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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Sonia treads cautiously on Telangana
Hyderabad, February 28
Striking a delicate balance on the raging Telangana statehood issue ahead of the elections, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said her party was not ideologically opposed to the formation of separate state but was in the process of addressing some related concerns.

Rahul not to be face of Cong for LS polls
New Delhi, February 28
Nehru-Gandhi scion and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi will not be given the same prominence as Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the second phase of the party’s poll campaign, which will unfold after the formal notification of the Lok Sabha elections.

Mangalore Pub Case
Renuka defends NCW member’s sacking
New Delhi, February 28
Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Choudhury today defended the decision of the government to strip National Commission for Women (NCW) member Nirmala Venkatesh of her responsibilities, and said there was nothing personal in the move.



EARLIER STORIES



VCs of new central varsities appointed
New Delhi, February 28
Desperate to beat the model code of conduct expected to be enforced any time now, the government today approved the appointments of vice-chancellors to all 15 new central universities.

Panel suggests alternate crop cultivation
New Delhi, February 28
With more and more Indian farmers tempted to grow paddy due to its economic viability, a Parliamentary Committee has urged the government to encourage farmers to grow crops other than paddy to contain the growing methane emissions and avoid negative impacts of paddy cultivation on the environment and climate.

Dad beats up ‘Slumdog’ kid
Mumbai, February 28
The dream run seems to be over for Azaharuddin Mohammed Ismail, the child star of Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" with his father slapping him for refusing to give interviews to media.

Now, Pinki can fulfil her dream
Varanasi, February 28
Pinki, a labourer’s daughter, who shot to stardom after a documentary on her won at the Oscars, can now fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor and treat people with cleft lip with an Indore-based medico today announcing free medical education for the girl.

Maoists bomb railway station
Rourkela, February 28
In a pre-dawn raid, Maoists today bombed a railway station, stormed another and feared to have abducted two railway officials in Orissa's Sundergarh district, bringing train services on the Tatanagar-Rourkela route to a grinding halt.

45 militants give up arms in Assam
Guwahati, February 28
As many as 45 militants, including 32 from the banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), today surrendered before the Army at the base of 21 Mountain Division of the Indian Army at Rangiya near here.

HC Violence
TN lawyers meet Justice Krishna
Chennai, February 28
Leaders of the advocates’ association today met Justice BN Sri Krishna, appointed by the Supreme Court, to inquire about the February 19 Madras High Court violence and explained to him about the incidents on that day.

India faces leadership crisis: Jaitley
Mumbai, February 28
Lashing out at the Centre for failure on economic, national security and foreign policy fronts, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley today said the country is facing a serious leadership crisis.

Advani: Security biggest concern for Indians
Bangalore, February 28
BJP leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha LK Advani today said the problem of terrorism could be effectively tackled only if the common citizens unite to play a vigilant role to foil the design of the terrorists.

Gujarat riots: Missing to be declared dead
Ahmedabad, February 28
Those who are missing since the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat are soon to be declared dead by the authorities with the expiry of seven years’ stipulated time.

Two I-T officers in CBI net
Mumbai, February 28
The Central Bureau of Investigation has arrested two senior officers of the Income Tax department for holding assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.

Teacher shot at by student in Lucknow
Lucknow, February 28
In a bizzare incident, a class X student Shivam Trivedi in the state capital today shot at his teacher Akhilesh Mishra, who scolded him for not putting on the school uniform.





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Sonia treads cautiously on Telangana
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, February 28
Striking a delicate balance on the raging Telangana statehood issue ahead of the elections, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said her party was not ideologically opposed to the formation of separate state but was in the process of addressing some related concerns.

“As a matter of principle, the Congress is not against the formation of Telangana state. But linked to it are some problems and concerns and these can only be handled through political consensus. We are at it”, she told a massive public meeting at Parade Grounds here.

Aware that her comments on Telangana would be subjected to intense scrutiny by parties across the spectrum, Sonia chose to tread a cautious path by re-affirming her party’s commitment to build a consensus on the sensitive issue.

A section of Congressmen from Telangana region have been mounting pressure on the high command to declare support for the statehood demand in view of the widespread sentiment in favour of separate state.

With Telangana emerging as a key poll issue with a potential to influence the outcome of the Assembly elections, the protagonists of separate state within the ruling party are worried about reaching out voters in the region without the party taking a positive position.

