quit after losing the Assembly byelection from Tamar, saying that the verdict of the people should be honoured.

Will contest again: Soren
New Delhi/Ranchi, January 9
Unfazed by growing pressure to quit after the defeat in an Assembly bypoll, Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren today dug his heel and refused to resign saying he would contest again after a rebel BJP MLA in the state vacated his seat to help the veteran tribal leader to seek election.

Satyam Scam
Oppn slams AP govt
Hyderabad, January 9
The political fallout of Satyam scam has triggered fresh worries for the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh ahead of the elections. The opposition parties have accused the Rajasekhar Reddy government of showering out-of-the-way favours on companies owned by the family of Ramalinga Raju who quit Satyam Computers in disgrace after admitting to what has now emerged as the biggest fraud in the corporate history of the country.

Government disbands Satyam board
New Delhi, January 9
The government today disbanded the current board of the troubled IT company Satyam and would nominate 10 directors to the board. “The current board ceases to exist and there would not be any meeting tomorrow,” Corporate Affairs Minister Prem Chand Gupta said.

Hamid Karzai to meet PM
New Delhi, January 9
India and Afghanistan, both victims of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, will discuss ways to tackle the menace when Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets PM Manmohan Singh here on Monday.

Govt unmoved, AIMTC leaders arrested
New Delhi, January 9
The Delhi government today made the first move to show it means business after invoking the Essential Services Maintenance act (ESMA) as it ordered the arrest of All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) president Charan Singh Lohara and its secretary S. Venugopal, sending across a strong message to the striking truckers.

Declare truckers’ strike illegal: PIL
New Delhi, January 9
The Supreme Court today admitted a PIL that seeks declaration of the ongoing truckers' strike as illegal and cancellation of their licenses. A Bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam said the PIL, filed by advocate Sunder Khatri, would come up for hearing on January 12.

1 killed, 8 injured in Guwahati blast
Guwahati, January 9
At least one person was killed and eight injured when a powerful bomb went off at a car parking in an evening market near Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) headquarter at Maligaon in the city at 6.30 pm, this evening.

Prez calls for better fiscal practices
Chennai, January 9
President Prathiba Patil today said sustainable economic growth was far too important to be left entirely to the market and called for better regulatory systems and best practices in the management of capital markets as well as in fiscal policy.

Veteran scribe Mishra dead
New Delhi, January 9
RK Mishra, veteran journalist and chairman of think tank, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), died in Bangalore today at the age of 73. Mishra, who had been the Editor-in-Chief of erstwhile ‘Patriot’ and ‘Observer of Business and Politics’ newspapers, was suffering from cancer, ORF officials here said.





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All officers fall under combat or ready-for-combat category, MoD told
New deal for Lt Cols
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
In less than 10 days after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) conveyed its decision to the Ministry of Defence on the pay-related anomalies of the armed forces, the latter have found a way out to get enhanced status for all Lt Colonels and their equivalent ranks in the Navy and the IAF. To the PMO’s condition that only Lt Colonels, who are on “combat” or “ready-for-combat posts” will be given the enhanced status of pay band 4 and grade scale of Rs 8,000, the forces have conveyed to the Defence Minister that all the 12,000 officers in this rank fall in the category of combat or ready- for-combat. A formal written communiqué is being drafted in this regard.

Service chiefs conveyed the logic of treating all posts as combat or ready for combat as the nomenclature of such posts does not exist in the glossary of the forces, as they have only three kinds of posting — field, modified field and peacetime. This had created apprehension in the minds of the officers.

Following instructions from the PMO, a fresh order will probably have to be issued to detail out the posts with the service headquarters going by the dictum that an officer can be called upon for combat duty any time, hence, he is to be treated as such.

In case of Lt Colonels, the pay band 4 status will mean an increase of anything between Rs 10,000 and 12,000 per month over the existing pay scales. Already those who are on deputation would receive the pay band 4 status only when they return to their parent service. Also, the Lieut Colonel rank officers will not be sent on deputation any more.

