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N A T I O N

States must promote prohibition: Ramadoss 
Says national alcohol policy on the cards

New Delhi, February 4
Determined to go after alcoholism, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss today slammed the pub culture saying “alcohol was the mother of all public health problems” in India. He said the states must promote prohibition, and that the ‘national alcohol policy’ was very much on the cards.

Jan is hottest in past 19 yrs
New Delhi, February 4
January 2009 will probably go down in the history as hottest January ever since a record of temperatures started being kept in India. The Met Department said on Wednesday several stations recorded “abnormally above normal temperatures, surpassing past records of extreme maximum temperatures this January.” In fact during the second half of the month, both minimum and maximum temperatures were much above the normal.

Somnath backs Chawla
New Delhi: Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee joined the debate on the Election Commission virtually criticising Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami recommending removal of Election Commissioner Navin Chawla. Chatterjee said he had been of the view always that there was a ‘Laxman Rekha’ for every institution. — PTI


Activists of the Naga students union during a protest march in New Delhi
Activists of the Naga students union during a protest march in New Delhi on Wednesday. A Tribunephotograph


External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukerjee with Maldivian Defence and National Security Minister Ameen Faisal in New Delhi
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukerjee with Maldivian Defence and National Security Minister Ameen Faisal in New Delhi on Wednesday. — PTI 




EARLIER STORIES

India needs to increase foodgrain production: Pawar
New Delhi, February 4
India needs to raise its foodgrain production by almost 40 per cent by 2025 from the present level to feed its huge population. Addressing the 4th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture here on today, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said: “Demand for food is growing rapidly due to increasing population and rising income levels and we need to produce about 320 million tonnes of foodgrains by 2025.”

Gowda told not to send letters to judges
New Delhi, February 4
Expressing displeasure with former PM Deve Gowda, the Supreme Court today asked him to desist from writing letters to judges of the Karnataka HC as it amounted to contempt. Gowda had written to the judges alleging corruption in the Bangalore-Mysore highway project.

‘70,000 Bangladeshis missing since 2006’
New Delhi, February 4
Home Ministry is perturbed over the continuous reports of overstaying and disappearance of Bangladeshis after their arrival in the country with more than 70,000 people travelling on valid documents still missing since 2006, in addition to illegal immigrants.

Atal in ICU
Condition stable, say docs
New Delhi, February 4
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is stable and spent the day in the ICU at AIIMS, where he was admitted yesterday following fever and a severe chest infection.

Lankan Conflict
Tamil Nadu bandh total, peaceful

Chennai, February 4
The day-long bandh call given by the Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Forum, an umbrella organisation of several political parties in Tamil Nadu, urging the Centre to stop its military support to Sri Lanka and urging steps for a ceasefire evoked partial response in Chennai and good response from other parts of the state.

Lankan airmen sent back
Chennai, February 4
Eight Sri Lankan Air Force personnel, who came to Air Force station here two days back for training, have been sent back to their country following protests by the public, when they came for registration of visas at a local police station.

Protesters target Cong
Chennai, February 4
Black flags were shown to Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer, while the statues of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were vandalised in many parts of Tamil Nadu.

EC Chawla faces trial in Jaipur court 
Accused of misusing authority for land deal
Jaipur, February 4
Already under fire for his alleged proximity to the Congress leadership, Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla is in trouble with a Jaipur district court deciding to examine charges made against him in an istgasa (criminal complaint) of cheating and misuse of authority in a land deal case.

Dalit activists create ruckus in AP Assembly
Hyderabad, February 4
In a major security breach in Andhra Pradesh Assembly, activists of a Dalit organisation stormed into the complex today when the House was in session and went up to the roof of the building, raising slogans in support of their demands.

BJP, AGP finalise seat-sharing pact in Assam
Guwahati, February 4
The regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have finalised an agreement on sharing of seats in Assam for the forthcoming general election with the objective to keep the anti-Congress votes undivided.

US tourist ‘molested’ at ISKCON temple
Mumbai, February 4
An American woman was alleged molested by an unknown person at the temple run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) at Juhu in suburban Mumbai.

‘Rail roko’ hits train services in Mumbai
Mumbai, February 4
Sub-urban train services on Mumbai's western railway section were thrown out of gear this morning after rush-hour commuters staged an impromptu ‘rail roko’ to protest cancellation of a train.

Neighbours want to destroy India’s unity: Sonia
Silvassa (Dadra & Nagar Haveli), February 4
Vowing to defeat terrorism, Congress president Sonia Gandhi warned that any attempt by Pakistan to weaken the country or harm its unity will be given “a befitting reply”.





