SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
image
N A T I O N

26/11 Dossier
Pranab seeks UN intervention
New Delhi, February 6
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the UN must pressurise Islamabad into ensuring the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks were bought to justice and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been given enough evidence linking Pakistani nationals to the carnage.

NCP supremo ‘flirts’ with Sena, BJP
Mumbai, February 6
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has yet again unfurled his time-tested strategy of playing off his opponents against each other in a bid to corner a good deal for his Nationalist Congress Party. This time, the wily Maratha chieftain has decided to play off the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party against the Congress.

Cong poll campaign begins tomorrow
New Delhi, February 6
While the BJP is brainstorming in Nagpur on its strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Congress is all set to kickstart its poll campaign in the Capital this Sunday with a convention of party workers.


EARLIER STORIES



President Prathiba Patil looks at a rose in the Mughal Gardens, which will be open for the annual public viewing from February 7 to March 10, in New Delhi on Friday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

Mangalore Pub Case
NCW rejects own report
New Delhi, February 6
Citing legal lacunae, the National Commission for Women today rejected the report of its member Nirmala Venkatesh on the Mangalore pub incident wherein Sri Ram Sena men assaulted some girls.

Tribal outfit in fix over new truce rules
Guwahati, February 6
A proscribed tribal militant outfit in Assam, United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), has found itself in a fix over renewal of its seven-year-old truce with the government of India in view of tougher ceasefire ground rules ironed out by the Centre.

Polls 2009
BJP rethinking on terror plank?
Nagpur, February 6
With the dye cast for the 2009 general elections, the BJP, that has been vociferous in its demand for tough action against Pakistan to weed out cross-border terrorism, seems to be having second thoughts on its pet theme. What seems to have set the party thinking on its war cries is Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’ tough talk against Pakistan.

Tea workers can hope for better health facilities
Guwahati, February 6
The Assam government yesterday launched country’s ‘biggest’ public-private partnership (PPP) scheme in healthcare sector to improve facilities in hundreds of tea estates dotting the state. The 150-crore project would directly benefit over 30 lakh tea workers, said Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, while inaugurating the scheme, which is sponsored under the National Rural Health Mission.

Burmese sisters reunite after 66 yrs, courtesy Google
Kolkata, February 6
Misspelling names on an Internet search engine turned out to be a blessing in disguise for two Burmese sisters, who were reunited here after 66 years. “I went to Google and typed my mother’s maiden name. No results were found. But while re-trying, I misspelt her name by mistake. And fortunately, the website had also misspelt her name the same way I did. We found a message which said Blanche Desai is looking for her sister or anyone who knows her sister Syble,” says Derek Flory, son of the elder sister Sybil Le Flory.

3,000 V-Day weddings in Lucknow; priests overbooked
Lucknow, February 6
With the craze for getting married on Valentine’s Day gaining ground among young couples, all guest houses, DJs, band parties and priests here are over booked for weddings to be held on the day.

TOEFL to give performance certificates
Bangalore, February 6
Educational Testing Service (ETS), creators of the TOEFL test, yesterday announced that they would be launching a pilot program that would offer TOEFL Star Performer certificates to students who take the test in India.

J&K to revamp RTI Act
New Delhi, February 6
The newly elected National Conference government in Jammu and Kashmir, under its young Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, is expected to put up a revamped Right to Information (RTI) Bill for clearance by the Assembly during its next session.

Babri demolition report likely before polls
New Delhi, February 6
Seventeen years since it was formed to probe the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, the Liberhan Commission - one of the longest running inquiry panels costing the government over Rs 7 million - is hopeful of submitting its report before March 31, just before the general elections.

Advani gets threat email
Lucknow, February 6
The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of the Uttar Pradesh police has started investigation into the alleged email threat to the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, LK Advani.

‘Serial killer’ stalks Guwahati streets
Guwahati, February 6
The city police is groping in the dark over a suspected psychopathic killer who has carried out a series of fatal attacks on pavement dwellers, mostly beggars and rag pickers, resulting in death of three persons and grievous injury to three others since January 6.

 





Top








 

26/11 Dossier
Pranab seeks UN intervention
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the UN must pressurise Islamabad into ensuring the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks were bought to justice and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been given enough evidence linking Pakistani nationals to the carnage.

“I had detailed discussions with him in the context of the terror attack and the material we have given to Pakistan,” Mukherjee told reporters on the margins of a conference organised by the Research and Information System, a leading think tank, referring to his meeting with the UN chief yesterday.

