SPECIAL COVERAGE
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DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Pak should not bother about Malegaon blast accused: Antony
New Delhi, January 20
Defence Minister AK Antony adjusts a cap of an NCC cadet at a camp in New Delhi Defence Minister AK Antony said today that reports in the media of the Army not being prepared for a war in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage were baseless. 

Defence Minister AK Antony adjusts a cap of an NCC cadet at a camp in New Delhi on Tuesday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

BrahMos test-fired
Jaisalmer, January 20
India today successfully test-fired the nuclear-capable BrahMos missile with a range of 290 km at Pokhran in Rajasthan’s desert in a planned launch for the Army.


EARLIER STORIES

The cast and crew of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ pose during a news conference in Mumbai
The cast and crew of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ pose during a news conference in Mumbai on Tuesday. British director Danny Boyle's Golden Globe award-winning film will be released in India on January 23. — Reuters

Kalyan’s Exit
BJP in damage control mode

New Delhi, January 20
The BJP tried to play down here today the impact of its vice-president Kalyan Singh and three party ex-MPs from Karnataka deserting the camp on the eve of general elections, claiming that Kalyan Singh was a spent force now and the three had already been expelled from the BJP.

Get going on minority panels, states told
New Delhi, January 20
The Uttar Pradesh State Minorities Commission has a whopping 21 members but only four are being paid. The rest have been forced into “voluntary service”, courtesy lack of uniformity in the implementation of service and tenure rules for minority commission members across India.

Sukhbir Badal Aam aadmi, drugs on agenda: Sukhbir 
New Delhi, January 20
Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister in-waiting Sukhbir Badal has the common man on mind as he prepares to take oath of office in Amritsar tomorrow. Corruption, he admits, is a huge challenge and would have to be weeded out for social and economic growth to register and sustain itself at all levels. Even before assuming charge, Sukhbir today said he would go all out to cut red tape in the delivery system for common man, and would not hesitate to implement fresh practices.

Pranab leaves for Kabul today 
New Delhi, January 20
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is rushing to Kabul tomorrow on a crucial visit as India and Afghanistan seek to intensify cooperation in combating terrorism sponsored by Pakistani elements in the two countries.

EC to discuss general polls
New Delhi, January 20
The Election Commission of India, as part of its exercise for preparation for the General Election, 2009, is slated to hold a series of reviews and start a consultation process during the first week of February. This is a prelude to the forthcoming general elections.

Punjab inks pact with UN tourism body
New Delhi, January 20
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Punjab Government signed an agreement to develop a master plan for tourism here today.

Brain-dead jawan saves three lives
New Delhi, January 20
Organs from a brain-dead Army jawan have saved three lives and restored vision for two. The multiple organ transplant was carried out by the Army Research and Referal Hospital here in the National Capital yesterday.

Armed Forces Pay
Decision on pending issues soon: Govt

New Delhi, January 20
Asserting that “sincere” efforts to resolve pay anomalies were being made, the government today assured the armed forces that it would soon take a decision on the pending issues relating to the Sixth Pay Commission.

Belgaum row rages on 
Bus services between Maharashtra, Karnataka affected
Mumbai, January 20
The war of words between the politicians of Maharashtra and Karnataka over the status of Belgaum has spilled out onto the streets with violence breaking out in the border areas of both states.

Purohit main conspirator: Chargesheet
Mumbai, January 20
Nearly four months after the blasts at Malegaon, the police today filed a chargesheet that named Army officer Lt Col Prasad Purohit as the main conspirator, who provided the explosives, and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as the prime accused, who arranged for the men, who planted the explosives.

Coming: 29 more BSF battalions
Guwahati, January 20
Deployment of the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel along the country’s western and eastern frontiers will get a massive boost with the Centre giving sanction for raising of 29 more battalions for the force.

Jaipur literary fest begins today
116 authors to participate
Jaipur, January 20
As many as 116 world famous authors, 20 interviewers and 30 performing artistes will participate in the Jaipur Literature Festival 2009, the largest of its kind in Asia.