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States must promote prohibition: Ramadoss 
Says national alcohol policy on the cards
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 4
Determined to go after alcoholism, Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss today slammed the pub culture saying “alcohol was the mother of all public health problems” in India. He said the states must promote prohibition, and that the ‘national alcohol policy’ was very much on the cards.

“NIMHANS, Bangalore, is preparing the draft, which would be recommendatory in nature. We want states to promote prohibition. Till now, only Gujarat, Rajasthan and Mizoram, to some extent, have done this. There is a consensus in most states now that alcoholism must be curbed,” Ramadoss said, citing the decline in age of initiation into alcoholism in India from 28 to 13.5 years.

The Minister has also written to human resource development ministry to make the teaching of yoga, and preventive health and life skills education compulsory in both public and private schools. “Yoga must be taught at some stage in schools. Likewise, we want the HRD ministry to teach health as a compulsory subject, covering all major infections, including HIV,” Ramadoss said.

He wants to roll the National School Health Programme, for which the support of HRD Minister Arjun Singh is necessary. The ambitious programme seeks to screen students for diseases and to promote detection, prevention and cure.

Meanwhile, NACO today said it would implement the revised life skills module in schools from the forthcoming academic session. The module would inform students about the modes of HIV transmission, besides talking about other adolescent issues. NACO has termed sex education as “life skills education”.

Food labelling must from March 19

Reacting to the expose on poor nutritional aspects of edible cooking oils (conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment), Ramadoss said the government would implement the food labelling provisions from March 19 this year. The provision would make it mandatory for manufacturers to disclose the nutrition content of all food items, including transfats which the CSE report talks about. 

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Jan is hottest in past 19 yrs
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 4
January 2009 will probably go down in the history as hottest January ever since a record of temperatures started being kept in India. The Met Department said on Wednesday several stations recorded “abnormally above normal temperatures, surpassing past records of extreme maximum temperatures this January.” In fact during the second half of the month, both minimum and maximum temperatures were much above the normal.

During the first week of January, both maximum and minimum temperatures were below to appreciably below normal over many parts of the Gangetic plains and also over some pockets of adjoining central India.

The mean minimum temperature of January was 8.9ºC against the normal of 7.3ºC over Delhi, which is the highest during the past 19 years. Similarly, mean maximum temperature of January was 21.7ºC against the normal of 21.1ºC over Delhi which is the second highest during the past 19 years. Average (mean of maximum and minimum) temperature of 15.3ºC is also a record highest during the past 19 years.

However, during the past 10 days of January 2009, particularly from January 22 onwards, a number of stations recorded maximum temperatures ranging as high as 13ºC above the normal. From January 23 onwards 21, 39, 44, 32, 13, 25, 29, 25 and 13 stations recorded temperatures which were above the normal by 5ºC or more.

The winter season in India comprises two months - January and February - with January being the coldest. Temperatures are quite low over north and central India. However, this year on January 27 as many as 12 stations broke earlier records. Raipur (Chhattisgarh) with 35ºC temperature was 2.8ºC above the earlier extreme record temperature of 33.2°C on January 29, 2003.

Similarly, on January 26 and 25, 11 station each, and on January 29, eight stations surpassed earlier records. In this spell of exceptionally high temperatures, Mukteshwar (Uttarakhand) recorded maximum departure of 13ºC on January 23, which remained slightly (0.2ºC) short of earlier extreme.

Similarly mean minimum temperatures of the month were above normal by 2ºC or more over many parts of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and some parts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Gangetic West Bengal, Madhya Maharashtra, Vidarbha, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh.

Main reasons for such abnormally high temperatures, says IMD, are that this January WDs affected only extreme northern and northwestern parts of the country. “Besides, anticyclone over central India caused southerly and southeasterly flow which prevented the cold northerly sweeping the region, The northward shift of the subtropical ridge and persistence of anticyclone right from the lower levels resulted in enhanced subsidence and warming,” says director, IMD, BP Yadav.

“On January 21 and 27 Shimla recorded high temperatures that surpassed past records,”he added.

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India needs to increase foodgrain production: Pawar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 4
India needs to raise its foodgrain production by almost 40 per cent by 2025 from the present level to feed its huge population. Addressing the 4th World Congress on Conservation Agriculture here on today, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said: “Demand for food is growing rapidly due to increasing population and rising income levels and we need to produce about 320 million tonnes of foodgrains by 2025.”

He also emphasised the need for promising zero-tillage farming in India and neighbouring countries. This form of crop production is cost effective, adequately remunerative and environment friendly as compared to intensive agriculture, he said.