Chief Minister Y S Rajashekar Reddy had early this month constituted a joint committee of MLAs and MLCs to consider the demand for Telangana state and submit a report to the government.

Sonia also stuck to the same theme during her 30-minute address at the public meeting, seen as a warm-up for poll campaign. “This is election time and therefore this is the time for you to decide who will take the nation on the path to further progress”, she said.

Referring to the menace of terrorism, the UPA chairperson said it was being fomented by those who are unable to digest India’s rapid progress. “India cannot be stopped. We will progress and we will overcome every challenge in the process. Peace is paramount and only in such an environment can there be happiness. We should not fall into the trap of those who want to divide the country on different lines,” Sonia said.

On the global economic meltdown, she said India has been able to weather the crisis effectively. “The world is going through an economic crisis, but the impact on the country is not big. This is because of the nationalisation of banks by Indira Gandhi. If she had not displayed that foresight, what would have happened to the country?” Sonia asked.

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Rahul not to be face of Cong for LS polls
Anita Katyal

New Delhi, February 28
Nehru-Gandhi scion and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi will not be given the same prominence as Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the second phase of the party’s poll campaign, which will unfold after the formal notification of the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress strategists are changing tack after Rahul Gandhi personally objected to the first phase of the campaign in which his photograph has been splashed along with Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. Rahul is credited with the view that he should not be given the same space and importance as these senior leaders, as he believes, he is far lower in the party’s pecking order. Besides, the young Gandhi does not want to go down the same road as his uncle Sanjay Gandhi and be viewed as a an extra-constitutional authority.

The Congress strategists are now fine-tuning the campaign to strike the right balance. They cannot over expose Rahul Gandhi as it will also unnecessarily throw open the debate on the leadership issue which has now been settled after the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi himself publicly declared that Manmohan Singh will be the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

The party cannot undersell Rahul Gandhi. He is the party’s star campaigner and is being projected as its future as the Congress is making a conscious effort to reach out to the large population of the young voters. “The party will project Rahul but we will have the right projection,” remarked a Congress leader involved in the party’s campaign.

The party’s pre-election campaign hoardings have focused on the message of ‘development, unity, and future’. Although the ‘aam aadmi’ has not found prominence so far, party strategists said the common man, who catapulted the party to power in the last election, would be the focus in the subsequent phases. Now that elections are drawing closer, the Congress is putting its “war team” together. On Saturday, Sonia Gandhi appointed former union minister Jairam Ramesh as the party's co-ordinator for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections.

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Mangalore Pub Case
Renuka defends NCW member’s sacking
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Choudhury today defended the decision of the government to strip National Commission for Women (NCW) member Nirmala Venkatesh of her responsibilities, and said there was nothing personal in the move.

Venkatesh had on an earlier occasion openly challenged the authority of the WCD Minister and gone to the extent of asking as to who Renuka Choudhury was.

When confronted today on this issue, Choudhury said Venkatesh’s statement made no difference to her.

“She is entitled to her opinion; what she says against me does not matter to me. There is nothing personal about the decision to remove Venkatesh from the NCW. The commission has a mandate and every member is supposed to follow. She failed to do so and in fact spoke against the interests of those very women she was supposed to guard,” Choudhury said, adding that the decision was taken by the full commission, and it was well-considered and well deliberated upon.

“Venkatesh violated the mandate of the NCW and attracted removal. Neither of us is above the rules that govern us,” the minister argued.

Venkatesh, for her part, was silent today. Sources close to her said she would clarify her position on Monday.

Back in the capital, Choudhury again slammed Sri Ram Sene chief Pramod Muthalik, saying the case slapped against her in a Mangalore court was “a diversionary tactic.” “They want to dilute the issue and deflect attention from the ongoing assaults on the liberty of women by Sri Rama Sene,” the minister said, wondering as to why Muthalik was bent upon registering a defamation case against those who launched a “pink underpant” campaign against him on the Valentine’s Day.

Muthalik has said the campaign has hurt his self respect. But the minister asked, “What about the respect of women he regularly beats up?”

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VCs of new central varsities appointed
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
Desperate to beat the model code of conduct expected to be enforced any time now, the government today approved the appointments of vice-chancellors to all 15 new central universities.

Decks for appointments were cleared after both Houses of Parliament passed the Central Universities Bill 2009 in the recent session. Of the 15 CUs, 12 are new while three have been upgraded from the state varsities.

