SPECIAL COVERAGE
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LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Rejection of Poll Symbol
Chiranjeevi to move SC
Hyderabad, March 3
Caught in a logjam in the wake of Election Commission rejecting a common symbol for his fledgling Praja Rajyam Party, the actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi is preparing to move the Supreme Court to seek relief.

Bill curbing corruption passed in Bihar
Patna, March 3
The Bihar Assembly today passed the Anti-Corruption Bill, officially named as “Bihar Special Court Bill-2009” by voice vote. After getting the nod of the Upper House (Bihar Legislative Council) and the Governor and approval of the Centre on certain clauses, the Bill would take the shape of an Act.

AP issues record govt orders
Hyderabad, March 3
Virtually racing against time, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh issued a record number of 387 Government Orders (GOs) yesterday when the Election Commission (EC) announced the poll schedule.



EARLIER STORIES


No plans to contest: Priyanka
Amethi, March 3
A day after the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today took charge of the election campaign for mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi. She also made it clear that she had no other political ambitions. Answering a few questions after a meeting of Congress workers of Munshiganj, she admitted that the demand from the local workers for her taking up a more active role in politics was not new.
Priyanka Vadra greets people during her visit to Amethi on Tuesday. — PTI
Priyanka Vadra greets people during her visit to Amethi on Tuesday

13 new faces on CPM list
Kolkata, March 3
Announcing their list for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, Left Front chairman Biman Bose today admitted that they would have to fight a tough poll battle since the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and other reactionary forces had been united against them.

A simulated enemy target being destroyed by laser-guided bombs of Jaguar aircraft during an air-to-ground weapons demonstration and seminar at the Pokhran Firing Range on Tuesday.
A simulated enemy target being destroyed by laser-guided bombs of Jaguar aircraft during an air-to-ground weapons demonstration and seminar at the Pokhran Firing Range on Tuesday. — PTI

PM back to work
New Delhi, March 3
More than a month after he underwent surgery, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have his first official engagement tomorrow when he holds talks with Benin’s President Boni Yayi.

Punjab: Cong plan to tackle candidate glut
New Delhi, March 3
Faced with a reality that several of 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab could have five-seven claimants each, the Congress today devised a formula to tackle what could spiral out into another controversy in the faction-ridden Punjab unit of the party.

DMK-Cong ties intact, says Karuna
Chennai, March 3
Asserting that the ties between his party and the Congress were intact, DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today slammed a section of the media for allegedly attempting to create a rift between the two.

CIC pulls up PM’s office
New Delhi, March 3
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has expressed its unhappiness with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) over its “irresponsible behaviour” and the response shown over information sought by the commission following an application moved by a resident of Mohali, Punjab.

Drugs taxing pockets: Report
New Delhi, March 3
The Independent Commission on Development and Health in India has released a report that reveals an average Indian directs 75 per cent of his total healthcare expenditure just to meet the cost of therapeutic drugs.

Treat for Rajdhani passengers
Kolkata, March 3
Passengers travelling to New Delhi from Howrah today by 2301 Howrah-Rajdhani Express train could not believe their luck when they received special gift packet from Eastern Railways that contained a silver coin memento, a brochure, sweets and red roses. A VIP treatment was accorded to 800-odd passengers at the time of their journey to the country’s national capital.

Despite poll code, Sobti gets extension
New Delhi, March 3
Following a recommendation from the Punjab government, the Vice-President of India, in his capacity as a Chancellor, gave an extension of term to Panjab University Vice-Chancellor RC Sobti in a late night development here. His term is due to end in July this year.

Central Varsities
Appointment of V-Cs to be challenged today
New Delhi, March 3
Inexplicable haste displayed by the government in appointing the Vice-Chancellors of 15 new Central Universities (CUs) has raised serious propriety concerns in the academic circles, with the appointments set to be challenged in the Supreme Court tomorrow.





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Rejection of Poll Symbol
Chiranjeevi to move SC
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 3
Caught in a logjam in the wake of Election Commission rejecting a common symbol for his fledgling Praja Rajyam Party, the actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi is preparing to move the Supreme Court to seek relief.

