SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Cong to crank up party machinery
New Delhi, January 16
With the next Lok Sabha elections set to be held somewhere in April-May, the Congress has got into poll mode by cranking up the party machinery.

SP to support Cong if it fields
Dutt: Amar Singh

New Delhi, January 16
After a week of bitterness with the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) general secretary Amar Singh was back to his sugar and saccharine politics today when he said he was not interested in poaching Sanjay Dutt from its ally.

UPA to fight LS polls under PM’s
leadership, says Pranab

New Delhi, January 16
The UPA will fight the coming Lok Sabha elections under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said senior Congress leader and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Assam cops sniff deadly plan by ULFA
Security stepped up for Republic Day
Guwahati, January 16
The Assam police has sniffed a deadly plan hatched by the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to trigger a series of bomb explosions in the city in the run up to the Republic Day.



EARLIER STORIES

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his counterpart from Mali Moctar Ouane shake hands before a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday.
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his counterpart from Mali Moctar Ouane shake hands before a meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday. A Tribune photograph

Miliband’s India visit a diplomatic disaster: BJP
New Delhi, January 16
A day after AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi hosted British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in his parliamentary constituency Amethi, the Congress party turned around and criticised Miliband for linking terrorist attacks on India to the Kashmir dispute.

PM reviews restoration of Jallianwala Bagh site
Govt to commemorate 90th year of tragedy
New Delhi, January 16
The government has decided to commemorate the 90th year of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy that shook the very soul of India. Ahead of the commemoration event, planned in April this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today reviewed the development works being undertaken at the site of the tragedy in Amritsar.

No immediate relief for Aravalli miners
New Delhi, January 16
Rejecting the plea of miners in the Aravalli ranges for immediate relief, the Supreme Court today asked the Haryana and Rajasthan governments and the mine owners to file their response to the Central Empowered Committee's (CEC) report recommending a blanket ban on mining in the hills.

‘IT growth has slowed down in Karnataka’
Bangalore, January 16
Karnataka Governor Rameshwar Thakur today said the state was passing through a tough phase with the IT sector, the driving force behind its economy, showing signs of a slowdown in the wake of the recession.

Thackeray hits out at K’taka over Belgaum
Mumbai, January 16
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray lashed out at the Karnataka government over what it called the Marathi-speaking people of Belgaum as the neighbouring state prepared to hold a session of its Assembly in the troubled area claimed by Maharashtra for the past 60 years.

Seat Sharing
Chinks surface in Cong-NCP alliance
Mumbai, January 16
Even though the schedule for the next Lok Sabha polls was yet to be announced, strains have started appearing in the existing relationships of various political parties over seat sharing, the latest being between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

‘Slumdog’ remarks not mine: Big B
New Delhi, January 16
Two days after his reported remarks on 'Slumdog Millionaire' expressed on his blog made headlines across the country, superstar Amitabh Bachchan has said the expressions attributed to him were in fact that of others.

Denial to visit Kusaha disappoints Nitish Kumar
Patna, January 16
Expressing his disappointment at being denied the permission to visit Kusaha in Nepal, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on Wednesday lambasted the Centre for failing to rehabilitate the Kosi-affected areas on the pattern of tsunami.

Parents of stolen baby move HC in Mumbai
Mumbai, January 16
The hapless parents of the four-day-old baby who was abducted by an unknown woman from Sion Hospital in Central Mumbai on December 29 last have moved the Bombay High Court by filing a habeas corpus petition.

Eve-teasing claims life
Begusarai (Bihar), January 16
A 17-year-old girl, who could not bear the brunt of eve-teasing, allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison in Samastipur village of Bihar's Begusarai district late last night, the police said today.





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Cong to crank up party machinery
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, January 16
With the next Lok Sabha elections set to be held somewhere in April-May, the Congress has got into poll mode by cranking up the party machinery.

While a reshuffle of AICC office-bearers is expected to take place shortly to constitute a team for the polls, the Congress has called a meeting of its 9,000-odd district and block-level presidents on February 8 in the Capital to set the ball rolling.

