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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

India, Kazakhstan ink N-accord
New Delhi, January 24
As part of its efforts to boost the country’s energy sources, India today signed a civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement with the uranium-rich Kazakhstan. With this, the Central Asian nation has become the fourth country with which India has entered into a nuclear deal after it secured a waiver from the nuclear suppliers’ group in September last to engage in nuclear trade.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev with Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee, on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil during Nazarbayev’s welcoming ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New DelhiKazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev with Minister of External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee, on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil during Nazarbayev’s welcoming ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Saturday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal


EARLIER STORIES



NSG can use pvt aircraft during emergency
New Delhi, January 24
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs today issued a notification to empower the National Security Guards (NSG) to requisition aircraft from any private airline operator registered in India in the interest of public safety during any kind of emergency.

Mumbai Sindhis run foul of Thackerays
Mumbai, January 24
Sindhi ‘halwais’ who have been running their sweet shops in Mumbai since Partition seem to be the latest targets of the Shiv Sena and its offshoot, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, only because the names of their establishments have their origin in Pakistan.

Construction firm official held for graft
Guwahati, January 24
A senior official of National Buildings Construction Company Limited (NBCC) was arrested here today while trying to bribe an officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Ties with Allies
Left still undecided
New Delhi, January 24
The Left parties are yet to finalise the form of relationship they want to maintain with their new found friends like Mayawati’s BSP, Jayalalitha’s Anna DMK, Deve Gowda’s JD-S and Chandrasekar Rao’s TRS.

BJP finalising candidates for Lok Sabha poll
New Delhi, January 24
The BJP hopes to complete the selection of most of its candidates and electoral understanding with its existing and prospective allies for the forthcoming general election before January 28 and 29 when the Central Election Committee of the party meets to finalise and announce most of its candidates.

BJP suspends 2 MLAs for ‘cross-voting’
Lucknow, January 24
The Uttar Pradesh BJP today suspended two of its sitting MLAs for allegedly indulging in cross-voting by siding with the Samajwadi Party during the recent biennial elections to the upper house of the Assembly.

Elementary Education Survey
Puducherry best, Bihar worst
New Delhi, January 24
India now has lesser number of single-teacher schools than it had a year ago. The latest government study on the state of elementary education in India shows that percentage of single-teacher schools in the country has declined from 11.76 in 2006-2007 to 10.13 in 2007-2008 - an improvement of 1.63 per cent.

Panel for e-governance in all spheres
New Delhi, January 24
The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) today recommended that computerisation of land records should be taken up immediately across the country. The ARC headed by Congress general secretary Veerapa Moily submitted its reports on e-governance and wants that passports and a unique national identity card should also be priorities in this e-governance.

R-Day parade: No tableau from UP
Lucknow, January 24
No tableau from Uttar Pradesh will participate in this year’s Republic Day parade as the state failed to get its theme approved by the Centre in time.

Pirates release 25 Indian sailors
Mumbai, January 24
After nearly two months in captivity, 25 Indian sailors have been released by Somali pirates though there was no word on whether any ransom was paid to the brigands.

Speeding car mows down four
Bangalore, January 24
A speeding car ploughed into a group of morning walkers killing four of them, including a doctor, on the spot. The car driver surrendered hours after he fled the scene leaving behind his vehicle.





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India, Kazakhstan ink N-accord
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24
As part of its efforts to boost the country’s energy sources, India today signed a civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreement with the uranium-rich Kazakhstan.

With this, the Central Asian nation has become the fourth country with which India has entered into a nuclear deal after it secured a waiver from the nuclear suppliers’ group in September last to engage in nuclear trade. India has already signed civilian nuclear energy accords with the US, France and Russia.

India and Kazakhstan also signed four other key accords, including an extradition treaty, in the presence of visiting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and President Pratibha Patil, who led the Indian team at the delegation-level talks held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee held detailed discussions with Nazarbayev, who will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.

Officials said Mukherjee also received the visiting leader on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who today underwent a bypass surgery. Nazarbayev is understood to have inquired about Singh’s health from Mukherjee.

The minister also briefed Nazarbayev on the situation in the Indian sub-continent in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. The dossier of evidence clearly suggesting the involvement of the elements in Pakistan in the strikes is also learnt to have been shared with him.

Though the details of the nuclear agreement between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India and the National Company Kaz Atom Prom were not disclosed, it is understood that Kazakhstan will provide uranium and related products to India under it. The deal also opens up the possibilities of joint exploration of uranium in Kazakhstan, which has the world’s second largest uranium reserves, and India building atomic power plants in the Central Asian country.