Jairup Singh, current vice-chancellor of Guru Nanak Dev University has been appointed the VC of the University of Punjab (considered a Congress appointee, he had fallen on the wrong side of the ruling Akalis), Prof RC Sobti, whose term as the VC of Panjab University is shortly ending has been chosen to head the central university of Himachal Pradesh.

For Haryana University, the job has gone to Mool Chand Sharma, the current vice-chairman of UGC, considered close to Human Resource Development minister Arjun Singh, who wanted him to be UGC chairman. Sharma is reported to be ailing with cancer.

In the northern region, noted academician Abdul Wahid, the VC of Kashmir University until a year ago, has been recalled as the first VC of the Central University of Jammu and Kashmir. DT Khathing has bagged the post in Jharkhand.

The central university of Rajasthan will be headed by MM Salunkhe, while Jancy George will do the job in Kerala. AM Pathan will be the first VC of the University of Karnataka.

Incidentally, there is just one woman in the centre’s list of VCs -Surabhi Banerjee for the University of Orissa.

In Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Bihar, the centre has appointed BP Sanjay, RK Kale and Janak Pandey, respectively, to head the new and ambitious central varsities.

The VCs for three state universities upgraded as central will be NS Gajbhiye for Harisingh Gour Vishwavidyalaya, Sagar (Madhya Pradesh), SK Singh for Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna University in Uttarakhand and Lakshman Chaturvedi for Guru Ghasidas Vishwavidyalaya in Chhattisgarh.

The appointments, said the government, were made on the recommendations of a search committee headed by planning commission member Balchandra Mungekar.

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Panel suggests alternate crop cultivation
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
With more and more Indian farmers tempted to grow paddy due to its economic viability, a Parliamentary Committee has urged the government to encourage farmers to grow crops other than paddy to contain the growing methane emissions and avoid negative impacts of paddy cultivation on the environment and climate.

The committee, with members from Lok Sabha, Ministry of Agriculture and Rajya Sabha, including eminent agriculture scientist MS Swaminathan, to launch a nation-wide awareness campaign for farmers on watering their paddy fields.

Studies suggest that the agriculture sector contributes 28 per cent in climate change and out of that paddy or rice cultivation alone contributes 23 per cent by releasing methane, one of the greenhouse gases into the environment, directly contributing to global warming.

“The government should come out with a national policy or action plan, agro-climatic zone-wise suggesting and recommending alternate crop cultivation to bring economic prosperity to the farmers and at the same time avoid rise in global warming,” suggests the committee.

In its recent report on the impact of global climatic change on agriculture and allied sectors in India, the committee says in many areas of Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, UP and other paddy growing areas in the country, farmers are tempted to grow more and more paddy crop, even twice a year, because of their profit motives.

“Farmers neither have the back-up knowledge or awareness to grow other alternative crops which can bring them economic prosperity nor have any motivational incentives from the government to grow any crop other than paddy,” the panel says.

Scientists at the ICAR-IARI, however, claim that methane emissions from rice fields in India are much smaller than estimated by western agencies. “There are several studies done in India which have indicated low emission factors from Indian paddy fields due to low soil organic matter content, limited addition of organic materials and intermittent flooding contributions of large areas of rice fields,” they explain.

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Dad beats up ‘Slumdog’ kid

Mumbai, February 28
The dream run seems to be over for Azaharuddin Mohammed Ismail, the child star of Oscar-winning film "Slumdog Millionaire" with his father slapping him for refusing to give interviews to media.

The 10-year-old child, who was plucked from a Mumbai slum to play the young Salim in the multiple-Oscar-winning movie, has been living amid constant media scrutiny since his return home from Los Angeles.

Tired after a long flight, Azahar wanted to go to sleep and refused to come out to oblige the media.

His father Mohammed Ismail wanting to make the most of the newly acquired celebrity status of his son, got infuriated and slapped him. "I was being naughty. I did not want to give the interview as I was tired so he slapped me but he loves me," said Azhar.

Azhar returned back on Thursday to his shanty home in Mumbai's crowded slum after being in the media glare at the Oscar awards and later when he visited Disneyland.

He and Rubina, the young Salim and Latika in "Slumdog Millionaire", have shot to international fame post the phenomenal success of the film. — PTI

Renuka upset

New Delhi: Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Choudhury today condemned in the incident of slapping of Slumdog Millionaire child star Azharuddin by his father Mohd Ismail. Ismail slapped the child earlier after the latter refused to meet the press, on grounds of tiredness after a long return journey from Los Angeles. The WCD Minister said slapping a child was not permitted under laws. “We will look into this case,” she added. — TNS

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Now, Pinki can fulfil her dream

Varanasi, February 28
Pinki, a labourer’s daughter, who shot to stardom after a documentary on her won at the Oscars, can now fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor and treat people with cleft lip with an Indore-based medico today announcing free medical education for the girl.