The service headquarters will also list the issues of command, control and status of the forces vis-à-vis their civilian and paramilitary counterparts. The defence secretary will head a high-powered committee to sort this out.

The armed forces had raised four core issues that were looked into by a committee of ministers.

Two of them have not been addressed. While the demand of pay band 4 status for Lt Colonels had been agreed upon with conditions, 70 percent pension benefit for jawans was approved in totality. Also the government has decided to set up a pay commission exclusively for the forces. This will be de-linked from the civilian pay commission.

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Obama extends Mulford’s stay
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
The incoming Barack Obama administration has asked US ambassador to India David C Mulford, who is credited with giving a new direction to Indo-US ties, to continue in his post for some more time.

“Mulford confirmed today that his departure from India, originally planned to coincide with the end of the Bush administration this month, will be extended for a few weeks at the request of the incoming administration,” a US embassy spokesperson said today. Mulford was to return home this month-end at the end of a five-year term. He is the longest serving US ambassador to India after Chester Bowles and Ellsworth Bunker.

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Mumbai Heat
End talks with Pak: Ex-envoys
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
Ten former Indian ambassadors have asked the government to suspend the composite dialogue process with Pakistan and downgrade diplomatic ties with it since the neighbouring country has not has not taken any meaningful action to combat terrorism in the wake of the Mumbai attack.

“The people of India want the government to take decisive action within a clear timeline to put an end to this menace,” said the retired diplomats, including four former foreign secretaries, after their meeting at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank, here on Thursday.

Charging Pakistan with using ‘terrorism as an instrument of state policy’, they said the 26/11 Mumbai strikes ‘were carried out by terrorists from Pakistan with the knowledge and support of sections of the Pakistan military and the ISI.’

They also advised the government not to rely too much on the international community and deal with ‘the threat coming from Pakistan essentially on its own.’ “Past experience shows that pressure from the international community does not go beyond exhortations and platitudes. India will have to deal with the threat coming from Pakistan essentially on its own,” the ambassadors said in a statement. They recommended a series of steps to bring pressure on Pakistan to take meaningful action against anti-India terror outfits operating in that country which included discontinuing state assisted cultural, sporting and other exchanges, restricting defence procurement from countries/companies which supply defence material to Pakistan, reviewing existing treaties and agreements with Islamabad and considering specific economic measures against Pakistan. The signatories to statement were: M Rasgotra, K Raghunath, Lalit Mansingh and Kanawal Sibal (all former foreign secretaries), A N Ram, Arjun Asrani, Arundhati Ghose, Kuldip Sahdev, Ishrat Aziz and Dilip Lahiri.

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It’s for Rahul to decide when to be PM: Cong
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
Amidst rising chorus within the Congress of Nehru-Gandhi scion Rahul Gandhi being the ideal choice for the next Prime Minister of the country, the party on Friday attempted to play down the latest observation on this issue, this time by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The Congress said while the young Gandhi had all qualifications to lead the country, it was up to him to decide when to take on the mantle.

Responding to the statement made by Mukherjee on Thursday that Rahul may soon follow footsteps of his father who became the Prime Minister at the age of 40, Party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said the senior Congress leader’s reply was related to a query on the emergence of youth leadership in the country.

Mukherjee, when asked why India does not have a larger number of young political leaders assuming key offices during the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebration in Chennai, said days were not far off when Rahul Gandhi might follow his father’s footsteps, adding that Rajiv Gandhi had become the Prime Minister at the age of 40.

Ahmed said he agreed with the statement made by the External Affairs Minister that Rahul Gandhi had all qualities required to lead the country as he represented the aspirations of young India. “Rahulji represents young India and has attracted the younger generation towards the party. It is true that he has all the qualifications which are necessary to lead the country. All of us feel that way. But it is for him to to decide (when to take on the leadership mantle)”, he said, adding quickly that this should not be misconstrued as if people were unhappy with the performance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

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Govt, Cong tread cautiously on Gaza
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
The Congress on Friday condemned “in the strongest possible terms”, the land invasion of Gaza by Israel. The party, which leads the government at the Center, called upon “Israel to halt its action which has crossed all norms of civilized human behaviour”, demanding an “immediate intervention of the United Nations Security Council for cessation of hostilities”.