“I requested the Secretary-General to look into these aspects and ensure that Pakistan fully implements its own commitments which it has given to India and the international community several times,” the minister added.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General has decided to constitute an independent commission of inquiry to determine the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

“The commission, which has been requested by the Government of Pakistan, will be composed of three eminent personalities and will have a mandate of a maximum of six months,” Ban, who was here in India, said in a letter to the Security Council President.

Following discussions with the Pakistani authorities and members of the Security Council, it has been agreed that the new body should be ‘fact finding in nature’, not expanding into a criminal investigation, said the UN chief, who also visited Islamabad earlier this week. The duty of determining criminal responsibility of the perpetrators of the assassination would remain with the Pakistani authorities.

The UN chief’s decision reinforces New Delhi’s apprehension that the ruling establishment in Islamabad does not believe that its own investigative and intelligence agencies could conduct a fair and transparent trial into the December 27, 2007, assassination

The announcement has not come as a surprise to Indian officials or foreign experts. Ever since, Benazir was assassinated in Rawalpindi during her election campaign, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which now heads the government in Islamabad, has been demanding a UN probe into the circumstances of her killing.

Top

 

NCP supremo ‘flirts’ with Sena, BJP
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 6
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has yet again unfurled his time-tested strategy of playing off his opponents against each other in a bid to corner a good deal for his Nationalist Congress Party. This time, the wily Maratha chieftain has decided to play off the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party against the Congress.

Earlier, this week it was none other than Pawar’s nephew and one-time political heir Ajit Pawar who set the cat among the pigeons when he sought to tie up with the Sena and the BJP to field a common candidate against Congress’ Suresh Kalmadi in Pune. The younger Pawar has no love lost for Kalmadi, a former Pawar acolyte who is considered to be a strongman in Pune.

Ajit had earlier tied up with the Sena-BJP to keep the Congress party out of the Pune Municipal Corporation. However, after putting up with the Pawar family’s profligate ways for two years, the Congress party leaders, led by Vilasrao Deshmukh, kicked up a row and forced the Pawars to discontinue the ‘Pune pattern’ of political tie-ups. While Sharad Pawar went onto say his party would back Kalmadi in the Lok Sabha elections, his nephew has decided to take a reverse stand.

Only Ajit Pawar’s timing of extending support to the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance has taken the Congressmen in Maharashtra by surprise. Seat-sharing talks between both parties have reached a deadlock with the Congress refusing to yield to the NCP and concede more seats to the regional party. While Pawar has staked claim to contest half of the total 48 seats in Maharashtra, the Congress intends to concede not more than 21 seats to its ally. The NCP had contested 22 seats in the last election. Both parties would then allot a few seats to their allies from their quotas. Rather than meekly submit to Pawar’s demands like it did in the past, the Congress party has turned aggressive. State party unit vice-president Hussain Dalwai told reporters recently that the Congress was not prepared to concede more seats than required to the NCP since the national party should get the lion’s share during the

parliamentary elections. However, observers here say, the Pawars are taking the talks to a different level by activating their links with the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance. Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, who has his own problems with the BJP, played along with the NCP by promising support to Sharad Pawar as a Prime Ministerial candidate.

Top

 

Cong poll campaign begins tomorrow
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, February 6
While the BJP is brainstorming in Nagpur on its strategy for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the Congress is all set to kickstart its poll campaign in the Capital this Sunday with a convention of party workers.

The convention of party’s district and block-level chiefs will serve two purposes. It will help get essential inputs from grassroots workers on the health of the party organisation and other issues which will enable the party leadership to fine tune its election strategy.

In addition, it will serve as an occasion for party president Sonia Gandhi to provide necessary direction to the rank and file about the issues which are to be highlighted in the Congress campaign.

Sonia Gandhi has already provided a pointer to this in her letter to Congresspersons in the party’s mouthpiece, “The performance of the Congress-led UPA government will be a critical plank on which we will be seeking the mandate of the people,” she said, adding that she expects the party cadres to familarise themselves with these accomplishments. The Congress president is expected to reiterate this in her opening speech while urging the perennially faction-ridden state units to present a united front in the coming crucial election.

Besides the party president, senior party leaders would also explain the party’s policies and the UPA government’s achievements to the 10,000 Congress workers who would assemble at the Ramlila grounds for the long convention, AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told mediapersons today.

As he is recuperating from his heart surgery, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will not be attending, but a written message from him is likely to be read out to the delegates. AICC general secretary Congress heir-apparent Rahul Gandhi is also expected to take the floor.

“Such conventions help us to understand needs of the workers and voters at the grass-roots level. We get valuable inputs from our workers, which helps us in preparing a better strategy for the elections," explained BK Hari Prasad, Congress general secretary. The last such convention was held six years ago when the Congress was in the opposition.

