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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Congress to finalise tie-ups by March 5
New Delhi, February 24
With the Election Commission set to notify the upcoming Lok Sabha poll within the next few days, the Congress is scrambling to get its act together. Racing against time, Congress president Sonia Gandhi today set a deadline of March 5 for chairpersons of recently-constituted screening committees and AICC general secretaries incharge of states for the submission of the shortlisted names of candidates.

Cong defends govt on excise duty cut
New Delhi, February 24
The Congress today rejected charges that the excise duty cut announced by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was aimed at wooing the electorate in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Advani offers olive branch to Shiv Sena
Mumbai, February 24
BJP leader and Prime Ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani has sought to smoothen the ruffled feathers of the party ally Shiv Sena, who is showing signs of responding to the overtures of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar.

Grand welcome awaits Rahman
Chennai, February 24
Grand welcome awaits India’s first Oscar award winner A R Rahman, who is expected to return to his home city on February 28 and a felicitation function will be organised on March 1.

Maharashtra Cong wants govt houses for ‘Slumdog’ kids
Mumbai, February 24
A day after India-linked “Slumdog Millionnaire” bagged eight Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards, the Maharashtra Congress has mooted the idea of providing houses from the CM's quota for two of the poorest children who starred in the movie.


Former Union minister Sukh Ram talks to the media outside Tis Hazari court in New Delhi on Tuesday. He appeared in the court in connection with the disproportionate assets case.
TENSE MOMENTS: Former Union minister Sukh Ram talks to the media outside Tis Hazari court in New Delhi on Tuesday. He appeared in the court in connection with the disproportionate assets case. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

EARLIER STORIES

Re-examine Maj Gen’s promotion case: Delhi HC
Chandigarh, February 24
Directing the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) to re-examine the promotion case of a major general whose elevation was held up after the CBI registered a corruption case against him, the Delhi High Court has observed that the incidents of complaints against officers due for promotion were on the rise.

Mother sells new-born to pay hospital bill
Hyderabad, February 24
In a heart-rending incident, a young poverty-stricken single mother in Andhra Pradesh sold her newborn son to a childless couple for Rs 6,000 rupees so that she could pay her medical bill in a government hospital.

Deprived of ‘cheating’, students take to arson
Patna, February 24
Protesting against the change of their examination centres that apparently disallowed them from “cheating”, hundreds of polytechnic students went on a rampage in Darbhanga and Patna today.

US envoy Mulford completes term in Delhi
New Delhi, February 24
US ambassador to India David C Mulford today flew back to Washington at the end of a five-year term, during which Indo-US relations attained new heights.

C’wealth Games
Wake up, act fast, panel tells govt
New Delhi, February 24
With barely 19 months left for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a Parliamentary committee on Tuesday questioned the country’s preparedness to host the mega sporting event, and found utter lack of coordination among government agencies on the job.

Godhra Inferno: SC says no to stay on panel report
New Delhi, February 24
Refusing to grant an immediate stay on the POTA review committee report relating to the Godhra train fire, the Supreme Court today listed for March 6 a petition challenging the Gujarat HC order that has upheld the report.

LJP, RJD alliance in the offing
Patna, February 24
Ice seems to have melted between the two top leaders of the UPA in Bihar -Ramvilas Paswan and Lalu Yadav- over the issue of seat sharing for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

CPM finalises candidates for LS polls
Kolkata, February 24
The CPM state committee at it’s meeting at Alimuddin Street party office today finalised their list of candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, senior central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty told media persons after the meeting.

TN lawyers insist on action against cops
Chennai, February 24
Lawyers strike in Tamil Nadu demanding the suspension of police officials involved in the attack on lawyers in the Madras High Court premises, continues even while the state government is making efforts to pacify them.

Capt wants case against Badal shifted
New Delhi, February 24
Capt Amarinder Singh today made a strong plea, through his counsel, in the Supreme Court for the transfer of the corruption case against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal from the Mohali court to Delhi as the Badal government was “scuttling” the trial.





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Congress to finalise tie-ups by March 5
Anita Katyal & Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 24
With the Election Commission set to notify the upcoming Lok Sabha poll within the next few days, the Congress is scrambling to get its act together. Racing against time, Congress president Sonia Gandhi today set a deadline of March 5 for chairpersons of recently-constituted screening committees and AICC general secretaries incharge of states for the submission of the shortlisted names of candidates.

The Congress president also asked the state-level committees to complete seat sharing talks with existing and new allies in the states by this date.

Having laid down a time-table for the selection of candidates, the Congress president will address members of the party’s parliamentary committee on Wednesday where she is expected to set the tone for the upcoming election.