In contrast, the official statement by the Indian government on Gaza situation continues to be restrained. “The Government of India looks forward to an early end to the suffering of the people of Gaza and a return to a dialogue and resumption of the peace process,” the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said, without mentioning the name of Israel.

However, the statement issued by the Congress clearly refers to Israel by name. “The Indian National Congress condemns in the strongest possible terms the land invasion of Gaza by Israel which has resulted in a grave humanitarian catastrophe. The massive bombing leading to a colossal destruction of civilian property and lives, including innocent children is shocking and reprehensible”.

It says the party also “categorically rejects the use of violence and terror in any form by any organisation that deliberately targets innocent men, women and children. The international community must rally together to protect Palestinian people and also mobilise and pool resources to provide immediate relief”.

Observers say the government and the Congress are currently engaged in a delicate balancing act. The Congress is trying to show that it is concerned about the situation in Gaza without the government antagonising Israel.

Showing concern about the living conditions of people in Gaza, the official statement of the government says “situation on the energy front appears extremely grim as nearly three-fourths of the Gaza population is now without any electricity and the prospects with no fuel oil available appear even more serious. The situation on the food front in Gaza is no better. Some 7,50,000 people are without access to food.”

“It is indeed strange that while talks are going on in Cairo among representatives of all concerned under the guidance of French and Egyptian officials, there is no sign of sorrow or concern about the plight of the million and half Gazan civilians living in a permanent state of fright. The Government of India looks forward to an early end to the suffering of the people of Gaza and a return to a dialogue and resumption of the peace process,” it adds.

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BJP dares UPA to cut diesel price
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
The BJP today dared the Congress-led UPA coalition to immediately announce the promised diesel price cut and not wait for the Lok Sabha polls to do so.

Speaking for the striking truckers today, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani said he saw misplaced priority in the fact that while the government had revised ATF prices several times offering relief to air-cargo operators, it had reduced diesel only by Rs 2.

The BJP asked the government to urgently negotiate with the striking truckers and end the suffering of the common man. It naturally spoke both for the truckers and “aam aadmi”, with national spokesperson Prakash Javadekar remaining silent when asked whether the BJP supported or condemned the ongoing strike.

Interestingly, just when the BJP was demanding wage revision for the striking oil and natural gas company employees, news came in that some of them were already returning to work. The party then came up with Advani’s statement on the truckers’ strike, calling both for an end to common man’s misery and the resolution of transporters’ grievances.

“As the nationwide strike by the truckers entered its fifth day today, I am concerned by the impact on the ordinary citizen and alarmed by the absence of much activity on the part of the government towards resolving the truckers’ grievances,” Advani said.

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Mamata wins Nandigram
Subhransgshu Gupta
Tribubne News Service

Kolkata, January 9
Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee won the Nandigram byelection by routing the CPM and other left parties, while the young Congress candidate Masum Benajir Noor retained her mother’s, late Rubi Noor’s seat at Sujapur(Malda).

In these two byelections, both the Trinamool Congress and the Congress fought jointly on a common understanding in order to defeat the CPM and other left parties and they were successful in their venture.

On the Para Assembly seat in Purulia, however, CPM candidate Minu Bowri won by defeating her nearest JMM rival with a margin of 40,787 votes. In this constituency, Mamata did not field any candidate but she allowed the PDS, their partner in the farmers’ movement at Singur and Nandigram, to contest.

Mamata hoped that in the coming Lok Sabha and the subsequent Assembly elections, the Nandigram and Sujapur formula would help them to oust the CPM from power in West Bengal.