13 schoolkids, teacher die in head-on crash
Jaipur, January 20
Thirteen schoolchildren and a teacher were killed and 26 were injured when a tempo in which they were travelling collided head-on with a truck on a national highway in Barmer district today.






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Pak should not bother about Malegaon blast accused: Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
Defence Minister AK Antony said today that reports in the media of the Army not being prepared for a war in the aftermath of the Mumbai carnage were baseless. He also rejected a suggestion in the Pakistani press that the Pakistan could see extradition of Malegaon blast accused Lt Col Shrikant Purohit.

Antony was talking to reporters here on the sidelines of a function organised by the National Cadet Corps (NCC).

On the Army and its state of preparedness, Antony said our armed forces were in a state of preparedness. They are prepared to meet any challenge, any eventuality and any threat. He also downplayed reports of a Pakistan military build-up across the border.

At the moment, the government was concentrating on diplomatic efforts. There is no question of our armed forces lowering their guard, he said.

Antony was surprised at suggestions made in on Pakistan seeking extradition of Col Purohit, saying it is an internal matter and Islamabad should not be concerned over it. The case is under examination by the anti-terror squad. We are investigating it, how can Pakistan be concerned with that? Antony asked

The investigation is our responsibility and we are doing it, Antony said in reply to a query on a Pakistani suggestion that Purohit should be extradited in connection with the Samjhauta Express blast case.

Pakistan’s interior ministry chief Rehman Malik’s had commented: “If the Indian demand for handing over the accused in the Mumbai attacks persists, then the accused of the Samjhauta Express case might be asked for.”

Sixty-eight people were killed in the February 2007 blast on board the Delhi-Attari Express that links up with the Lahore-bound Samjhauta Express.

Antony avoided any comment on a reported statement the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s statement that it would shun violence if the Kashmir problem was solved.

Terrorism has nothing to do with Kashmir. Kashmir is an integral part of India. We will not entertain any intervention from any quarters, Antony asserted.

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BrahMos test-fired

Jaisalmer, January 20
India today successfully test-fired the nuclear-capable BrahMos missile with a range of 290 km at Pokhran in Rajasthan’s desert in a planned launch for the Army.

The test comes in the midst of heightened tension between India and Pakistan, following the Mumbai terror attacks.

Defence Minister AK Antony told reporters in New Delhi that the test was pre-planned and not directed against any country.

The missile, capable of touching a speed of 2.8 times that of sound, was launched during the trial in its vertical mode, DRDO officials said.

Currently, the Army has one regiment armed with the BrahMos missile, which is different from the version that was test-fired today. The present round of trials was earlier scheduled for January 17, but was postponed till today. However, the DRDO sources did not specify any reasons for the delay.

BrahMos is a missile that India is developing in collaboration with Russia and is named after the Brahmputra river and Moscow. — PTI

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Kalyan’s Exit
BJP in damage control mode
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
The BJP tried to play down here today the impact of its vice-president Kalyan Singh and three party ex-MPs from Karnataka deserting the camp on the eve of general elections, claiming that Kalyan Singh was a spent force now and the three had already been expelled from the BJP.

Kalyan Singh sent in his resignation by fax to BJP president Rajnath Singh and about the same time three former BJP MPs from Karnataka AT Sangliana, Manjunath Kunoor and Manorama Madhuraj accompanied by AICC in charge of Karnataka Prithviraj Chauhan announced their decision to join the Congress party at its headquarters 24, Akbar Road here today.

The process of migration of MPs and leaders from one party to another in the election season is a common phenomenon. However, in the current scenario the BJP and its prime minister-in-waiting LK Advani anxiously awaiting the results of general elections to don the mantle, appear to be immediately affected by this exodus.

Formally, the BJP denied Kalyan Singh’s charge that he was ignored and humiliated in the party. Party spokesman Rajiv Pratap Rudy said, “Among the leaders who have rejoined the BJP none has been given so much respect as Kalyan Singh. He was made the party vice-president, he was given charge of UP in the 2004 general elections, he was projected as the party’s chief ministerial candidate in 2007 UP Assembly elections, though in that election the party fared poorly getting only 51 seats.”