The population of India, which is around 1.1 billion at present, is expected to grow to 1.3 billion by the year 2025. In 2007-08 India produced a record 230.67 million tonnes of foodgrains. Pawar said increase in productivity “implies more pressure on our existing land, soil and water resources which are already in short supply and degraded, a situation being faced by many developing countries today.

In this context, India needs to enhance input efficiency, put more areas under irrigation and use irrigation water more efficiently. The rising energy costs poses another major concern, he said, adding that increased dependence of modern agriculture on fossil fuel-based energy, reducing drudgery increases the risk of farmers to fluctuations in fuel prices.

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Gowda told not to send letters to judges
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 4
Expressing displeasure with former PM Deve Gowda, the Supreme Court today asked him to desist from writing letters to judges of the Karnataka HC as it amounted to contempt. Gowda had written to the judges alleging corruption in the Bangalore-Mysore highway project.

The letters had been sent with a book titled “Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) Project: A Case Study in Fraud and Collusion to Defeat Ends of Justice”, published by his party, the JD(S).

“It is unfortunate that such a letter has been written,” a three-judge Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat said.

“Our judgements may be wrong and may be criticised but cannot be influenced,” the Bench said. The Bench was hearing a bunch of petitions related to the BMIC project, including the petition filed by NICE challenging the high court order to treat Deve Gowda’s letter as PIL.

After treating the letter as PIL, the high court on Monday referred to the Lokayukta to probe allegations of corruption levelled by Deve Gowda in connection with the BMIC project.

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‘70,000 Bangladeshis missing since 2006’

New Delhi, February 4
Home Ministry is perturbed over the continuous reports of overstaying and disappearance of Bangladeshis after their arrival in the country with more than 70,000 people travelling on valid documents still missing since 2006, in addition to illegal immigrants.

Home Ministry officials said on an average about 21,000 Bangladeshi nationals, who come with regular visas, either go missing or have been overstaying every year in the country.

"For overstaying, we deported 15,000 Bangladeshis in 2005, 12,000 in 2006 and 11,500 in 2007," a Home Ministry official said. In addition, 25,712 of the five lakh Bangladeshi nationals who came to India did not return after expiry of their visas in 2007, while more than 24,000 remained missing in 2006 when 4.84 lakh had entered India with valid travel documents.

Interestingly, the BSF, which guards the 4,095-km-long porous Indo-Bangla border, has recently disclosed that 12 lakh Bangladeshis, who had entered India between 1972 and 2005 with valid documents, have not returned home. — PTI

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Atal in ICU
Condition stable, say docs
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 4
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is stable and spent the day in the ICU at AIIMS, where he was admitted yesterday following fever and a severe chest infection.

Doctors attending to the BJP stalwart today said his chest congestion was better and he was responding well to the treatment. “We will keep him under observation for four days,” said AIIMS’ medical superintendent Dr D K Sharma, adding that the former PM spent a restful last night.

The BJP, meanwhile, wished their leader well today, with national president Rajnath Singh turning out to be the first visitor to the hospital, the second being Bhairon Singh Skekhawat, who went this morning. Rajnath, however, visited Vajpayee late last night after the latter was admitted around 10 pm.

The top leader’s illness comes days before the BJP’s national executive meet at Nagpur from February 6. It also puts question marks to speculations that Vajpayee might contest the forthcoming LS polls. No wonder Rajnath Singh downplayed Vajpayee’s illness saying, “He will be fine soon.”

The octogenarian has not been keeping well for long now. He has diabetes and hypertension and has already had a knee-replacement surgery when he was still prime minister.

At the hospital today, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani was conspicuous by his absence (Advani is out of town). But former party leader Shekhawat was the first among the visitors today, second only to Rajnath Singh. Shekhawat came this morning, sources said.

The other BJP leaders who called on the top leader are the recently appointed party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, former MoS Vijay Goel and BJP’s organisation in charge Ram Lal.

Floral wishes came from the President and Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee. At the hospital, Vajpayee’s family members - foster daughter and son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya are attending to him. 

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Lankan Conflict
Tamil Nadu bandh total, peaceful
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, February 4
The day-long bandh call given by the Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Forum, an umbrella organisation of several political parties in Tamil Nadu, urging the Centre to stop its military support to Sri Lanka and urging steps for a ceasefire evoked partial response in Chennai and good response from other parts of the state.

Barring a few stray incidents of pelting stones at buses, the bandh was peaceful. Although, government buses were operated with police protection, private bus owners cancelled operations supporting the bandh. However, only few passengers were seen travelling.