BJP MLA and former UP minister Ajai Rai announced this on behalf of his friend Dr Vinod Bhandari at the Lal Bahadur Shastri airport today.

Rai said Pinki would be provided free medical education at Bhandari’s Arvindo Institute of Medical Sciences in Indore. Bhandari would also arrange for her free basic education. — PTI

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Maoists bomb railway station

Rourkela, February 28
In a pre-dawn raid, Maoists today bombed a railway station, stormed another and feared to have abducted two railway officials in Orissa's Sundergarh district, bringing train services on the Tatanagar-Rourkela route to a grinding halt.

About 60 Maoists, including women, struck Bhalulata railway station, 25 km from here on the Howrah-Mumbai section, and triggered explosions using landmines and powerful explosives, inspector in charge of Bisra police station CS Mohanty said.

The station building was virtually razed to the ground as its roof collapsed under the impact of the explosions, the railway police said, adding nobody was injured in the attack.

The Stationmaster, a gateman and a porter fled the scene and reappeared about four hours after the incident to resume duty, they said.

Another railway station at Chandiposh, about 30 km from here on Rourkela-Barasuan section, was also attacked by about 50 Maoists around the same time, the police said adding the ultras left after firing but Stationmaster SK Singh and his assistant Samir Mukherjee are missing since then.

The two are feared to have been abducted by the ultras and efforts are on to trace them, the police said. — PTI

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45 militants give up arms in Assam
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, February 28
As many as 45 militants, including 32 from the banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), today surrendered before the Army at the base of 21 Mountain Division of the Indian Army at Rangiya near here.

There were two women cadres among the 32 ULFA militants who surrendered. Five of the militants were from National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), six from Karbi Longri North Cachar Liberation Front (KLNLF), one from Muslim United Liberation Tiger of Assam (MULTA) and one from People’s Liberation Front of Manipur (PLFM).

The militants deposited a large number of arms, ammunition and explosives, including AK series rifles, RDX, pistols and live ammunition. Welcoming the militants to the mainstream, Maj Gen Chander Prakash, GOC of 21 Mountain Division of the Army, lauded the conviction, courage and decision of the militants to take the pledge to give up arms and join the mainstream.

The ULFA militants who surrendered today included cadres from the outfit’s three active battalions 709, 27 and 109. Army officials said more militants were expected to give up arms soon as frustration had taken deep root among ULFA cadres that was heading nowhere with leaders staying in safe sanctuaries abroad.

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HC Violence
TN lawyers meet Justice Krishna
Tribune News Service

Chennai, February 28
Leaders of the advocates’ association today met Justice BN Sri Krishna, appointed by the Supreme Court, to inquire about the February 19 Madras High Court violence and explained to him about the incidents on that day.

The former judge, who arrived here last night, commenced his probe at the Judicial Academy at Adyar this morning. He was assisted by CBI officials Ashok Kumar and Kandaswamy, apart from a registrar from the high court.

A five-member team of advocates, led by Vaigai, met the justice and gave their account of the violence and explained how lawyers were attacked by the police. They were followed by another team led by Madras Bar Council president Krishnamurthy and secretary Loganathan.

Later, a group of advocates led by Madras High Court Advocates Association president Paul Kanagaraj met the justice and explained about the ‘unprecedented violence’.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has appealed to the lawyers to return to work since all their demands had been conceded.

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India faces leadership crisis: Jaitley

Mumbai, February 28
Lashing out at the Centre for failure on economic, national security and foreign policy fronts, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley today said the country is facing a serious leadership crisis.

“A strong leadership is the art of forging a consensus. At present, an optical illusion is being created about a de facto leader and de jure leader. When the Prime Minister needs to be the captain, he is seen as a nightwatchman,” Jaitley said, while inaugurating friendsofbjp.org website here. It is time to reject leadership on the strength of one’s surname rather than merit, adding a mature democracy could not be ruled by one family alone, he said.

“BJP is the only party of delivering and even critics concede LK Advani’s clarity and decisiveness,” he said.

“The need of the hour is to go back to the era of structured political parties,” he said. Many other political parties are following the “Congress model of dynasty. Such kind of captive governance should become liberal and merit should replace the surname,” said Jaitley.