“We are examining all legal aspects. There are other options, including borrowing a symbol of a regional or a national party,” PRP spokesman P Prabhakar said.

Following the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s directive to re-consider its earlier decision not to allot common symbol for the six-month-old party, the Election Commission took a re-look at the issue but concluded that the amended provisions governing the election symbols do not permit allotment of a common symbol for the party.

As per the rules, a political outfit will be recognised as a state-level party and allotted a common symbol for its candidates only if it has secured at least six per cent of the total votes polled in the state and won a minimum of two Assembly seats.

However, the PRP, floated by the matinee idol of Telugu cinema in August last year, is yet to face elections.

The poll panel sent a six-page communication to the PRP yesterday, quoting the provisions of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) (Amendment) Order 2005 under which a political party, which had not contested any elections was not entitled for a common symbol.

Under the existing electoral rules, the PRP is only a registered party but not a recognised party. If it fails to break the logjam over symbol issue, it will be a virtual nightmare for its candidates contesting the next month’s elections, as each one of them will have to choose from the available free symbols.

The PRP is set to argue before the court that given the popularity of Chiranjeevi and the size of the party membership, it was entitled for a common election symbol.

“We hope that the Election Commission will invoke special inherent powers and allot us the symbol,” Prabhakar said.

The PRP is also exploring possibility of borrowing an election symbol of any other national or regional party for the purpose of contesting the elections.

However, several complex legal and political issues may arise in such an arrangement as the victorious candidates will technically belong to the party from which the symbol was borrowed and the PRP may face identity problem.

The support for the actor came from an unexpected corner with Nationalist Congress Party, headed by Sharad Pawar, offering its “clock” symbol to the PRP.

The EC’s order had triggered panic in the actor’s camp as the absence of a common symbol could prove disastrous for the party, which is hoping to capture power in the state on the twin planks of change and social justice.

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Bill curbing corruption passed in Bihar
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 3
The Bihar Assembly today passed the Anti-Corruption Bill, officially named as “Bihar Special Court Bill-2009” by voice vote. After getting the nod of the Upper House (Bihar Legislative Council) and the Governor and approval of the Centre on certain clauses, the Bill would take the shape of an Act.

Sources in the Law Department said once the Act comes into force, it would add more teeth to the government in its efforts to rein in corruption by pursuing cases against corrupt officials in the special courts through speedy trial. Besides serving public servants and Peoples Representatives, the retired government employees would also come under its purview. The special courts would be set up by the state government in consultation with the Patna High Court and judicial officers in the rank of District and Sessions Judge or Additional District and Sessions Judge would preside over these courts. These Special Courts would be open to any one with credible information.

Notably, the Nitish Kumar government, soon after coming to power, not only strengthened the Investigation Bureau of its Cabinet Vigilance Department to crackdown corruption in government offices, but also set up a Special Vigilance Unit (SVU) comprising retired officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take on the corrupt officers at high and mighty places. The results were also encouraging. More than 250 officials, including a District Magistrate, doctors, engineers, state administrative service officers, station house officers, and so on were trapped red-handed while accepting graft by vigilance sleuths in the last three years.

The SVU also raided the house of an ex-DGP, a senior IAS officer and many other senior officers of the state service and lodged cases against them for possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. But by the admission of the Chief Minister, it was not enough. The existing laws were not stringent enough for nailing in the corrupt public servants, bureaucrats and Peoples Representatives.

The Bihar Special Court Bill-2009 has also made provisions for trial of the All-India Service Officers serving under the state government.

Under the existing rules and law, IAS and IPS officers had the immunity of being prosecuted by the state government only after getting the prosecution sanction from their parent department (Union government’s Personnel and Home Department) and the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). But once the Bihar Special Court Act comes into force, this immunity will become a thing of the past.

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AP issues record govt orders
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 3
Virtually racing against time, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh issued a record number of 387 Government Orders (GOs) yesterday when the Election Commission (EC) announced the poll schedule.

The GOs, pertaining to sanction of funds for various works, were churned out at breakneck speed of over one per minute during the day, prompting the Opposition parties to raise allegations of election- code violations.

State Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) I V Subba Rao made it clear that poll code of conduct came into force from 3.30 pm and any government order issued after the deadline would be examined and declared invalid if found to be in violation of the poll code.

The Election Commission, he said, would call for the details of all GOs and relevant action would be taken if they were issued after the deadline conferring benefits to different social groups.

Meanwhile, a delegation of the four-party Opposition alliance, comprising TDP, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, CPI and CPM, met the CEO and submitted a memorandum accusing the government of throwing the election code to the winds and issuing GOs indiscriminately to benefit people close to the ruling party bigwigs.

“The staff at the state Secretariat was made to work overtime to clear the GOs,” N Janardhan Reddy, TDP Deputy Floor Leader in the Assembly, alleged.

A majority of GOs pertained to revenue, municipal administration and panchayatraj departments, covering transfers, sanction of new posts and funds for development schemes.

With the election code coming into effect, the Chief Minister and ministers are barred from announcing and inaugurating schemes and using official vehicles, the election official said.

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No plans to contest: Priyanka
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Amethi, March 3
A day after the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra today took charge of the election campaign for mother Sonia Gandhi and brother Rahul Gandhi. She also made it clear that she had no other political ambitions.

Answering a few questions after a meeting of Congress workers of Munshiganj, she admitted that the demand from the local workers for her taking up a more active role in politics was not new. “However, I will only take responsibility of the election campaign of my mother and brother.”

When asked to comment on BJP leader L K Advani’s comments on Rahul, she clarified that she was not a political leader and hence not in a position to comment.

Earlier, while addressing the heads of the party’s nyaya panchayat, gram panchayat and block-level committees, she informed them of taking up the responsibility of the twin campaigns of Rae Bareli and Amethi.

Motivating the workers of Rahul’s constituency, she said: “Winning this seat is a forgone conclusion. Not that anyone can defeat him here. But no one can defeat the love and affection that you have showered on him. He is my elder brother as well as yours”, she said amidst loud cheering.

Alerting the workers against rumours that float during such times, she urged them to start campaigning in full earnest. She also promised to return next week to tour her mother’s constituency of Rae Bareli and meet the workers there.

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13 new faces on CPM list
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, March 3
Announcing their list for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal, Left Front chairman Biman Bose today admitted that they would have to fight a tough poll battle since the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and other reactionary forces had been united against them.

Addressing mediapersons, Bose alleged that the Congress and the Trinamool Congress were united only to grab and enjoy power at the cost of the existing peace and progress of the state.

Bose said they had decided to contest all 42 Lok Sabha seats under the Left Front’s banner and the poll strategy had been prepared accordingly.

Like the previous elections, the CPM would contest from 32 seats and the RSP four, while the remaining six would be shared with equal number of seats by two other major parties, the CPI and the Forward Bloc.

Following the party’s basic guidelines of the selection of candidates, the CPM nominated 13 new candidates, while the 19 others were the old faces. There were two women candidates on the CPM’s list.

As expected, Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee was denied ticket and instead Dr Ramchandra Dom would contest from the Bolpur seat. A much weaker candidate Mirganga Bhattacharyya of the CPM was selected to contest against Congress heavy weight Pranab Mukherjee from Jangipur Constituency in Murshidabad, while Rabin Dev would fight the Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata south constituency.

CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta was nominated to contest in the Ghatal seat (formerly Panskura) and Lakshman Seth of the CPM from the Haldia constituency.

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PM back to work
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 3
More than a month after he underwent surgery, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will have his first official engagement tomorrow when he holds talks with Benin’s President Boni Yayi.

The meeting, however, will take place at his 7, Race Course Road residence and not at the Majestic Hyderabad House where such engagements traditionally take place.

Singh is expected to hold extensive talks besides witnessing signing of some agreements between the two countries.

Doctors attending on the Prime Minister say he is recovering fast and should be in a position to return to his routine official work soon.

The Beninis President is the first head of state to visit India after Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev came to New Delhi on January 23 as the chief guest at the Republic Day.

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Punjab: Cong plan to tackle candidate glut
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 3
Faced with a reality that several of 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab could have five-seven claimants each, the Congress today devised a formula to tackle what could spiral out into another controversy in the faction-ridden Punjab unit of the party.