An eight-member preparatory committee, headed by AICC treasurer Motilal Vora, has been constituted for the purpose. AICC general secretaries who met at the party headquarters here today have kick-started the preparations for this convention where participants would be briefed about the UPA government’s achievements to enable them convey the message ahead to the electorate.

The Congress manifesto committee, headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, met earlier this week to discuss the first draft of the manifesto, which was prepared after extensive discussions with representatives of civil society and experts.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi also called the party general secretaries recently to discuss the preparations for the Lok Sabha elections. She has directed that all state committees be constituted at the earliest and that state units send in a panel of three names for each Lok Sabha seat to the party headquarters.

State election committees, which are entrusted with the task, have been asked to desist from passing the mandatory one-line resolutions, leaving the choice of candidates to the party president.

Congress leaders said the inputs they get from those working at the grassroots at next month’s convention would help the party in formulating its strategy for the elections. The last such convention, held in 2003, had proved to be a real freewheeling affair as angry participants minced no words in hitting out at senior leaders and detailing all that ailed the party organisation.

The Congress president’s first priority is to recast the AICC organisation, which has acquired urgency now that elections are two months away. There are two vacancies of AICC general secretaries after Margaret Alva was stripped of this post and Ashok Gehlot took over as Rajasthan CM. Former J&K CM Ghulam Nabi Azad is tipped to return to party headquarters as the party is in dire need of experienced hands. Several general secretaries are overburdened while others like Ajay Maken and Kishore Chandra Deo would get busy as they are slated to contest the next elections.

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SP to support Cong if it fields Dutt: Amar Singh
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16
After a week of bitterness with the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) general secretary Amar Singh was back to his sugar and saccharine politics today when he said he was not interested in poaching Sanjay Dutt from its ally.

“If the Congress wants to field Sanjay on its symbol, we are ready to support the party on the actor’s candidature. We are not interested in one-upmanship on the issue,” Amar Singh said, denying allegations that the SP had deliberately named Sanjay as its Lucknow candidate to trouble the Congress. The politician appeared toned down a day after the Congress “ostensibly” removed one of its spokespersons, Satyavrata Chaturvedi, from the panel for alleged anti-Amar remarks. Amar was quick to appease his ally today and said the SP would not field anyone against UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in Rae Bareli and AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi in Amethi.

When asked to react to the Congress indications of naming candidates in Uttar Pradesh without consulting the SP, Amar played the secular vote card, saying any “such division of secular votes would help Mayawati’s BSP.”

“We are supporting a secular alliance led by Sonia Gandhi. The Congress leaders must understand the nature of this alliance. Any division of secular votes in Uttar Pradesh will only benefit the BSP,” Amar Singh said, warning that the division of secular votes would spell the same trouble for Sonia in Rae Bareli and Rahul in Kanpur as it spelt for Amar in Gorakhpur yesterday. He also made it a point to rub in the fact that the SP and the Congress were no rivals. “We stood by them at the most critical time when they had lost support before the trust vote in Parliament,” Amar said.

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UPA to fight LS polls under PM’s leadership, says Pranab
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16
The UPA will fight the coming Lok Sabha elections under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said senior Congress leader and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

In an interview to a TV channel, he pointed out that some UPA partners have also stated that they would fight the elections under Singh’s leadership. “Congress President Sonia Gandhi also endorses the view,” he added.

The Congress party’s main troubleshooter also sought to clarify his recent remarks on Rahul Gandhi being the candidate for the PM’s post.

“I was responding to the questions from the NRIs at the Pravasi Bhartiya Sammelan. Someone asked my why India has an ageing leadership. I gave a number of examples such as those of Praful Mahanta, Omar Abdullah…I said Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister when he was 40. And then I said that who knows, may be one day Rahul Gandhi may follow in the footsteps of his father.’’