She said these byelection results once again taught them the lesson to be united and defeat the CPM and other left parties in the coming elections.

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Cong feels Soren should quit CM post

New Delhi, January 9
The Congress today indicated that Jharkhand CM Shibu Soren should quit after losing the Assembly byelection from Tamar, saying that the verdict of the people should be honoured. Interestingly, reports emerging from Ranchi indicated that a legislator had quit his seat to give Soren a second chance to fight a bypoll and retain his chief ministership. They said Vishnu Bhaiya, a legislator from Jamtara, had resigned from the Assembly. — TNS

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Will contest again: Soren

New Delhi/Ranchi, January 9
Unfazed by growing pressure to quit after the defeat in an Assembly bypoll, Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren today dug his heel and refused to resign saying he would contest again after a rebel BJP MLA in the state vacated his seat to help the veteran tribal leader to seek election.

However, Jharkhand Governor Syed Sibtey Razi today said he would seek legal opinion on whether Soren should continue on constitutional grounds following his defeat in the Tamar bypoll.

“I will definitely contest the elections,” Soren said after meeting Congress leader in-charge of Jharkhand Ajay Maken here. The JMM chief was replying to a query on whether he would contest from Jamtara seat vacated for him by a rebel BJP MLA. — PTI

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Satyam Scam
Oppn slams AP govt
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, January 9
The political fallout of Satyam scam has triggered fresh worries for the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh ahead of the elections.

The opposition parties have accused the Rajasekhar Reddy government of showering out-of-the-way favours on companies owned by the family of Ramalinga Raju who quit Satyam Computers in disgrace after admitting to what has now emerged as the biggest fraud in the corporate history of the country.

With uncertainty looming large over a string of projects handed over to Maytas Infra, owned by Raju’s son, the charges of kickbacks in the deals have surfaced. After an initial shock over the scale and severity of the scandal, the opposition parties have trained their guns on the government saying it failed to read the signals and prevent the collapse of the IT giant.

“The present government should take the responsibility for the collapse of Satyam. The fraud could not have taken place without the knowledge of the government,” Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu said.

Naidu himself had aggressively promoted the interests of Satyam Computers when he was Chief Minister from 1995 to 2004, a boom period for the IT industry.

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Government disbands Satyam board
Tribune News Service/PTI

New Delhi, January 9
The government today disbanded the current board of the troubled IT company Satyam and would nominate 10 directors to the board.

“The current board ceases to exist and there would not be any meeting tomorrow,” Corporate Affairs Minister Prem Chand Gupta said. “The Centre is considering appointment of suitable persons as directors of Satyam following interim permission by the Company Law Board.”

The new board would meet in the next seven days. Notably, the current board was left with only three members from the original nine.

Meanwhile, the Satyam management is fighting rumours and disinformation particularly relating to employees and their salaries.

The day started with a rumour by some Satyam employees that there was an internal e-mail that talks about layoffs and uncertainty about salaries over the next two months, but it was later found that there was no such internal communication.

“No such e-mail exists,” a Satyam spokesperson said, adding that because of the uncertainty of the situation there are all kinds of rumours floating. But the management is doing everything in its ability to reach out the employees and ensure that their future is safe.

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Hamid Karzai to meet PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
India and Afghanistan, both victims of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, will discuss ways to tackle the menace when Afghan President Hamid Karzai meets PM Manmohan Singh here on Monday.

The Afghan leader is arriving here on Sunday on his seventh visit to India since assuming office in 2002. He had visited New Delhi last in August last year--within a month of the suicide bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, for which New Delhi had blamed ISI. Officials said the main purpose of the visit was to convey to the government and the people of India Afghanistan's condolences over the Mumbai terror attacks. Singh is expected to share with Karzai evidence about the involvement of LeT and other Pakistan-based elements in the Mumbai attacks.