While most political parties have already started finalising their candidates, the Congress is running late in complete violation of the Anthony committee report that had recommended the candidates be picked 90 days before the election to give them sufficient time to prepare for the poll.

Party sources said the state-level panels were set up for preliminary discussions with existing partners like the RJD, the DMK and the NCP. Thy added that senior leaders would be deputed to finalise the negotiations on the basis of the reports submitted by these committees.

In the case of new partners like the SP, TMC and the JD(S), the discussions so far suggest that Sonia Gandhi will be required to step in personally to seal these pacts. The Congress and the Samajwadi Party, for instance, have failed to arrive at any electoral understanding as their leaders have been busy sniping at each other. However, both sides are pinning their hopes on a proposed meeting between the Congress president and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.

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Cong defends govt on excise duty cut
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 24
The Congress today rejected charges that the excise duty cut announced by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was aimed at wooing the electorate in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.

“The measures have been taken to boost the demand. It should not be linked to the elections. It has been done so that the industry gets some relief and which then gets passed on to the consumers,” party spokesman Manish Tewari said today.

Justifying the decision of the government, Tewari said, “When the vote on account was presented, it was said that the government did not take steps to meet the economic recession”.

Tewari said, “The Finance Minister was responding to popular sentiments that certain steps are needed to boost domestic demand. There is no hypocrisy or electoral logic involved.”

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Advani offers olive branch to Shiv Sena
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 24
BJP leader and Prime Ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani has sought to smoothen the ruffled feathers of the party ally Shiv Sena, who is showing signs of responding to the overtures of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar.

In Mumbai today, Advani insisted that squabbles over seat-sharing was normal and the two allies together for 22 years must adjust.

“There are problems due to delimitation of constituencies, so alliance partners must learn to adjust. There is really no problem between us,” Advani said.

The BJP leader was here for a felicitation function where the state party leadership handed over a cheque for Rs 11 crore to Advani.

However, the proceedings at the function clearly indicated that the BJP was worried about the Shiv Sena splitting away to join hands with the NCP.

On the other hand, the Shiv Sena is sending out mixed signals about its relations with the NCP. Thackeray recently wrote in the party mouthpiece Saamna that 'Kamlabai' (his take on the BJP's election symbol - the lotus) was still his favourite.

Worse still, Thackeray went on to reiterate his old friendship with Pawar though he denied that his son and heir Uddhav had a secret meeting with the NCP leader.

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Grand welcome awaits Rahman
Tribune News Service

Chennai, February 24
Grand welcome awaits India’s first Oscar award winner A R Rahman, who is expected to return to his home city on February 28 and a felicitation function will be organised on March 1.

South India’s music maestro Ilayaraja and veteran music director M S Viswanathan, under whom Rahman had worked as a musician, will felicitate Rahman at the function organised by the Tamil Film Musicians Association. Carnatic music maestro Balamurali Krishna, film singers, musicians, directors and actors are expected to turn up in large numbers to felicitate Rahman, whose Tamil speech at the award winning ceremony had caused ecstasy and joy in the state.

All leaders, including Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa, had greeted Rahman.

For most of the people in Tamil Nadu, the announcement of two Oscars for their local hero had brought their smiles back, amid incessant reports of deaths and injuries to Tamil people in the neigbouring Sri Lanka. A mood of melancholy and gloom that prevailed for the past few weeks had lifted, although temporarily. Tamil newspapers and TV channels, which used to carry pictures of mangled bodies of Tamil children and women, in a brief departure, flashed the photographs of a smiling Rahman, holding Oscar awards.

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Maharashtra Cong wants govt houses
for ‘Slumdog’ kids

Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 24
A day after India-linked “Slumdog Millionnaire” bagged eight Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards, the Maharashtra Congress has mooted the idea of providing houses from the CM's quota for two of the poorest children who starred in the movie.

Mumbai Congress Committee president Kripashankar Singh said the two children, Azharuddin Sheikh and Rubina Qureshi, who portrayed the younger versions of the two main characters in the movie, should be granted houses for bringing honour to the nation.

Congress leaders, led by Singh, are scheduled to meet Chief Minister Ashok Chavan with the proposal soon. The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority is in the process of disbursing over 3,800 flats across Mumbai through a lottery system.

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Re-examine Maj Gen’s promotion case: Delhi HC
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, February 24
Directing the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) to re-examine the promotion case of a major general whose elevation was held up after the CBI registered a corruption case against him, the Delhi High Court has observed that the incidents of complaints against officers due for promotion were on the rise.