Mukherjee said the parties in the UPA government would remain part of the alliance in the elections. As far as the post-election coalition was concerned, it would depend on the numbers without compromising the basic principles of the party.

“We will not tie up with communal parties,” he added. Asked what was his future, he said, “We cannot foresee what will happen. However, I will remain in politics.’’

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Assam cops sniff deadly plan by ULFA
Security stepped up for Republic Day
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, January 16
The Assam police has sniffed a deadly plan hatched by the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to trigger a series of bomb explosions in the city in the run up to the Republic Day.

Additional Superintendent of Police Debojit Deuri on the basis of confession made by at least five ULFA cadres, who were arrested from various parts of the city during the past few days in connection with January 1 blasts, informed that leader of the 709 battalion of ULFA Hira Sarania has drawn up the blueprint to strike terror in the state’s capital city before the Republic Day.

The police officials said the banned outfit had changed its tactics of plotting explosions in a bid to baffle the subsequent police investigation. As per the new tactics, the outfit has hired several youths through its different leaders and trained them for about 20 days on handling explosives and grenades before giving them specific assignment to trigger blasts.

These youths, who can be termed as sleeper cells of ULFA, hardly know anything in detail about the outfit and its plans. They just wait for the directive from the only leader, who has hired them. They stay in rented house in the city in guises of students, vendors, rickshaw pullers, trainees in different computer institutions in the city till they are given the assignment of terror.

According to Director-General of Police GM Srivastava, the banned ULFA no longer has sufficient number of hardcore cadres capable of taking on security forces and hence the outfit has resorted to triggering bomb blasts using hired hands or new recruits to make its presence felt.

Meanwhile, the Central government has rushed 22 additional companies of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel to step up operations against the outlawed ULFA that has shown fresh belligerence and is out to disrupt atmosphere before the Republic Day.

With the availability of additional companies of paramilitary forces, the deployment of total number of central forces in the state has gone up to 142 companies.

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Miliband’s India visit a diplomatic disaster: BJP
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16
A day after AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi hosted British Foreign Secretary David Miliband in his parliamentary constituency Amethi, the Congress party turned around and criticised Miliband for linking terrorist attacks on India to the Kashmir dispute.

The External Affairs Ministry has already taken exception to Miliband trying to raise the Kashmir issue in the context of terrorist attacks, including the latest one on 26/11 at Mumbai.

Meanwhile, the BJP has found this as a good excuse to question the Congress and UPA government with BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley describing Miliband’s statement here today as the “biggest diplomatic disaster in recent years.”

Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi asked the British Foreign Secretary not to apply different yardsticks about terrorism between India and the world. He said, “Different yardsticks cannot be applied on terrorism in India and outside.”

The Congress spokesman said, “To connect terrorism to Kashmir is not only untenable but also dilutes the unity of war against terrorism. It is not your or my war, but everybody’s war.” Singhvi recalled, “When London tube attack took place, no effort was made to link it with Iraq or Northern Ireland.”

He also pointed out, “This stand (of Miliband) is also at variance with that of his Prime Minister Gordon Brown,” and reminded that Miliband was a senior member of the British establishment and he should therefore show some sensitivity.

Meanwhile, Jaitley said the same line was pushed by former Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf in Agra summit and that, he added, was the cause of failure of Agra summit. The BJP leader said, “This way the British Foreign Secretary has only endorsed the Musharraf line.”

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PM reviews restoration of Jallianwala Bagh site
Govt to commemorate 90th year of tragedy
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 16
The government has decided to commemorate the 90th year of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy that shook the very soul of India. Ahead of the commemoration event, planned in April this year, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today reviewed the development works being undertaken at the site of the tragedy in Amritsar.

The review happened during a late night meeting of the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial Trust held at Prime Minister’s Race Course residence here in the Capital. Also present were UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha LK Advani, former Prime Minister IK Gujral and Culture Minister Ambika Soni. The last meeting of the Trust had taken place more than a year ago. The PM, who chairs the Trust, is reported to have expressed satisfaction at the efforts to revitalise the historic site in the heart of Amritsar city.