Other agreements signed between the two countries are: protocol on the accession of Kazakhstan to the WTO; MoU between the Indian Space Research Organisation and the National Space Agency of Kazakhstan in the field of space activities; and an accord between the ONGC-Mittal Energy Limited and the Petroleum Ministry of Kazakhstan.

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NSG can use pvt aircraft during emergency
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs today issued a notification to empower the National Security Guards (NSG) to requisition aircraft from any private airline operator registered in India in the interest of public safety during any kind of emergency.

Therefore, in case the NSG faces another Mumbai-like situation it can ask any private airline operator to ferry NSG teams to the desired destination. The notification has been issued under the NSG Act, a ministry spokesperson said.

The Director General of NSG or an Inspector General of NSG, who would be authorised by DG, would have the powers to commandeer an aircraft for quick movement of troops. Presently NSG can commandeer an aircraft for a counter-hijack operation, but there was no provision for requisitioning one from a commercial operator for an anti-terrorist operation.

Also, the government has empowered authorised officers to be able to requisition an aircraft from an operator registered in India. For this, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued a gazette notification under the provision of the Aircraft Act 1934.

With these notifications in place, NSG would be able to get an aircraft at a short notice for moving its commandos for anti-terrorist operation anywhere in the country. The movement of NSG team to Mumbai had come under flak as an IL 76 aircraft had to be requisitioned from Chandigarh.

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Mumbai Sindhis run foul of Thackerays
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, January 24
Sindhi ‘halwais’ who have been running their sweet shops in Mumbai since Partition seem to be the latest targets of the Shiv Sena and its offshoot, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, only because the names of their establishments have their origin in Pakistan.

Many of these halwais who migrated from various parts of Sindh appended Karachiwala to their names. Still the Thackerays are seeing red. One such store owner whose establishment ‘Karachi Sweets’ is located at Mulund, on the outskirts of Mumbai, was threatened by MNS activists last week.

“They are insulting us by naming their shops after a Pakistani city,” said MNS leader Shishir Shinde, who had earlier warned Sindhi halwais across the city to either change their names or “face the consequences”.

The shop-owner, Vashu Panjabi, said the MNS asked him to rename his store as ‘Mumbai sweet house’. After Panjabi complained to the police and took his case to the media, the Maharashtra government asked the local police to provide protection to his shop.

Notably, the Sindhi halwais who migrated from Pakistan have a strong following in Mumbai. The Punjabi Ghasitaram Karachiwala family, which owned several sweet shops across Mumbai, had split and scores of shops with this name were opened in the city over the years.

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Construction firm official held for graft
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, January 24
A senior official of National Buildings Construction Company Limited (NBCC) was arrested here today while trying to bribe an officer of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

CBI (Anti-corruption Wing) superintendent of police Hiren Nath informed that NBCC deputy general manager BC Dhiman was arrested while he was offering a bribe of Rs 5 lakh to a CBI inspector to ‘settle’ an inquiry into anomalies in a road construction project.

The CBI was probing into complains on roads and by-lanes construction project being executed by the NBCC over the last six-seven years in Guwahati and had started joint surprise checks with the state police at the sites since June. The report was finalised yesterday, in which several anomalies were detected.

Dhiman, who is posted in New Delhi now, was the project director of the works between 2002-05 .He was sent from the Delhi office to help the CBI in the inquiry. However, sensing trouble over the impending CBI report, he had been camping at a hotel in Guwahati for the last few days, the CBI official said.

The NBCC deputy GM got in touch with a CBI inspector and when the former offered a bribe. The inspector laid a trap and Dhiman was caught along with the money from the CBI office premise here today. A case has been registered against the NBCC official.

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Ties with Allies
Left still undecided
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24
The Left parties are yet to finalise the form of relationship they want to maintain with their new found friends like Mayawati’s BSP, Jayalalitha’s Anna DMK, Deve Gowda’s JD-S and Chandrasekar Rao’s TRS.

General secretary of CPM Prakash Karat and general secretary CPI AB Bardhan and CPI national secretary D Raja sat with JD-S chief HD Deve Gowda and his general secretary and spokesman K Danish Ali here yesterday to discuss this and other related issues.

However, Deve Gowda played down here yesterday the importance of striking fresh alliances before the next general elections. He said: “Most alliances will fructify only after the elections. Even the NDA and the UPA will go to the elections minus any major new allies. When the final things comes of forming the government, then we have to consider fresh allies.”