He also called for the need to consolidate anti-Congress and non-Congress space in support of the BJP. “The third force comprises men of great principles who know the art of keeping themselves in power. Such parties add to the political instability in the country,” he said. He said absence of decision-making in the UPA government had led to a disarray in the economic sector and the country had become very insecure in the last five years. — PTI

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Advani: Security biggest concern for Indians
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Flays pub attack

The BJP leader condemned the attack on women in a Mangalore pub by members of the Sri Ram Sene, a right-wing Hindu group. He said the attack was an assault on Indian culture. “I condemn the attack on girls in Mangalore. There can be no compromise on this. It is wrong and against Indian culture and ethos.”

Bangalore, February 28
BJP leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha LK Advani today said the problem of terrorism could be effectively tackled only if the common citizens unite to play a vigilant role to foil the design of the terrorists.

Speaking at the valedictory function organised by the BJP government in the state to mark the end of its one-month long anti-terrorism campaign among the college students in Karnataka, a programme which was dubbed by the Congress as anti-Muslim, Advani said the terrorist outfit Al-Qaida was unable to carry out any strike inside the USA after the 9/11 because the common man there had become more watchful.

He said in Israel too people were vigilant and as a result the terrorists had been unsuccessful in inflicting any damage to that country. “The principal problem before the our countrymen is security”, Advani said, adding that the issue, in the present scenario, was more important than price rise or unemployment.”

But stringent security measures in India, such as the ones in place in airports in the USA, would not be appreciated and would rather attract criticism in the media, he said. “I have read a lot about Al-Qaida. Their first two targets are USA and Israel. India figures next on their list,” Advani said.

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Gujarat riots: Missing to be declared dead

Ahmedabad, February 28
Those who are missing since the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat are soon to be declared dead by the authorities with the expiry of seven years’ stipulated time.

As a result, official death figure of 2002 riots will go up from 952 to 1180, as 228 persons, who are missing, will be presumed to be dead after seven years.

As per the law, any person, who is missing for seven years, is declared dead after the stipulated period.

“We have prepared a list of missing people and sent it to the revenue department, which would declare the missing persons as dead,” Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Balwant Singh told here.

Meanwhile, Ahmedabad collector Harit Shukla said the final list of missing people from the police was awaited.

“Once we have the list, we will start the process of declaring them as dead, inform the civic authorities to prepare their death certificate and subsequently, compensation claims will be processed,” he added.

The largest number of missing persons are from Ahmedabad city with the figures of 99. In Panchamahal (76), Dahod (17), Ahmedabad district (9), Sabarkantha (9), Baroda (15), Anand (2) and Surat (1) people are missing. Families of those, who are missing would be able to claim full compensation as paid to those who died during the riots, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), which is probing some of the cases afresh, has already revised death toll of Naroda Patia and Naroda village massacres. — PTI

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Two I-T officers in CBI net
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, February 28
The Central Bureau of Investigation has arrested two senior officers of the Income Tax department for holding assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. According to CBI officials, they were acting on a complaint filed by a builder who alleged that I-T officials looking into his assessment records had demanded bribes from him. On Thursday, the CBI sleuths arrested Income Tax officer TV Mohan. His immediate boss additional commissioner KM Keshkamat was arrested after investigators allegedly established that Mohan was collecting bribes on his behalf.

Bank lockers belonging to Mohan and Keshkamat in Mumbai, Belgaum and Goa have been sealed and searches are on, sources said. Cash and gold worth crores of rupees have been seized so far, said the CBI.

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Teacher shot at by student in Lucknow

Lucknow, February 28
In a bizzare incident, a class X student Shivam Trivedi in the state capital today shot at his teacher Akhilesh Mishra, who scolded him for not putting on the school uniform.

Shivam, a student of Red Rose Intermediate College in the Sarojni Nagar area, had gone to collect his admit card for the CBSE board examination commencing on March 4 next.

Infuriated at the teacher's scolding, he came back to his Vishnupuri residence and took out his father's licenced revolver. He shot at his teacher after going to school again.

SP Harish Kumar said Shivam fired upon the teacher just outside the school campus. The boy's father is a Railway official. He said the condition of the teacher, admitted at the Trauma centre of Chatrapati Sahuji Maharaj Medical University, was out of danger and efforts were on to nab the schoolboy, who is absconding since the incident. — UNI

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