“The object in such cases can be to benefit somebody lower in the merit so as to keep the appointment of a senior meritorious candidate in abeyance or to cast doubts on his character,” a division bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Mool Chand Garg noted.

The CBI had registered an FIR against Maj Gen Anand Kapur of the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) in October 2007 on the basis of sourced information, which the officer contended were anonymous complaints against him. The FIR was lodged just prior to the special selection board (SSB) meeting and the case prompted Army headquarters to impose a ban on his promotion.

When the officer sought judicial intervention, the High Court stayed further promotions to the rank of lieutenant general, consequent to which the two top posts in the AOC, that of AOC Director General and Commandant of School for Material Management remained vacant for about a year.

The court has directed the cabinet to take a fresh decision on the case within a month.

The major general’s counsel, Col R Balasubramanian (retd), told The Tribune that the deemed DV ban imposed on his promotion was in contravention to the Army’s own policy.

The officers could be placed under DV ban only if the CBI investigations hold them blameworthy and the competent authority accords sanction for prosecution in a civil court or recommends departmental action against them.

In this case, he said, CBI investigations were still underway despite the lapse of 16 months since the FIR was lodged and the stage for the CBI making any recommendations has not even arisen.

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Mother sells new-born to pay hospital bill

Hyderabad, February 24
In a heart-rending incident, a young poverty-stricken single mother in Andhra Pradesh sold her newborn son to a childless couple for Rs 6,000 rupees so that she could pay her medical bill in a government hospital.

“My financial position is really bad,” a distraught looking Rajitha (20), who could not afford the Rs 2,000 hospital fee said from her bed at the Government Area Hospital in Kothagudem in Khammam district today.

She delivered the baby by caesarean section last week and the infant changed hands within 24 hours.The police said they would take action against the hospital, which also faced an inquiry whether its doctors took any money as bribe from the woman.

According to reports, a rickshaw -driver friend gave the single mother Rs 6,000 for the baby, which he planned to bring up with his wife. The couple has no children.

The incident occurred in the parliamentary constituency of Union Minister of State for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury.

“At least, she is safe and the child is not dead or killed. I think they are the most important things that we need to look at,” Chowdhury said.

The woman told the police who interrogated her that her husband had abandoned her and she had no means to support herself and a baby. — PTI

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Deprived of ‘cheating’, students take to arson
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 24
Protesting against the change of their examination centres that apparently disallowed them from “cheating”, hundreds of polytechnic students went on a rampage in Darbhanga and Patna today.

According to information, the frenzied students damaged property at their examination centres and set afire the vehicles parked inside the college premises.

The police had to use force to disperse the mob of students, around 10 of whom were taken into custody. The college authorities also lodged cases against the examinees for disrupting the examination and damaging property.

Giving details of the incident, Science and Technology department principal secretary Ravikant told The Tribune that annual examinations were being conducted at eight different towns today. The department had taken a policy decision from this year that they would not allow annual examinations to be conducted at the same institution, he said.

Earlier, all the polytechnic colleges conducted examinations at their own institution and, needless to say, the examinees felt “free to use unfair means”. But the change of examination centre, though in the same town, deprived them of that “freedom”, Ravikant said.

“So, they were sore with the decision. And as a mark of protest, the examinees of polytechnic colleges at Gaya, Bhagalpur and Muzaffarpur decided to boycott their examination today. On the other hand, the examination was conducted peacefully at Gopalganj, Purnea and one of the centres at Patna. But the second year examinees at Darbhanga and Pataliputra resorted to a large-scale violence,” added Ravikant.

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US envoy Mulford completes term in Delhi
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 24
US ambassador to India David C Mulford today flew back to Washington at the end of a five-year term, during which Indo-US relations attained new heights.

Mulford, whose departure from India was originally planned to coincide with the end of the Bush administration’s term on January 20, was asked by Barack Obama to continue in his post for a few more weeks. Mulford was the longest serving US ambassador to India after Chester Bowles and Ellsworth Bunker.

It was during his term that India and US negotiated the nuclear deal and eventually signed it in October last.

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C’wealth Games
Wake up, act fast, panel tells govt
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 24
With barely 19 months left for the 2010 Commonwealth Games, a Parliamentary committee on Tuesday questioned the country’s preparedness to host the mega sporting event, and found utter lack of coordination among government agencies on the job.

“There appears to be utter lack of coordination, determination and sense of urgency among various government agencies engaged in providing facilities to the tourists who will be visiting India in connection with the games,” said the standing committee on transport, culture and tourism, cautioning government agencies to “wake up and act fast” to ensure the time schedule (of the games) was maintained.