The presentation on the restoration work on the site was given by Jouhar Sarkar, secretary, culture.

Earlier, the Trust had decided to set aside Rs 5 crore for the restoration work, which includes glass shielding of the three bullet-marked walls at the site. Today’s meeting, among other things, was meant to monitor the progress, which is ready to enter the second phase now.

Apart from protecting the walls, which bear testimony to the brutal firing on unarmed people by Gen Dyer, the Ministry of Culture has put in place a visitor facilitation centre at the site. “We took over the five dilapidated houses in the vicinity of the Jallianwala Bagh and used the space for building a centre for visitors and a conference hall. An office has also been set up. Besides, the pathways have been restored. They earlier used to remain inundated in rainwater,” ministry sources told The Tribune.

Earlier, Ambika Soni had assured Parliament of the restoration of the Jallianwala Bagh, which sees thousands of visitors daily. The ministry officials, meanwhile, said the amphitheatre at the site was ready and a light and sound programme would be commissioned any time now.

The PM, who is learnt to have given certain suggestions to the ministry, is expected to attend the commemoration event, which will take place in collaboration with the Punjab government.

Punjab Governor Gen SS Rodrigues (retd) was also present for tonight’s meeting, it is learnt.

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No immediate relief for Aravalli miners
R. Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

SC cancels bail of rape accused

The Supreme Court today cancelled the bail of Parbat Singh Rana, sentenced to life imprisonment for raping foreign tourist Suzane Lousie Martin at his guest house in Udaipur on Christmas-eve in 2007.

New Delhi, January 16
Rejecting the plea of miners in the Aravalli ranges for immediate relief, the Supreme Court today asked the Haryana and Rajasthan governments and the mine owners to file their response to the Central Empowered Committee's (CEC) report recommending a blanket ban on mining in the hills.

The forest bench, headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, also asked the two state governments to submit a report on the number of legal and illegal mines in the ranges and whether the miners, numbering about 50, who had approached the court, should be given mining lease or not.

The apex court-appointed committee has recommended a ban on all mining activities except for the purpose of construction material, but the miners oppose this as they have got environmental clearance and license.

The bench, which also comprises Justices Arijit Pasayat and SH Kapadia, posted the next hearing in the MC Mehta case for February 13. It also asked the state governments to study whether mining was adversely affecting the water table and the environment, besides addressing all the issues raised in the CEC report.

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‘IT growth has slowed down in Karnataka’
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, January 16
Karnataka Governor Rameshwar Thakur today said the state was passing through a tough phase with the IT sector, the driving force behind its economy, showing signs of a slowdown in the wake of the recession.

Addressing a joint legislative session in Belgaum today, Thakur said the meltdown had also hit readymade garment sector, industrial production and sale of motor vehicles. There has also been a steep decline in the sale and registration of immovable properties, he said.

As a result of these factors, he said, the revenue collection in the state had been less than what was anticipated.

However, Thakur added that in spite of the industrial slowdown investors were showing interest in Karnataka and the sate government had accorded approval for establishing 282 new industrial units with an estimated investment of Rs 36,000 crore.

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Thackeray hits out at K’taka over Belgaum
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 16
Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray lashed out at the Karnataka government over what it called the Marathi-speaking people of Belgaum as the neighbouring state prepared to hold a session of its Assembly in the troubled area claimed by Maharashtra for the past 60 years. The reports of the Karnataka police cracking down on the activists of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti in Belgaum, who are demanding the town’s merger with Maharashtra, had angered sections of the population here.

In his comment in the party mouthpiece ‘Saamna’, Thackeray accused Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa of unleashing the police on the Marathi people.

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Seat Sharing
Chinks surface in Cong-NCP alliance
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 16
Even though the schedule for the next Lok Sabha polls was yet to be announced, strains have started appearing in the existing relationships of various political parties over seat sharing, the latest being between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The Congress and the NCP, which had been into an alliance in Maharashtra since the past about a decade, are embroiled in a tussle over sharing of seats in the state.