Since this convention is being held when the party has been leading a coalition at the Centre and is making a bid for another term. Besides highlighting the ruling coalition’s achievements, party workers will also be told on how they should tackle the opposition attack which is expected to focus on national security and economy.

Top

 

Mangalore Pub Case
NCW rejects own report
Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
Citing legal lacunae, the National Commission for Women (NCW) today rejected the report of its member Nirmala Venkatesh on the Mangalore pub incident wherein Sri Ram Sena men assaulted some girls.

The rejection came soon after the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry served a show-cause notice on Venkatesh, reportedly for acting against public interest, and causing embarrassment to the ministry. The move, said top ministry sources, followed NCW chairperson Girija Vyas’s recommendation against Venkatesh.

Key Points

  • The report condemns attacks, says abuse cases against women should be treated seriously and the accused be booked under Section 307 of the IPC.
  • Doesn’t say the pub didn’t have a licence. The owners violated excise norms by serving liquor to guests (girls) whereas they could serve it only to room occupants, it adds.
  • Mentions the efforts made to contact victims.
  • Says ban on Sri Ram Sena was a matter for the government to debate.

Vyas on January 31, wrote to the ministry that Venkatesh’s behaviour had, in the past, too, been found wanting. “Vyas said Venkatesh had been humiliating officers. She said Venkatesh had not submitted her report on the Mangalore incident in time and had made her findings public before presenting them to the commission,” a WCD official told The Tribune.

Venkatesh, however, stood by her report, saying she would not resign and would explain her stand “when she gets the notice”. The ministry has asked her to reply by Monday. Legally, under the NCW Act, the central government can remove a commission chairperson or member if it finds their actions against public interest. When asked if a reprimand alone would suffice in Venkatesh’s case, a ministry official said, “The NCW Act talks only of the Prime Minister appointing or removing a commission member on the recommendation of the government (the minister concerned). It doesn’t talk of middle paths.”

Back in the commission, Vyas rejected Venkatesh’s report, saying “the committee was illegal as it did not have a social activist; the member did not interview/contact the victims nor are there indications of such an attempt having been made; the report focuses on the nature of pub licence which was not a part of terms of reference of the committee.” “Even if the pub did not have a licence and even if the victims could not be met, the fact that the accused beat up women should have been enough for the committee to condemn the act and recommend accordingly. We can’t accept this report,” said Vyas. Interestingly, the WCD Ministry had not received the report until this morning; Documents with the Tribune show the NCW received the report on February 2. Why it wasn’t submitted is a mystery. Venkatesh reached Mangalore on January 30 at 10 am. She would have taken a day to submit her report. NCW chairperson on Jan 31 sent a letter against Venkatesh to the ministry, which rushed its probe team the next day.

Top

 

Tribal outfit in fix over new truce rules
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, February 6
A proscribed tribal militant outfit in Assam, United People’s Democratic Solidarity (UPDS), has found itself in a fix over renewal of its seven-year-old truce with the government of India in view of tougher ceasefire ground rules ironed out by the Centre.

The last one-year extension of truce with the UPDS expired on January 31 and the outfit, which is active in hill districs of Assam, is required to agree to new ceasefire ground rules for its renewal.

Tong Eh-Nongloda, UPDS spokesman, said the outfit’s leadership had raised objection to the new clause to ceasefire-ground rules that required all members of the outfit to surrender their arms before renewal of the truce.

The new set of ceasefire ground rules were formulated by the Centre post October 30 serial blasts in Assam that were triggered in collusion of a certain section of cadres of the banned National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) which is in truce with the government of India.

The UPDS’ central executive committee will meet on February 10 to discuss a proposal suggesting modification to new ceasefire ground rules as prepared by the Central government. The proposal will be submitted to the Centre.

Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi announced that from now onwards ceasefire pacts would be signed with militant groups only when those outfits agreed to the new set of ground rules that included surrender of arms and keeping cadres confined to designated camp unless they were permitted to move out by the authority.

Top






 

Polls 2009
BJP rethinking on terror plank?
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

Nagpur, February 6
With the dye cast for the 2009 general elections, the BJP, that has been vociferous in its demand for tough action against Pakistan to weed out cross-border terrorism, seems to be having second thoughts on its pet theme. What seems to have set the party thinking on its war cries is Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’ tough talk against Pakistan.