The committee, headed by MP Sitaram Yechury with 27 Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members as its members, presented the report of the development of tourism infrastructure and amenities for the Commonwealth Games 2010 in the Parliament on Tuesday.

“As the games are drawing closer, so many projects have yet to be initiated, let alone completed. In such a situation the absence of any proposal from the Delhi government is surprising,” said Yechury after tabling the report in the Parliament.

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Godhra Inferno: SC says no to stay on panel report
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 24
Refusing to grant an immediate stay on the POTA review committee report relating to the Godhra train fire, the Supreme Court today listed for March 6 a petition challenging the Gujarat HC order that has upheld the report.

The HC had, however, passed an order restraining for two weeks the transfer of POTA cases to the regular courts. The Justice (retd) SC Jain POTA Review Committee had recommended the transfer and the HC restraint order would lapse on February 27.

A SC Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan also declined to extend the validity of the restraint order of the HC before hearing the petition by Sardarji Maganji Vaghela, which was mentioned by senior counsel Nageshwar Rao.

Counsel Rao said that if the High Court's two-week restraint order was not extended, the records and proceedings of the POTA Court would get transferred to the regular courts which hold trial under the IPC.

Rao pleaded that the findings of the review committee should be stayed as it had held that the actions of the accused involved in Godhra train fire of February 27, 2002 did not attract the provisions of POTA. Senior counsel Harish Salve, who appeared for the Gujarat government, opposed the plea.

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LJP, RJD alliance in the offing
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, February 24
Ice seems to have melted between the two top leaders of the UPA in Bihar -Ramvilas Paswan and Lalu Yadav- over the issue of seat sharing for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Earlier both the leaders were maintaining a stiff posture in public. Without waiting for any formal talks regarding the alliance between their respective parties, the LJP and RJD, LJP chief Paswan had declared to contest at least 16 out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats. He went on to declare the names of his party candidates.

The UPA had given the LJP only eight seats during the 2004 Lok Sabha polls of which the party won four seats. This time its demand has doubled, putting the RJD and Congress in a tight corner.

However, due to the growing popularity of the ruling government in the state, Lalu is in no position to take any risk by parting ways with Paswan and lose Dalit votes.

The Railway Minister took the first step by initiating the dialogue with Paswan regarding sharing of seats and went all the way to his house at New Delhi on Saturday.

According to party grapevine, Lalu has agreed to give 13 of the 40 seats to the LJP this time. The question is of three more seats.

Although, Paswan while talking to the media persons here on Sunday denied having had any talks with the RJD chief over sharing of seats and underplayed Lalu’s visit to his house as a common courtesy visit to participate in a family function, party insiders said both the leaders had almost finalised the deal.

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CPM finalises candidates for LS polls
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, February 24
The CPM state committee at it’s meeting at Alimuddin Street party office today finalised their list of candidates for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, senior central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty told media persons after the meeting.

The list will be declared along with the candidate lists of the other front partners, namely, the CPI, the RSP and the Forward Bloc after the Left Front’s meeting on March 3.

During the meeting, they discussed about the party’ strategy for the elections.

Though the candidates list was not declared, party sources said they excepted sitting Bolpur MP Somnath Chatterjee would get the opportunity to contest again.

The candidates who will be allowed to contest again include Basudev Acharyya, Amitava Nandi, Bansagopal Chowdhury, Hannan Mollah, Md salim, Lakshman Seth, Minati Das, Anil Basu, Sudhangshu Sil, Samik Lahiri, Swadesh Chakraborty, Tarit Baran Topdar and Sujan Chakraborty.

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TN lawyers insist on action against cops
Tribune News Service

Chennai, February 24
Lawyers strike in Tamil Nadu demanding the suspension of police officials involved in the attack on lawyers in the Madras High Court premises, continues even while the state government is making efforts to pacify them.

Although, state Law Minister K Durai Murugan had offered to talk to the agitating lawyers, the Madras High Court Lawyers Association turned down his offer this morning, demanding that those policemen who assaulted them should be suspended first. However, government officials said they were continuing their efforts through the state Law Ministry.

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Capt wants case against Badal shifted
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, February 24
Capt Amarinder Singh today made a strong plea, through his counsel, in the Supreme Court for the transfer of the corruption case against Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal from the Mohali court to Delhi as the Badal government was “scuttling” the trial.

Arguing before a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, senior counsel Altaf Ahmed said the corruption case against Badal and his son Sukhbir was filed in March 2003. However, the two accused subsequently became the CM and the Dy CM, respectively, and since then consistent efforts were being made to dilute the case.

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