This morning the AICC nominees for Punjab — Mohsina Kidwai, Janardhan Divedi and Kumari Selja — met Punjab leaders Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Mohinder Singh Kaypee, Capt Amarinder Singh, Ambika Soni and Ashwami Kumar among others.

The AICC nominees met each of the senior leaders separately to elicit their views. Sources said each of the leaders gave their opinion on who should contest which seat. Some of the names were common but largely meeting threw up a gamut of names. At the outset it was decided that the three nominees would not meet the leaders collectively as that would have caused confusion and also increased the possibility of information leaking out as to who was backing whom.

Now it has been decided that work of shortlisting will be done by the four-member scrutiny committee and finally whetted by the high command. The party is concerned over the factionalism and decided that the screening committee would not shortlist or suggest any name as this could lead to further polarisation. The state unit would make a three-member panel for each seat. The scrutiny committee will then whittle it down to two names or one name before it is cleared by the high command.

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DMK-Cong ties intact, says Karuna

Chennai, March 3
Asserting that the ties between his party and the Congress were intact, DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi today slammed a section of the media for allegedly attempting to create a rift between the two.

Referring to reports in a section of the media that some Congress workers had told AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad here yesterday that the party should go with the AIADMK, he wrote in the party organ ‘Murasoli’ that if it was true, they should not forget the personal attacks on Congress president Sonia Gandhi by AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa in 2004. — PTI

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CIC pulls up PM’s office
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 3
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has expressed its unhappiness with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) over its “irresponsible behaviour” and the response shown over information sought by the commission following an application moved by a resident of Mohali, Punjab.

In its order of January 19, Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the “failure” on the part of the PMO to provide information had “caused unnecessary inconvenience to all parties, including the public authority itself”.

The order further said that it was “quite unbecoming of an Appellate Authority of an institution as august as the Prime Minister’s Office,” for being dismissive about information sought and that the PMO must note the observations made for the future disposal of Right To Information (RTI) cases.

Incidentally, the appellant sought to withdraw his application in the wake of lack of information forthcoming from the PMO. An application was moved in the CIC by HB Malhotra of Mohali where he wanted to have information from the PMO on whether it agreed that the “ill-intentioned and calculated” campaign launched by elements and groups to denigrate the judiciary and the judges was “highly objectionable, distasteful and intolerable in nature.”

Malhotra also wanted to know, besides other things, that to maintain the honour and dignity of the judiciary and the judges whether the government would take substantial measures in the matter especially to “ensure that the majesty and the sanctity of the administration of justice, in no way, be allowed to be humiliated and insulted”. The initial application had been moved by Malhotra on April 20, 2007.

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Drugs taxing pockets: Report
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 3
The Independent Commission on Development and Health in India has released a report that reveals an average Indian directs 75 per cent of his total healthcare expenditure just to meet the cost of therapeutic drugs.

All thanks to continued overcharging by pharmaceutical firms, poor public spending in the private sector and a weak health insurance system.

The finding is corroborated by the increasing instances of overcharging by pharmaceutical firms in the country. Enquiries reveal that since the inception of National Pharmaceuatical Pricing Authority (NPPA) in August 1997, the government has issued demand notices in 614 cases of drug overcharging to pharmaceutical firms.

The amount of recovery to be made against overcharged cost of medicines is a significant Rs 1954.53 crore. Of this, only Rs 140.87 crore i.e., 7.1 per cent has been recovered while a major part of the remaining amount is under litigation.

Rural households spend less, i.e., 77.33 per cent of total heathcare spending on drugs as compared to the urban (96.18 per cent).

It documents a depressing anomaly - economically richer states (Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and delhi) are spending relatively less out-of-pocket on drugs (less than 70 per cent of total health expenditure) than their poor counterparts - Orissa, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Worse still is the fact that 73 per cent of the expenditure on drugs in India goes only towards meeting the cost of drugs (mainly on account of an unregulated drug market).