The supporters of NCP leader Sharad Pawar, who held talks with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi earlier this week, said the regional party wanted about half the seats into its kitty. But, the demand is non-acceptable to its ally, with Chief Minister Ashok Chavan doing some tough talking against the NCP.

Chavan, a relative greenhorn in politics, is determined to flex his muscle against the NCP during the talks on seat sharing, reportedly in a bid to silence his critics within the party.

At a function in Pune yesterday, Chavan had accused Pawar of “running with the hares and hunting with the hounds”. He was hinting at NCP’s act of running the Pune Municipal Corporation in alliance with the Shiv Sena, much to the discomfiture of the Congress.

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‘Slumdog’ remarks not mine: Big B

New Delhi, January 16
Two days after his reported remarks on 'Slumdog Millionaire' expressed on his blog made headlines across the country, superstar Amitabh Bachchan has said the expressions attributed to him were in fact that of others.

“All the expressions that have been attributed to me are in fact the expressions of others, or perceived impressions of others,” Amitabh said in his latest blog while reacting to media reports that he had described 'Slumdog Millionaire' as a film projecting the underbelly of India and, therefore, getting the recognition from the West. — UNI

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Denial to visit Kusaha disappoints Nitish Kumar
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, January 16
Expressing his disappointment at being denied the permission to visit Kusaha in Nepal, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, on Wednesday lambasted the Centre for failing to rehabilitate the Kosi-affected areas on the pattern of tsunami.

Kusaha is the spot where Kosi was breached in August 2008, causing large-scale devastation in Bihar.

Nitish wanted to visit the place to make a first-hand review of the ongoing work of plugging breach being executed by his government.

Expressing annoyance with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for turning down his plea to make a spot visit there for the second time, the Chief Minister told a large gathering of flood victims at Supaul that he had planned to visit Kusaha on December 30, 2008 but the MEA turned down his request saying the Indian Ambassador to Nepal would not be present in his office at that time.

"They (MEA) advised me to revise my tour programme on any date after January 3, 2009. Accordingly, I extended my tour plan to January 9 and sent a formal request seeking permission to go there. But they again refused to permit my visit on the plea that the construction of cofferdam was still in process,” he said.

He said the repair works on the eastern embankment of Kosi was being executed by his government but, he, in spite of being the state Chief Minister, was not allowed to visit the spot on trivial grounds.

Continuing in the same vein, he said a common citizen of India did not require any one's permission to go to Nepal but a Chief Minister require formal permission from the MEA for the same.

He also informed the flood victims about the inordinate delay on part of the Centre in providing funds to the state government for starting the second phase of relief and rehabilitation work. The Prime Minister had officially declared the deluge as a ‘national calamity’.

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Parents of stolen baby move HC in Mumbai

Mumbai, January 16
The hapless parents of the four-day-old baby who was abducted by an unknown woman from Sion Hospital in Central Mumbai on December 29 last have moved the Bombay High Court by filing a habeas corpus petition.

The parents, Mohan and Mohinee Nerurkar, moved the court yesterday to obtain directions to the police to produce the missing kid. The baby boy was stolen while Mohinee was recuperating in the hospital.

The petition states that police probe has so far yielded no results and it demands that a committee be formed to probe the state of affairs at the government-run hospital.

The petition will come up for hearing before a division bench of Justice Bilal Nazki and Justice Anup Mohta tomorrow. — UNI

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Eve-teasing claims life

Begusarai (Bihar), January 16
A 17-year-old girl, who could not bear the brunt of eve-teasing, allegedly committed suicide by consuming poison in Samastipur village of Bihar's Begusarai district late last night, the police said today.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohammed Qasim said the girl, identified as Sonam Kumari, an intermediate student of a local college, was eve-teased by five boys of the same village on January 13.

Sonam, a meritorious student, had won several medals in various sports events at district level. — PTI

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