He maintained, “We heeded to all his demands and desires and agreed to anything he asked for. Rudy did not specify but he was obviously referring to the recent decision of the BJP to get Kalyan Singh’s confidant Kusum Rai elected to Rajya Sabha despite opposition from a large section of the party.

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Get going on minority panels, states told
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
The Uttar Pradesh State Minorities Commission has a whopping 21 members but only four are being paid. The rest have been forced into “voluntary service”, courtesy lack of uniformity in the implementation of service and tenure rules for minority commission members across India.

Considered a drain on the resources, minority commissions have not yet been set up by as many as 14 states - a fact that the National Commission for Minorities today took a strong note of, asking the defaulting states to immediately set up commissions. Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir and Gujarat are among states with no minority commissions despite a sizeable population of minorities.

The NCM further asked the states to implement the Model Act for State Minority Commissions to set them free of government controls and accord some amount of dignity to the serving members.

While the chairman in the NCM has a cabinet rank and a salary more than Rs 1 lakh, members have MoS ranks and near similar salaries. But in states, there are no uniform rules on ranks for chairmen and members. “In some states, minority commission members are not being paid at all. They are simply not being recognized. Moreover, governments dissolve and constitute them on will. The Model Act proposes to end this arbitrariness,” said Mohd Shafi Qureishi, NCM chairperson, during the day-long annual conference of the state minority commissions at Vigyan Bhavan today.

The Model Act discussed today proposes the maximum strength of seven for state minority commissions, and three-year tenure so that no state government can change the members at will. “The states shall provide the commission with a secretary and pay the members fixed and regular salaries and allowances,” says the Act.

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Aam aadmi, drugs on agenda: Sukhbir 
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister in-waiting Sukhbir Badal has the common man on mind as he prepares to take oath of office in Amritsar tomorrow.

Corruption, he admits, is a huge challenge and would have to be weeded out for social and economic growth to register and sustain itself at all levels. Even before assuming charge, Sukhbir today said he would go all out to cut red tape in the delivery system for common man, and would not hesitate to implement fresh practices.

“We can look at abolishing unnecessary procedures that trouble the common man; outsourcing and privatising some services discharged until now by the government servants. I am assuming office with an open mind and a promise of effective delivery mechanism for the poorest of the poor in Punjab,” the Shorimani Akali Dal (SAD) president told The Tribune on the eve of his elevation as Punjab’s Deputy Chief Minister. He plans to enforce administrative reforms by the end of 2009.

Rubbishing talks of disgruntlement in the state BJP unit, which recently voiced its unhappiness over his elevation, Sukhbir said there was no problem on any issue between the SAD and the BJP, and the traditional seat-sharing arrangement between the two allies would continue for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls.

“We are not seeking more seats from the BJP. We will have 10 and they will have three, as always,” said the son of Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, who will tomorrow add another chapter to dynastic politics in India.

Back to the reform agenda - junior Badal said fighting drugs would be as important to him as ensuring reforms. “I am deeply aware of the problem. For the fruits of growth to stay, we have to go after drug peddlers and punish them immediately,” he said. Over 70 per cent youth in Punjab are currently on drugs, by conservative estimates. The incidence of injecting drug use - a major carrier of HIV - is also rising, .with UNAIDS data showing that HIV prevalence among Punjab’s injecting-drug users is now more worrisome than in the North East; it is as high as 13.80 per cent as against the national HIV prevalence of 0.28 per cent.

Conscious of this challenge, Sukhbir said an anti-drug department would be set up parallel to the State Vigilance Department to tackle drug peddling on war footing. 

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Pranab leaves for Kabul today 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is rushing to Kabul tomorrow on a crucial visit as India and Afghanistan seek to intensify cooperation in combating terrorism sponsored by Pakistani elements in the two countries.