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Govt unmoved, AIMTC leaders arrested
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 9
The Delhi government today made the first move to show it means business after invoking the Essential Services Maintenance act (ESMA) as it ordered the arrest of All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) president Charan Singh Lohara and its secretary S. Venugopal, sending across a strong message to the striking truckers.

As the truckers’ strike entered the fifth day and the deadlock between the government and the striking truckers continued, a Delhi police team arrested the two AIMTC leaders under the ESMA.

They were picked when the Congress management committee was holding its emergency meeting in the afternoon to assess the situation in the wake of the hard stand adopted by the Centre.

The government warned the transporters that if they did not return to roads, more arrests could follow.

The government, while warning the striking truckers of further strong action, said it planned to run 15-20 lakh vehicles in the next few days for uninterrupted supply of essential commodities.

This, the government plans to do by impounding trucks and allowing other private vehicles for transportation of commodities without permit. Transport secretary Brahm Dutt said, “We plan to run 15-20 lakh vehicles in the next few days for supply of essential commodities. For this, trucks would be impounded and other private vehicles would be arranged.”

Describing the stand of the truckers as irresponsible, he said he was in touch with the transporters but they were holding on to their demands.

The government has already asked all states to take strict action against the striking truckers.

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Declare truckers’ strike illegal: PIL
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, January 9
The Supreme Court today admitted a PIL that seeks declaration of the ongoing truckers' strike as illegal and cancellation of their licenses.

A Bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam said the PIL, filed by advocate Sunder Khatri, would come up for hearing on January 12.

Appearing in person, Khatri said the strike was in negation of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (EMSA) as it had affected the livelihood of people by depriving them of their day-to-day needs.

The truckers' agitation, coupled with the strike by oil sector employees, was bound to hit the country's economy that was already reeling under the global meltdown, he said.

Besides ESMA, provisions of the National Security Act should also be invoked to end the strike, he said.

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1 killed, 8 injured in Guwahati blast
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, January 9
At least one person was killed and eight injured when a powerful bomb went off at a car parking in an evening market near Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) headquarter at Maligaon in the city at 6.30 pm, this evening.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, GP Singh said the bomb was suspected to be triggered by militants of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa).

The timed-explosive device was planted on a bicycle that was kept between two cars along the lane leading to the evening market. Both the cars - a Maruti WagonR and a Santro - were badly damaged in the blast.

The injured were rushed to Maligaon Railway Hospital and a nearby private hospital. Doctors at the private nursing home informed that one person identified as one Dhiren Kumar Kakoti was declared brought dead.

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Prez calls for better fiscal practices
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, January 9
President Prathiba Patil today said sustainable economic growth was far too important to be left entirely to the market and called for better regulatory systems and best practices in the management of capital markets as well as in fiscal policy.

Delivering the valedictory speech at the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Chennai tonight, Patil called for a more inclusive and participative global financial architecture with restructuring of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. “This is required to prevent the recurrence of economic crises in the future”.

She said, “The absence of regulation can and does create hazards. Global financial markets need a coherent set of transparent rules for all of the participants in order to have a fair and orderly market.”

The President said, “India has an effective capital market regulator and a strong central bank and the growth impetus of the Indian economy stems essentially from its large and growing domestic market.”

India was seeking to bridge the infrastructure deficit and to achieve energy security, food security and human welfare security in a climate of a global slowdown, she said and affirmed that India had the capacity to grow even in these difficult times.

Emphasising that India offers the opportunity to invest in a stable and growing market, she invited overseas Indians to benefit from the various economic opportunities, particularly in infrastructure.

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Veteran scribe Mishra dead

New Delhi, January 9
RK Mishra, veteran journalist and chairman of think tank, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), died in Bangalore today at the age of 73. Mishra, who had been the Editor-in-Chief of erstwhile ‘Patriot’ and ‘Observer of Business and Politics’ newspapers, was suffering from cancer, ORF officials here said. An ex-member of Rajya Sabha, Mishra was involved in back channel diplomacy with Pakistan during the NDA government. His body will be brought here tomorrow for cremation. — PTI

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