He is currently trying to revive lost contact with Naveen Patnaik to probe the possibility of getting Patnaik’s BJD to break BJD’s decade old tie-up with the BJP and join forces with the emerging third force, which includes apart from the Left, JD-S and the TDP.

However, it seemed pretty obvious from what he said today he had not much hope about striking any pre-poll alliance with the BJD. Additionally, this group has been talking to the AIADMK and the BSP too.

While Mayawati has not encouraged any electoral alliance with the Left or any other parties in her home turf UP, Jayalalitha has readily accepted a pre-poll alliance that would see the Left parties now contesting in Tamil Nadu under the AIADMK umbrella.

A major point of discussion in Thursday’s meeting was how to define the form of relationship between the Left and the parties it wants to project as its allies.

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BJP finalising candidates for Lok Sabha poll
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24
The BJP hopes to complete the selection of most of its candidates and electoral understanding with its existing and prospective allies for the forthcoming general election before January 28 and 29 when the Central Election Committee of the party meets to finalise and announce most of its candidates.

Party general secretary Arun Jaitley disclosed here yesterday that he has done most of the work assigned to him.

Jaitley is coordinating the selection process in six states, including UP, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi, Punjab and Karnataka.

BJP sources said the alliance with Ajit Singh’s RLD in UP is almost firmed up with only one contentious seat remaining to be resolved.

Similarly, in Bihar the party has worked out to its advantage the understanding with Nitish Kumar and state JD-U chief Rajiv Ranjan Singh Lallan.

In Punjab, the party will continue to contest three seats only, namely Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpur. It has sitting MPs in Amritsar and Gurdaspur. The Hoshiarpur seat has been reserved for SC.

In Delhi, too, OP Kohli has more or less finalised the selection of candidates and the party is confident of winning West Delhi.

However, there is still uncertainty about who should contest from New Delhi. Though the insiders vouch for Arun Jaitley, he, himself, has avoided replying to pointed questions.

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BJP suspends 2 MLAs for ‘cross-voting’
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, January 24
The Uttar Pradesh BJP today suspended two of its sitting MLAs for allegedly indulging in cross-voting by siding with the Samajwadi Party during the recent biennial elections to the upper house of the Assembly.

The suspended legislators include former BJP leader Kalyan Singh's daughter-in-law Premlata and Sunder Singh, also a Kalyan supporter. While Premlata represents Atrauli Assembly segment in the Vidhan Sabha, Sunder Singh was elected from Syana constituency.

BJP state president Dr Ramapati Ram Tripathi, in a statement issued here, said the two MLAs had not been attending meetings of the state legislature.

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Elementary Education Survey
Puducherry best, Bihar worst
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24
India now has lesser number of single-teacher schools than it had a year ago. The latest government study on the state of elementary education in India shows that percentage of single-teacher schools in the country has declined from 11.76 in 2006-2007 to 10.13 in 2007-2008 - an improvement of 1.63 per cent.

Among the states, Puducherry is ranked first in both primary and elementary education, while Bihar, Arunachal, West Bengal and Jharkhand are at the bottom. Kerala is the first in upper primary education, while Delhi and Chandigarh are fourth and fifth, respectively.

The findings come a few days after Pratham, an NGO working in the education sector, revealed the pathetic state of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, by actually assessing the learning abilities of children attending schools. The government figures on elementary education released today make a desperate attempt to damage control and show “improvement based on the information received from the states.”

Conducted by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), the survey is based on data gathered from 1.25 million schools imparting elementary education in 624 districts in 35 states and UTs of India.

It shows that student-classroom ratio has improved from 35 in 2007 to 37 in 2008 and the elementary schools functioned for 211 days in a year. A perusal of findings reveals that the government is happy with small achievements like - on an average primary schools now have 3 classrooms as against 2.8 they had in 2007. Moreover, 73 per cent schools now have pucca buildings as against 71 in 2007.

The survey also boasts of how the number of schools with drinking water facility has improved from 84.89 per cent to 86.75; percentage of schools with common toilets has increased from 58.13 to 62.67, thereby improving enrollment. “Schools with girls toilets have also improved from 42.58 per cent in 2007 to 50.55 now,” states the survey which claims a 2 million increase in enrollment in primary classes (from 132 million students in 2007 to 134 million in 2008).