His first foreign visit after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Mukherjee is also expected to formally handover to the Afghan authorities the Zaranj-Delaram road, which would provide landlocked Afghanistan and central Asia access to the Arabian Sea, through the Iranian port of Chabahar.

The road link would reduce Afghanistan’s dependence on Pakistan for overland access to central Asia and provide an alternative route for Indian goods to that country.

The visit comes within 10 days of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s tour of India to express solidarity with the people of this country in the wake of the audacious strikes in Mumbai. 

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EC to discuss general polls
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
The Election Commission of India, as part of its exercise for preparation for the General Election, 2009, is slated to hold a series of reviews and start a consultation process during the first week of February. This is a prelude to the forthcoming general elections.

All political parties, states, and senior civil, and police officers will be invited to this. To begin with, the commission will be holding a discussion with all recognised seven national and 40 state-level parties on various issues connected with the elections.

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Punjab inks pact with UN tourism body
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Punjab Government signed an agreement to develop a master plan for tourism here today.

The Secretary-General of the UNWTO Francesco Frangialli and the Principal Secretary Tourism Geetika Kalha signed the agreement that is to implement the priority recommendations of the tourism master plan that was approved in November 2008.

The agreement will address issues related to improved tourism organisation and governance; the development of a promotional brand, development of tourism circuits and a sound, effective and targeted marketing strategy.

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Brain-dead jawan saves three lives
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 20
Organs from a brain-dead Army jawan have saved three lives and restored vision for two. The multiple organ transplant was carried out by the Army Research and Referal Hospital here in the National Capital yesterday.

It was the noble gesture of the family of a brave young soldier, rifleman Vijay Singh, who was declared brain dead, after sustaining a head injury in a road accident.

Vijay Singh’s family and especially his grandfather, who is himself is an ex-serviceman, saved three lives and restored vision to two blind persons. The liver was transplanted in a fifteen-year-old boy suffering from advanced cirrhosis of liver.

One kidney was given to mother of a serving soldier suffering from renal failure and the other kidney was handed over to the Organ Retrieval and Banking Organisation (ORBO) for transplantation at AIIMS, New Delhi.

The total number of such multiple-organ donations has risen to 17 since the inception of the Armed Forces Organ Retrieval and Transplantation Authority (AORTA) in April 2007, the organisation based at Army Hospital Delhi that handles all activities related to organ donation in the Armed forces. This has resulted in 18-liver donation from dead persons making it the highest such transplantations done by a single institute in the country.

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Armed Forces Pay
Decision on pending issues soon: Govt

New Delhi, January 20
Asserting that “sincere” efforts to resolve pay anomalies were being made, the government today assured the armed forces that it would soon take a decision on the pending issues relating to the Sixth Pay Commission.

The government has already taken decisions on the “genuine grievances” of the defence personnel “one after the other” even after the pay commission report was implemented, Defence Minister AK Antony told reporters.

“Because, we are very clear and particular that we must give the best available equipment to the Armed forces on the one side, and regarding their welfare and their pay, whatever is their genuine demand, we are always willing to give,” he said. — PTI

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Belgaum row rages on 
Bus services between Maharashtra, Karnataka affected
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 20
The war of words between the politicians of Maharashtra and Karnataka over the status of Belgaum has spilled out onto the streets with violence breaking out in the border areas of both states.

According to the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, bus services to Karnataka were suspended from Monday after Kannada activists, in protest against the remarks by Bal Thackeray and other Maharashtra politicians, stoned 
two vehicles.

Belgaum is a major transit point and buses plying between Bangalore and Mumbai pass through this border town.

Today, the situation worsened with buses from the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) being set afire in Aurangabad as protests against Karnataka spread to different parts of Maharashtra.

KSRTC also immediately cancelled bus services to Maharashtra. “Buses from Karnataka have been vandalised in Latur,” a police official said. Reports of vehicles with Karnataka registration number being attacked also poured in from other areas like Pune and Nagpur.

Both organisations ply around 200 buses between the two states, ferrying scores of people from the low and middle-income categories who move up and down to earn their livelihood.

According to reports from the border regions of the two states, the situation was worsening with even private buses plying between the two states being targeted by violent activists. Several buses have been stoned in both states and private bus operators in Mumbai were advising passengers to postpone their trips.

Reports from Karnataka said that trucks with Maharashtra number plates were burnt and even a Bank of Maharashtra branch at Dharwad was attacked by Kannada activists.

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Purohit main conspirator: Chargesheet

Mumbai, January 20
Nearly four months after the blasts at Malegaon, the police today filed a chargesheet that named Army officer Lt Col Prasad Purohit as the main conspirator, who provided the explosives, and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur as the prime accused, who arranged for the men, who planted the explosives.

The 4,000-page chargesheet filed by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) before the Special MCOCA court here, stated that Purohit floated right-wing group Abhinav Bharat in 2007 with an intention to “propagate a separate Hindu rashtra with its own constitution”.

According to the document, the Army officer collected “huge amounts” to the tune of Rs 21 lakh for himself and Abhinav Bharat to promote his “fundamentalist ideology.”

Ajay Rahirkar, treasurer, disbursed the amount of the group to various others accused to procure explosives for committing unlawful activities. — PTI

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Coming: 29 more BSF battalions
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, January 20
Deployment of the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel along the country’s western and eastern frontiers will get a massive boost with the Centre giving sanction for raising of 29 more battalions for the force.

BSF DG Mahendra Kumawat, who is on a visit to the frontiers in the North East, today informed that it was for the first time since inception of the BSF in December, 1965, that such a large number of battalions were being raised at one go.

He said at least a dozen of the newly raised battalions would be deployed along the India-Bangladesh border in the North East. “As raising of these new battalions will take at least two years, more forces will be deployed along the frontiers in the North East by withdrawing personnel from theatre in other parts of the country,” he informed.

Regarding the situation along the Pakistan border, Kumawat said, “We are fully vigilant along the Pakistan border and are ready to face any situation.” The BSF guards 2,300 km of the total 3,078 km border with Pakistan.

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Jaipur literary fest begins today
116 authors to participate
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, January 20
As many as 116 world famous authors, 20 interviewers and 30 performing artistes will participate in the Jaipur Literature Festival 2009, the largest of its kind in Asia.

The festival beginning tomorrow till January 25 will see a galaxy of literary persons, including those from the USA, the UK, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, Mali, Sierre Leone, Algeria, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh among others.

One of the main highlights is the release of a book on Amitabh Bacchhan, which the Big B will be releasing himself on January 23.

Entering its fourth year, the festival will be hosting some of the best-known national and international writers, including Vikram Seth, Pico Iyer, Simon Schama, Colin Thubron, Patrick French, Tina Brown, Mohammed Hanif, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Coleman Barks, Chetan Bhagat, Charles Nicholl, Hari Kunzru, Michael Wood, Nandan Nilkeni, Paul Zacharia, Prasoon Joshi, Shashi Tharoor, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Tarun Tejpal, Wendy Doniger, UR Ananthamurthy, among many others with music from DJ Cheb I Sabbah and Paban Das Baul.

The outburst of creativity in diverse Indian languages will be represented by writers from Bengal, Assam, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan.

There are no reserved spaces for grandees; there is no greenroom or specially roped enclosure for the authors-they will mingle with the crowds and eat with them on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The festival programme includes readings, talks, literary lunches, debates, performance, children’s workshops and interactive activities held in the beautiful heritage property, Diggi Palace in central Jaipur.

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13 schoolkids, teacher die in head-on crash

Jaipur, January 20
Thirteen schoolchildren and a teacher were killed and 26 were injured when a tempo in which they were travelling collided head-on with a truck on a national highway in Barmer district today.

The children and the lone teacher were returning home from school when the accident occurred near Ramji-Ka-Gole village at Gudhamalani, District Collector Ravi Jain said. All the children were below 15 years and were students of Dayanand Saraswati School, he said adding the driver of the 16-wheeler truck, used to carry vehicles, fled from the scene. — PTI

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