“Higher expenditure on drugs in economically poor states is explained by the fact that the aggregate public health expenditure in these states is below a critical mass for ensuring viable healthcare,” states the report. It shows poor states are spending only 5 per cent of the public health expenditure (PHE) on drugs; this percentage is 15 for rich states. Most of the PHE, it is revealed, goes into salaries for service providers.

The report recommends regulation of drug sector and use of generic drugs in the primary healthcare system. These recommendations are important, considering the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers’ admission that Indian consumers are paying six to 32 times more than the retailers’ purchase price for some drugs, mainly nimesulide (anti-inflammatory), omeprazole (for gastric ulcers) and cetrizine (anti-histamine).

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Treat for Rajdhani passengers
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, March 3
Passengers travelling to New Delhi from Howrah today by 2301 Howrah-Rajdhani Express train could not believe their luck when they received special gift packet from Eastern Railways that contained a silver coin memento, a brochure, sweets and red roses. A VIP treatment was accorded to 800-odd passengers at the time of their journey to the country’s national capital.

The occasion was to celebrate the 40th year of the first run of the superfast train from the Job Charnock’s city to the country’s national capital. On the occasion, the train, as well as the Howrah station premises, was decorated with colourful lights and flowers. A philatelic exhibition was also arranged on the station premises.

Host of mediapersons, few dignitaries and film personalities like actor Prasenjit Chatterjee and director Haranath Chakraborty, were invited to grace the occasion.

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Despite poll code, Sobti gets extension
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 3
Following a recommendation from the Punjab government, the Vice-President of India, in his capacity as a Chancellor, gave an extension of term to Panjab University Vice-Chancellor RC Sobti in a late night development here. His term is due to end in July this year.

The extension comes at a time when the model code of conduct is in operation following the declaration of general elections by the Election Commission of India yesterday. Sobti, was on February 28, appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the new Central University in Himachal Pradesh - a proposal he has declined to accept following today’s development.

When contacted tonight, Sobti confirmed to The Tribune his extension for another three years as the PU V-C and said the same would be applicable from July. He added that his extension was legal and the model code had no bearing on it as the process for the same was initiated way back in December last.

Questions are, however, being raised about the rush of notifying Sobti’s extension of term today when the model code is in operation and when the said V-C’s term is not even yet ending. It is ending in July.

“This is an extension, not a new appointment. Legally, it is fine. We have kept all legal aspects into consideration,” Sobti said. That apart, sources say such extensions of term for an academic post as high as that of a V-C at the time of model code of conduct need to be defined properly to ensure no room is left for confusion.

“The law needs to be interpreted properly. So far as I understand the Panjab University Act, it provides only for another term and not extension. If that is so, extension of term for a V-C at the time of model code of conduct appears to be a violation,” said Prof BS Dahiya, former V-C, Kurukshetra University, and current incumbent of the Saroop Singh Chair at KU.

Sobti, however, categorically said rules permitted extension as it was not a fresh appointment. It is noteworthy, however, that interviews for upgrading of posts from lecturers to readers and readers to professors (at Panjab University, Chandigarh) were just advanced, on account of the model code of conduct.

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Central Varsities
Appointment of V-Cs to be challenged today
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 3
Inexplicable haste displayed by the government in appointing the Vice-Chancellors of 15 new Central Universities (CUs) has raised serious propriety concerns in the academic circles, with the appointments set to be challenged in the Supreme Court tomorrow.

The appointments are being seen as grossly improper considering the arbitrary processes followed for selections - including the fact that the advertisement inviting applications didn’t mention any criteria whatsoever for short-listing of candidates.

The appointees were not interviewed even when high leadership qualities were required of them as they would be setting up universities from the scratch and expending vast resources. Each CU has an annual budget of about Rs 500 crore.

“How is this process any different than handpicking anyone for the job? Whereas you have elaborate recruiting procedures for a lecturer, you have none for the first V-C of a prestigious CU. This is subversion of procedure at the highest level,” says a senior professor.

The process followed reveals that only one search committee selected all 15 V-Cs; the norm is to have one committee for each such appointment. Also, the committee sifted through a whopping 1,500 applications in just 27 days before recommending a panel for each of the 15 universities. The candidates were given only 13 days to apply - against DoPT norms that say a minimum of 45 days should be given.

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