Most of the party leaders are of the opinion that the ‘bogey of war is being raised by Congress for political purposes in view of the ensuing Lok Sabha polls and that is not right.’ Party spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad raised the issued today during the first day of the three-day national executive and national council meet being held here. His thought found an echo in comments of several other party activists, who have come from all corners of the country.

Some of them mentioned that how the 26/11 attacks had failed to enthuse masses in Delhi and Jaipur to vote for the BJP, contrary to party’s expectations. They also indicated their doubt and skepticism over the success of Advani’s two-point election plank of terrorism and inflation, even though this did find some passing mention in the inaugural speech of BJP president Rajnath Singh.

The party chief asked the UPA to immediately scrap the Indo-Pakistan joint anti-terror mechanism, expressing serious concern over Islamabad’s demand to hand over Malegaon blast accused Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit. “The biggest blunder by the government was to agree to form an Indo-Pak joint anti-terror mechanism. Taking advantage of this, Pakistan has demanded the handing over of Purohit in the Samjhauta Express incident,” said Rajnath Singh, adding that India should immediately dissociate itself from the joint terror mechanism.

The BJP president also expressed serious concern over the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka. Notably, the BJP is desperately trying to seek some alliance partners in Tamil Nadu where both the DMK and the AIADMK have given it a cold shoulder so far.

Top

 

Tea workers can hope for better health facilities
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, February 6
The Assam government yesterday launched country’s ‘biggest’ public-private partnership (PPP) scheme in healthcare sector to improve facilities in hundreds of tea estates dotting the state. The 150-crore project would directly benefit over 30 lakh tea workers, said Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, while inaugurating the scheme, which is sponsored under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). The amount would be used to upgrade infrastructure and other amenities in garden hospitals, which, at present, are in a state of mess.

He said the scheme was taken up in pursuant of government’s mission to make Assam a model state in respect of healthcare facilities. “Hundreds of tea estates in the state over the years have failed to either maintain or upgrade their healthcare units, forcing the state government to step in for the sake of poor workers,” Gogoi said.

Terming it a unique as well as the biggest PPP initiative in the healthcare sector, Health Minister Dr Himanta Bishwa Sharma informed that the state government has identified around 600 tea estates where existing facilities require immediate improvement. He said due to lack of proper medical care, tea workers were vulnerable to various communicable diseases, including malaria and diarrohea.

In the first phase, 166 estates have been asked to sign a memorandum of understanding with the state government. Out of these, 117 estates have already signed the document. The remaining gardens would have to follow suit to escape punitive action in case of outbreak of any communicable disease in their area in future. “Everything would be put in place by February 15,” claimed Sharma.

Top

 

Burmese sisters reunite after 66 yrs, courtesy Google

Kolkata, February 6
Misspelling names on an Internet search engine turned out to be a blessing in disguise for two Burmese sisters, who were reunited here after 66 years. “I went to Google and typed my mother’s maiden name. No results were found. But while re-trying, I misspelt her name by mistake. And fortunately, the website had also misspelt her name the same way I did. We found a message which said Blanche Desai is looking for her sister or anyone who knows her sister Syble,” says Derek Flory, son of the elder sister Sybil Le Flory.

Sybil Le Flory and her younger sister Blanche, who grew up together in Rangoon, were separated in December 1941 when the Japanese invaded Burma during World War II and were reunited in October 2007 in Kolkata.

“My mother, Sybil, had gone out for shopping when the attack took place, while her sister Blanche was at home. The situation became so violent that my mother had to flee,” Derek says. — PTI

Top

 

3,000 V-Day weddings in Lucknow; priests overbooked

Lucknow, February 6
With the craze for getting married on Valentine’s Day gaining ground among young couples, all guest houses, DJs, band parties and priests here are over booked for weddings to be held on the day.

According to an estimate, over 3,000 couples would tie the nuptial knot this February 14 in Lucknow and nearby areas alone with the result that couples trying to get into wedlock on the day are finding it difficult to arrange guest houses, DJs, band parties and priests as most are over booked.

This year there is “shubh lagna” (auspicious time) for marriage on Valentine’s Day which is the reason most couples are preferring to get married on February 14, Pundit Umankant Mishra said, adding that he was performing three marriages on the day.

The craze for getting married on that particular date is costing dear to those who had not planned in advance as they are finding that all guesthouses and marriages lawns are already booked.

Ashish Kumar, whose daughter insisted on marrying on this particular day, said as the marriage was planned only last month he did not get booking in any guest house. — PTI

Top

 

TOEFL to give performance certificates
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 6
Educational Testing Service (ETS), creators of the TOEFL test, yesterday announced that they would be launching a pilot program that would offer TOEFL Star Performer certificates to students who take the test in India.