Upper primary enrollment, the data show, has gone up from 47.49 million to 50.9 million between the year of survey. Percentage of girls’ enrollment in primary and upper primary classes, the study says, has improved to 48.22 and 46.99 respectively in 2008 as against 48.09 and 46.51 per cent respectively in 2008. Both SC and OBC enrollment also appears to have increased.

The government also lists Muslim students as a separate category saying the percentage of Muslim enrollment in primary classes increased to 10.49 in 2008 as against 9.39 the previous year.

As for the gross enrollment ratio at primary level, it has improved marginally by 3.08 per cent; GER at upper primary level has gone considerably by 5.16 per cent between 2007 and 2008. Net enrollment ratios at both primary and upper primary levels have improved by 3.17 and 4.1 per cent respectively.

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Panel for e-governance in all spheres
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 24
The Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) today recommended that computerisation of land records should be taken up immediately across the country. The ARC headed by Congress general secretary Veerapa Moily submitted its reports on e-governance and wants that passports and a unique national identity card should also be priorities in this e-governance.

On land records, the ARC said measurements needed to be carried out in a mission mode utilising modern technology to arrive at a correct picture of land holdings and land parcels and rectification of outdated maps.

In case of passports and Visa it says the entire passport issue process needs to be put on an e-governance mode in phases. As the processes which precede and follow the police verification have already been re-engineered and put in e-governance mode, this may be integrated with online police and citizen identification data bases. In the mean time, the process of police verification should be streamlined and made time-bound.

On the having a unique national identity card it says the proposed unique ID authority should evolve a database of UIDs on the basis of permanent identifiers such as date of birth, place of birth.

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R-Day parade: No tableau from UP

Lucknow, January 24
No tableau from Uttar Pradesh will participate in this year’s Republic Day parade as the state failed to get its theme approved by the Centre in time.

“This year, the UP tableau will not be participating in the annual parade in the national capital as the state failed to get its theme approved by the Centre in time,” a state information department official said. He, however, claimed that the failure was because the state government received the Centre’s official communication asking for the theme very late.

“Every year, the Centre asks the states regarding the theme of their tableau and accordingly a proposal is forwarded. This year, initially we didn’t receive any official communique from the Centre in this regard,” Ajay Upadhyaya, additional director in the state information department said.

However, after the state government sent a letter to the Centre seeking directives, a formal letter arrived only two days before the last date for submitting proposals when it was too late, he claimed. This is, however, the 10th time between 1959 and 2006 that UP's tableau would not be seen in the annual event. — PTI

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Pirates release 25 Indian sailors

Mumbai, January 24
After nearly two months in captivity, 25 Indian sailors have been released by Somali pirates though there was no word on whether any ransom was paid to the brigands.

A Directorate General of Shipping official said 25 Indian and three Bangladeshi crew members of MT Biscaglia, a Liberian flag vessel that was hijacked on November 28 by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, were released on Thursday night.

“The crew of the ship MT Biscaglia have been released.

All are safe,” Abdulgani Serang, general secretary, National Union of Seafarers of India said.

Relatives of one of the sailors claimed that the pirates had initially demanded $15 lakh and later raised it to $25 lakh for the release of the crew but it was not clear whether the ransom was paid or not.

The chemical tanker was carrying 16,282 tonnes of cargo and was travelling between Indonesia and Europe.

Eighteen Indian sailors were freed on November 16 after two months in captivity with Somali pirates releasing their hijacked merchant ship MT Stolt in the Gulf of Aden after a ransom amount of nearly $2.5 million was paid. — PTI

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Speeding car mows down four

Bangalore, January 24
A speeding car ploughed into a group of morning walkers killing four of them, including a doctor, on the spot. The car driver surrendered hours after he fled the scene leaving behind his vehicle.

The tragedy, in which one cyclist was also seriously injured, occurred at Indira Nagar when Karthik Somaiah, a multinational bank employee who was allegedly behind the wheels, was returning from a friend’s house in Koramangala to his home after an overnight stay.

Later in the evening, Somaiah went to the Shivaji Nagar police station and surrendered, the police said.

The Honda Accord after hitting the victims overshot the road and climbed onto the footpath which gave some indication of the speed with which the car was being driven.

The deceased have been identified as Dr Panathur (66), Siddaiah (65), Kempegowda (65) and Radhakrishna (45). KK Reddy, who was seriously injured, is undergoing treatment in a private hospital.

Bangalore police commissioner Shankar Bidar said: “We have got the vehicle. We know the details. We will arrest the culprit in about two to three hours.” Somaiah’s driving licence, which he had left in his car, helped the police immediately zero in on the culprit. — PTI

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