About 50 per cent of the shops remained closed in Chennai, and 90 per cent shops were closed in the neigbhouring Kanchipuram district. Nearly, all shops were closed in the western districts of Coimbatore, Salem and Erode and the southern districts of Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Dindiul. Only a few shops were opened in the northern districts of Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Villupuram and Cuddalore.

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Lankan airmen sent back

Chennai, February 4
Eight Sri Lankan Air Force personnel, who came to Air Force station here two days back for training, have been sent back to their country following protests by the public, when they came for registration of visas at a local police station.

After the visuals of the presence of Sri Lankan Air Force personnel were shown by the PMK-owned Makkal TV, the Tamil Nadu government too requested the Centre to send them back. They were sent back last night after instructions in this regard were issued by the Centre, an official release said. — TNS

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Protesters target Cong

Chennai, February 4
Black flags were shown to Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer, while the statues of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi were vandalised in many parts of Tamil Nadu.

Chappals were thrown at Mani Shankar Aiyer’s car near Sirkazhi. Tension gripped Vellore when unidentified men attacked the office of Congress MLA Gnanasekaran, who had openly declared that his party was taking revenge of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

A total of 38 cadres belonging to Makkal Kalai Ilakiya Kazhagam were held for showing disrespect to Rajiv Gandhi’s statue near Thanjavur bus stand. — TNS

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EC Chawla faces trial in Jaipur court 
Accused of misusing authority for land deal
Jupinderjit Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, February 4
Already under fire for his alleged proximity to the Congress leadership, Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla is in trouble with a Jaipur district court deciding to examine charges made against him in an istgasa (criminal complaint) of cheating and misuse of authority in a land deal case.

The criminal complaint filed by a BJP leader-cum-advocate Yogendra Tanwar accused Chawla for using his influence and clout within the Congress to buy a prime land near Sanganer Airport worth Rs 2.75 crore at mere Rs 32 lakhs nine years ago.

The complainant has attached over 30 documents as “incriminating” evidence against Chawla. The documents include two letters written by him in his official letterheads to the Jaipur Development Authority for favours to two trusts promoted by him.

Chawla, as UPSC Secretary and Principal Secretary, allegedly sought relaxation in land allotment to his trusts and later fencing of the allotted land. The Trusts were Lala Chaman Lal Educational Trust For Boys and Smt Bhagwan Devi Educational Trust For Girls. The land was allotted to the trusts allegedly on highly subsidised rates.

The BJP is accusing Chawla of misusing his position and proximity to the Congress but no senior state leader has so far issued a statement on the issue even though the complaint has been filed by a BJP leader only.

Party sources said planning was on to engulf CM Ashok Gehlot into the controversy. It was during his previous tenure as the CM that the land deal and alleged favours to Chawla took place.

It has also been alleged that the JDA fenced the 22,000 sq mt plot near Sanganer Airport to please Chawla.

The local court in which the complaint was filed has started examining the charges before issuing summons to Chawla.

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Dalit activists create ruckus in AP Assembly
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, February 4
In a major security breach in Andhra Pradesh Assembly, activists of a Dalit organisation stormed into the complex today when the House was in session and went up to the roof of the building, raising slogans in support of their demands.

Members of the Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi (MRPS), fighting for a larger share in reservations for Madiga community, barged into the Assembly premises and started raising full-throated slogans demanding a legislation for categorisation of scheduled castes for the purpose of reservations.

The incident caught the security staff off-guard. In a prolonged drama that followed, some MRPS activists scaled the roof of the imposing building and threatened to commit suicide if their demands were not met. Later, the police took into custody 26 Dalit activists.

The drama unfolded around 12.30 pm when a group of about 30 MRPS activists first entered the lobbies. From there, one group went into the chamber of Home Minister K Jana Reddy, another barged into Transport Minister K Laxminarayana’s chamber and the third group went into Major Irrigation Minister P Lakshmaiah’s chamber and bolted the doors from inside.

However, the ministers were not inside their chambers at the time of the incident. A group of six MRPS members went to the roof using the stairs in the Assembly lobbies. They pelted stones which fell on the television media crew.

The activists gathered in the lobbies kept raising slogans, demanding introduction of a bill on categorisation of SCs into four groups to provide reservations in proportion to their population.

The MRPS has been spearheading a movement for SC categorisation to increase the benefits for Madigas, a numerically strong sub-sect of SCs. As the development created flutter in the House, raising questions over security set-up, policemen reached the roof, overpowered the agitators and brought them down.

The Assembly Marshals opened the ventilator to unbolt the doors of the Ministers’ chambers and took the protesters into custody.

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BJP, AGP finalise seat-sharing pact in Assam
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, February 4
The regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have finalised an agreement on sharing of seats in Assam for the forthcoming general election with the objective to keep the anti-Congress votes undivided.

A senior AGP leader, Dilip Kumar Saikia, informed that both the parties till date had agreed to share 13 out of the total 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam while a final decision was imminent about the prestigious Guwahati Lok Sabha seat, which is likely to go in favour of the BJP for having a stronger aspirant.

As per the consensus arrived at in respect to sharing 13 constituencies, the BJP is free to field candidates in Nagaon, Mangaldoi, Silchar, Karimganj, Jorhat, Dhubri and Diphu constituencies. The saffron party has sitting MPs from Nagaon and Mangaldai constituencies.

The AGP can field candidates in Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Tezpur, Kaliabor, Barpeta and Kokrajhar seats. The regional party has sitting MPs from Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur constituencies.

The AGP is free to have separate electoral understanding with any like-minded party in the Bodo tribe dominated Kokrajhar constituency while the same is applicable for the BJP in case of the hill Lok Sabha constituency in Diphu.

The AGP leader informed that final decision on Guwahati Lok Sabha seat would be taken by the party after Thursday’s steering committee meeting here. However, indications are that the party will allow the BJP to field its candidate from Guwahati. 

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US tourist ‘molested’ at ISKCON temple
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 4
An American woman was alleged molested by an unknown person at the temple run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) at Juhu in suburban Mumbai.

The police said the woman (24) was staying at the guesthouse of the temple, known as the Hare Krishna temple since she was related to a life-member of the group. In her complaint filed with the police earlier this week, the woman alleged that an Indian man raped her in the early hours of February 1.

However, the woman refused to undergo a medical examination ordered by the police and she subsequently changed her statement to say that she was molested and an attempt was made to rape her. She said the man fled after she screamed for help and other people rushed to her rescue.

DCP Niket Kaushik told reporters that a case of molestation and attempt to rape has been registered. 

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‘Rail roko’ hits train services in Mumbai
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 4
Sub-urban train services on Mumbai's western railway section were thrown out of gear this morning after rush-hour commuters staged an impromptu ‘rail roko’ to protest cancellation of a train.

Shortly after the cancellation of the 9.10 am train to Churchgate railway station, commuters who had gathered at the Borivali station descended on the tracks to stop movement of trains. The crowd kept increasing and by late afternoon several thousand people had gathered at all the eight platforms.

According to senior railway officials, the morning train was cancelled due to a technical snag. However, the commuters said the problem had worsened as the railways had not increased the number of trains departing from Borivali for a long time.

Though the police was called, the authorities had advised them not to use force and the crowd was dispersed a little after 2 pm following a mild cane-charge.

Train services were partially resumed later in the day. A railway spokesman said services had been resumed on the Virar-Bhayandar and Goregaon-Churchgate routes. Several long-distance trains had also been delayed. 

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Neighbours want to destroy India’s unity: Sonia

Silvassa (Dadra & Nagar Haveli), February 4
Vowing to defeat terrorism, Congress president Sonia Gandhi warned that any attempt by Pakistan to weaken the country or harm its unity will be given “a befitting reply”.

“India’s identity is that all religions and communities co-exist in harmony. Our neighbour wants to weaken this strength of ours but they do not know that we can give a befitting reply to their every design,” Sonia said at a public rally in Silavassi, in an obvious reference to Pakistan.

She said the neighbouring country wants to destroy our unity and brotherhood. “Terrorism is a big challenge before the country but would be met. We will defeat terrorism,” she said.

In an apparent reference to attacks on migrants in neighbouring Maharashtra, Sonia praised people of the Dadra and Nagar Haveli for “loving and accepting outside workers” who came to work in the Union Territory.

“You people have followed the tradition of unity in diversity,” she said.

The Congress president also credited the Congress-led UPA government with shielding people from the “oil shock”.

“We would continue to work for the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man),” she said.

The UPA government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, signed the historic nuclear pact with the US to provide a cheap and quality source of power to people in urban and rural areas, she said. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Guwahati
3 ultras held near B’desh border:
The BSF apprehended three militants of the proscribed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of Manipur while they were trying to cross over the India-Bangladesh border in East Khasi Hills district of Meghalaya on Tuesday night. BSF spokesman said the militants, including a woman cadre, were proceeding to the group’s training camp in Chittagong area in Bangladesh when they were caught. The arrested militants were identified as Vinod Thambi and Meena, both residents of Manipur, and Narayan Singi, a resident of Sunamganj in Bangladesh. — TNS

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