The pilot program, under which the certificates would be made available to the star performers in lieu of a modest fee, would be officially launched on February 14 (date of the TOEFL test). The certificate would recognise the levels of proficiency achieved by students in four skills - listening, speaking, reading and writing.

There would be three categories of certificates namely gold, silver and bronze. Test takers achieving a minimum TOEFL iBT total score of 110 and a minimum section score of 25 in all four skills would be designated gold-level star performers. Those with a total score of 100 and minimum section score of 22 would be designated silver-level star performers and students with a total score of 90 and minimum section score of 21 would be rated as bronze-level star performers.

Top

 

J&K to revamp RTI Act
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 6
The newly elected National Conference government in Jammu and Kashmir, under its young Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, is expected to put up a revamped Right to Information (RTI) Bill for clearance by the Assembly during its next session.

The new stringent bill, which aims at empowering the masses, would make civic bodies in the state, including the auditor general and the state police and its special forces, accountable for their actions.

According to Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, modifications made in the existing act would help bring the new Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act (JKRTI) at par with the central act, although it would be independent of it.

The modifications have been made following suggestions made by some NGOs and experts working in the strife-torn state. Sources say the information act has been in J&K even before the central act came into existence. But people have not been taking advantage of it. “People are not aware of the existence of such a law and as such do not take advantage of it,” Habibullah said.

Top

 

Babri demolition report likely before polls

New Delhi, February 6
Seventeen years since it was formed to probe the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, the Liberhan Commission - one of the longest running inquiry panels costing the government over Rs 7 million - is hopeful of submitting its report before March 31, just before the general elections.

"I am in the right direction. Things are on track and since you have been patient all this while, why don't you cooperate a little longer. I have time till March 31. So pray to god it is over soon," Justice (Retd) MS Liberhan said from Chandigarh.

The 70-year-old judge, who is currently writing up his report on the sequence of events leading to the razing of the Babri mosque by Hindu zealots on December 6, 1992, was, however, non-committal on whether his report would come down heavily on leaders from the BJP and hardline Hindu organisations like the VHP.

Besides identifying those who played a role in the destruction of the 16th century mosque, the commission is also expected to state why and how the demolition happened. — IANS

Top

 

Advani gets threat email

Lucknow, February 6
The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of the Uttar Pradesh police has started investigation into the alleged email threat to the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, LK Advani.

According to reports, the mail had originated from Mau in UP. State ADGP (crime) Brijlal said the ATS had been asked to investigate the matter. However, the officer could not give any details of the cyber crime.

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had detected the cyber crime and had asked the state police to investigate the matter. In the reported e-mail threat of one para, a terrorist group, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, had said it would use new technology for attacking the renowned people of the country.

Earlier too, Azamgarh and Mau districts of UP were found involved in controversies related to terrorism. Azamgarh was even termed as nursery of terrorism a couple of months ago. — UNI

Top

 

‘Serial killer’ stalks Guwahati streets
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, February 6
The city police is groping in the dark over a suspected psychopathic killer who has carried out a series of fatal attacks on pavement dwellers, mostly beggars and rag pickers, resulting in death of three persons and grievous injury to three others since January 6.

ASP, Guwahati city, Debojit Deuri said the modus operandi of the attacks was found to be similar. “The killer or the group of killers uses a blunt, hard and easy-to-handle weapon to hit the victim with brute force on the head to cause instant death. All the attacks so far have occurred just before day break and the targets have been pavement dwellers,” he said.

The police have found it hard to identify the motive behind the killings.

Top

 

CPI leader’s car set ablaze
Tribune News Service

Chennai, February 6
Unidentified persons today set ablaze the car of CPI Tamil Nadu Unit secretary D Pandian, who is playing an active role in the campaign against the Centre in the Sri Lankan Tamils issue. Pandian was in Dharmapuri when the incident took place in his residence compound. The charred remains of the vehicle were noticed by his neighbours who alerted Pandian's wife and police. The incident occurred in the wee hours today, police said, adding no arrest has been made so far.

Top

 

‘Protect brother of Sohrabuddin’

New Delhi, February 6
The Supreme Court yesterday again directed the Madhya Pradesh DGP to ensure the security of the Rubabuddin Sheikh, brother of Sohrabuddin Sheikh — who was killed in a fake encounter by the Gujarat police — and his family in Ujjain.

A bench of Justices Tarun Chatterjee and Justice VS Sirpurkar issued the directions after senior counsel Dushyant Dave said a team of police personnel in plain clothes went to his client’s house on January 30 and harassed the family members. — PTI

Top

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Letters | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |