SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Resolve Indo-Pak issues for an Asian century: Mush
Former Team India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin talks to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at an ASSOCHAM interactive session in New Delhi New Delhi, March 8
Seeking not to tread on the path of contentious issues, former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today sought the resolution of all disputes between Pakistan and India for them to expand their economic ties and claim their place in an Asian century.

Former Team India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin talks to former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at an ASSOCHAM interactive session in New Delhi on Sunday. A Tribune photograph

SP-Cong marriage on the rocks
Mulayam issues fresh list; leaves just 6 seats to Cong
New Delhi, March 8
The Congress-Samajwadi Party marriage in Uttar Pradesh finally appears on the rocks, with the latter today making alliance prospects with its recent partner even grimmer by announcing 10 more candidates for the Lok Sabha elections from the state. This leaves the Congress with just six seats in the state.

LS getting older with increase in average  age of MPs
New Delhi, March 8
Political parties may be eyeing the youth to hit the bull’s eye every election, but figures show that Lok Sabha is getting “older” polls after polls if one goes by the average age of MPs.






EARLIER STORIES

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav with party general secretary Amar Singh join hands with Virendra Singh (R) and Yasvir Singh (L) at a press conference as the latter dump the Rashtriya Lok Dal in New Delhi
Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav with party general secretary Amar Singh join hands with Virendra Singh (R) and Yasvir Singh (L) at a press conference as the latter dump the Rashtriya Lok Dal in New Delhi on Sunday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

Husband liable to maintain estranged wife: Court
New Delhi, March 8
A man is liable to maintain his estranged wife even if he does not possess any property or does not have a regular source of income, a Delhi court has said. “A married man more so a Hindu is under a legal and moral obligation to maintain his estranged wife even if he does not possess any property or has no income. The obligation to maintain her is personal in character and arises from the very existence of the relationship,” Additional Sessions Judge Nivedita Anil Sharma said.

Charities funding terror in Pak: US 
New Delhi, March 8
The United States has said many charities in Pakistan act as channels to fund terrorist organisations, besides providing material support.

Govt to put 1,500 yoga poses on record 
New Delhi, March 8
The Indian government has started the exercise of putting on record as many as 1,500 yoga postures, in its efforts to prevent the traditional practice from being pirated elsewhere in the world. The move will also prevent foreign countries from patenting these postures, also known as asanas.

Bardhan bets on post-poll alliances
New Delhi, March 8
The Left parties would sit in Opposition but not bring down a UPA government in which Congress is a mere participant and not the dominant partner, if such a combination emerged after the elections. This emerged at a TV interview that Karan Thapar had with CPI leader A B Bardhan, aired on Sunday evening. Bardhan’s comments came a month after his CPM counterpart Prakash Karat earlier said he could not rule out supporting a secular government in which the Congress may be a part but would not be leading it.

‘Cash for votes’ far from rare, says study
New Delhi, March 8
They may be among the country’s best performing states, but when it comes to elections, a very large number of voters in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu take bribes to vote. So says the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies (CMS).

Differently abled worst hit by recession
New Delhi, March 8
Recessionary trends have severely impacted job markets for differently abled persons as their recruitment has been frozen by many companies in both the public and private sectors.
A road-roller crushes bottles of illegal liquor worth Rs 23 lakh seized by the Surat railway police
A road-roller crushes bottles of illegal liquor worth Rs 23 lakh seized by the Surat railway police on Sunday. — PTI

‘NSG men were shocked to find aviation crew missing’
New Delhi, March 8
Elite NSG commandos, on their way to Mumbai to fight terrorists in the early hours of November 27, were in for a rude shock when they found crew of the Aviation Research Centre plane missing.

Now, a ‘violation index’ to check campaigners
New Delhi, March 8
As part of its efforts to enforce the model code of conduct effectively, the Election Commission has asked poll officials to prepare a “violation index” to meticulously track candidates and star campaigners in the ensuing elections.

One-third of complaints  with NHRC against cops 
New Delhi, March 8
In what may be of concern to law enforcement agencies, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has received more complaints of rights violation against the police rather than against "mafias and underworld elements".

Acquisition of ‘Jai ho’ rights ironic: Najma
Nagpur, March 8
Rajya Sabha member and former deputy chairman of the Upper House, Najma Heptullah, today said the acquisition of the rights for “Jai ho” song from “Slumdog Millionaire” by the Congress was ironical since the party was singularly responsible for India's poverty and hunger, which the movie had peddled to win the awards.

For them, every day is a women’s day
Kolkata, March 8
For hundreds of young women in this metropolis, International Women’s Day was like any other day today in their lives, as they went out to work in various fields once considered as male bastions.

Violation of poll code 
UDF complains against SDF

Gangtok, March 8
The United Democratic Front (UDF), a representative body of the Opposition parties, has asked the Election Commission (EC) to take action against the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) for violating the model code of conduct by allegedly spending Rs 5 crore on the foundation day celebrations of the ruling party four days ago.

Canada’s research award for Delhi IIT prof
Chandigarh, March 8
A professor in electrical engineering at the Delhi IIT will team up with a researcher of the University of British Columbia to conduct joint research on the most pressing problems of wireless communication system design. The award to the Indo-Canadian team is at the behest of the International Research Chairs Initiative (IRCI).

Rs 1,500 cr to keep democracy going
Chandigarh, March 8
How expensive is a general election? Though provisional figures suggest that the previous general election, held in 2004, cost the country or the State Rs 1,300 crore, elections are becoming costlier and more techno-savy with every new edition.

Low production makes sugar costlier
Chandigarh, March 8
High sugar price is leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of most of its consumers. In the past one year, the price has shot up by almost Rs 9.50 per kg - from Rs 14 per kg in March 2007 to Rs 23.50 per kg at present.

Assam police has no ammo for AK-47s
Guwahati, March 8
A couple of thousand AK-47 assault rifles are lying idle in the weaponry of Assam police for the simple reason that there is no ammunition to fire. Not only that, sophisticated INSAS rifles procured for the force that is fighting well-armed insurgents, too, are lying unused, courtesy defective planning.

TN cracks down on LTTE supporters
Chennai, March 8
The Tamil Nadu police today cracked down on LTTE supporters in the state, arresting many persons including MDMK propaganda secretary Nanjil Sampath and popular film director Seeman. A case was registered against the MDMK leader at Tiruppur in western Tamil Nadu where he participated in a public meeting titled “Is Eelam Tamilian an orphan” (Eelam is the homeland of Sri Lankan Tamils).

Madras HC Violence
Lawyers reject CJ’s truce talk

Chennai, March 8
Sriking a defiant posture, Tamil Nadu lawyers today rejected pleas by designated Chief Justice of Madras High Court Hemant Laxman Gokhale to abandon their court boycott and asserted that it would continue till the police officials responsible for lathicharge on them were suspended.

MP Girdhari Bhargava dead
Ahmedabad, March 8
Veteran BJP leader and six-time MP from Rajasthan Girdhari Lal Bhargava died following a massive heart attack here this morning, according to party sources.

110 held in farmhouse party raid
Bangalore, March 8 
The police raided a farmhouse at a village in Ramanagara district, about 25 km from here, early today and detained 110 persons, including 20 women, engaged in a party.

Tribune adalat
Statement of provident fund not provided

I wrote to the Central Public Information Officer, Punjab National Bank, Head Office: New Delhi, asking for the statement of my provident fund (A/c No. 48097) for the period 1.10.2006 to 31.1.2007 on 24.3.2007.

IIT, IIM grads in fray
Lucknow, March 8
At least 40 graduates of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) will contest for seats in the Lok Sabha, promises the Bharat Punarnirman Dal ( BPD) national president, Ajit Shukla. Eight candidates have already been finalised for constituencies like South and East Delhi, Lucknow and Hyderabad etc., says Shukla, who himself has a M.Tech degree from IIT, Bombay.

Parties launch sop operas
Hyderabad, March 8
It is raining sops in Andhra Pradesh as two major contenders for power-TDP and actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party-unveiled their draft manifestoes yesterday, doling out promises ranging from colour televisions to electronic cash transfer to poor families.

Accused want chargesheet in Urdu
Mumbai, March 8
Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin, the two Indians accused in the November 26 terror strikes here, have requested a local court to translate the 11,000-page chargesheet file into Urdu.

Two Syrians held with elephant tusks
Ahmedabad, March 8
Two Syrian nationals were arrested at Sardar Patel International Airport here on Sunday for attempting to take away elephant tusks, a customs official said.

20 women among 110 held in party raid
Bangalore, March 8 
The police raided a farmhouse at a village in Ramanagara district, about 25 km from here, early today and detained 110 persons, including 20 women, engaged in a party.

Pollscape
Pinki vs Mayawati

Will Pinki smile ? Or will Mayawati have the last laugh ? For those with short memory, Pinki Sonkar, protagonist of the Oscar-winning documentary, is all set for her new role as a political campaigner. “ With the help of Pinki, we will unmask the anti-Dalit face of Mayawati,” says National Dalit Front general secretary Udit Raj. Pinki’s parents, he claimed, have agreed to let her take part in public meetings. Raj also admitted giving Rs 5,000 to the family as “cash reward”. Mayawati, he alleged, had done nothing for the family. The Maharashtra Government at least allotted flats in Mumbai to the slum children who featured in the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire, he cribbed.






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Resolve Indo-Pak issues for an Asian century: Mush
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
Seeking not to tread on the path of contentious issues, former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today sought the resolution of all disputes between Pakistan and India for them to expand their economic ties and claim their place in an Asian century.

After his valedictory address at the India Today conclave where Musharraf urged for the resolution of Indo-Pak issues, the former Pakistan President was today speaking at an interactive lunch organised by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham).

“This century is the century of geo-economics. It’s the economy, which will drive nations towards development and people towards their welfare…This century is going to be an Asian century. Are we ready to be part of this Asian century?” Musharraf sought an answer from the businessmen present at the meet.

“We are out of the loop because of the conflict between India and Pakistan,” he underlined while comparing the Indian and Pakistani economies with that of China and Southeast Asia.

Last night Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan for about nine years, had asked India and Pakistan to shed the burden of history, and grasp the opportunity to resolve the Kashmir issue.

At the meet with the businessmen he again stressed on the need for expanding economic and commercial ties between Pakistan and India and among other nations in South Asia. This he said was important for scaling up economic engagement between South Asia and Central Asia.

This economic potential, he stressed, will not be realised unless India and Pakistan resolve all disputes and usher in an era of peace, harmony and friendship. “We can have permanent peace through the resolution of disputes. Peace and harmony are preconditions to improving business ties,” he said.

Musharraf, who is likely to return to Islamabad tomorrow seemed a different person than that who incidentally, had also raised heckles last night after linking the rise in extremism in the region to the resolution of the Kashmir issue. He chose to stay clear of controversial issues.

Speaking at the India Today conclave he also irked many in the audience by speaking about the alienation of the Muslims in India and by equating Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, blamed for many terrorist attacks in India, with India’s RAW.

He had also stated that Kashmir remained a key dispute and sore point. He also said Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad came into being because of sympathies in Pakistan for the people of Kashmir and that on Kashmir, the people of Pakistan were emotionally involved. There was bound to be public sympathy and this had given rise to dozens of freelance jihadi outfits, he added.

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SP-Cong marriage on the rocks
Mulayam issues fresh list; leaves just 6 seats to Cong
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
The Congress-Samajwadi Party marriage in Uttar Pradesh finally appears on the rocks, with the latter today making alliance prospects with its recent partner even grimmer by announcing 10 more candidates for the Lok Sabha elections from the state. This leaves the Congress with just six seats in the state.

After making yet another offending move, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav insisted this evening that there was “no dispute” with the Congress and he still wanted to contest elections with them.

In Lucknow, UP Congress head Rita Bahuguna also said the matter would be discussed at the party’s Central Election Committee meeting in the Capital on March 10. The confusion, therefore, continued to rule. With today’s development, however, the SP has left the Congress with only six seats in a state that will prove decisive for government formation in the forthcoming elections. The Congress has been seeking 24 seats from SP, while the latter wants to part with just 17.

The final tally, however, paints an entirely different picture, even though SP insiders say the two parties still have a hidden understanding in UP where they will work together to erode Mayawati’s electoral base. The six seats the SP has left for the Congress in UP are Rae Bareli, Amethi, Dhaurahra, Kanpur, Ghaziabad and Mathura. While Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul are contesting from the first two seats, respectively; Union Ministers Jitin Prasad and Sriprakah Jaiswal are in the race from Dhaurahara and Kanpur.

That is, however, not such good news for the Congress as the SP has fielded its candidate from Varanasi, which the Congress holds. From Ghaziabad, interestingly, BJP’s national president Rajnath Singh is in the fray.

On the face of it, SP’s new list comes across as the party’s last chance to avenge the unilateral declaration of 24 LS candidates in UP by the Congress. But it is also being seen as a desperate attempt by the SP to put pressure on the Congress before the two again meet to renegotiate the deal.

Here one must bear in mind the manner in which today’s announcements came about - after a lot of stand-shifting by SP chief, who earlier said he was ready to reconsider his list of 65 candidates provided the Congress came down on its demands.

Three hours and a meeting with Kalyan Singh later, Yadav returned to issue a list of 10 candidates, appearing to shatter the deal with the Congress, which has already said that there is no question of going back on the demand of 24 seats. As for SP, its leaders continued to issue confusing statements, with general secretary Amar Singh saying that the party had so far negotiated with the Congress with its head bowed down. “But we can’t be beheaded,” he said. But his chief Mulayam Singh insisted that he wanted to fight elections with the Congress.

“Till now, the alliance has not been finalised, but we have no problems with them either,” he said.

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LS getting older with increase in average  age of MPs

New Delhi, March 8
Political parties may be eyeing the youth to hit the bull’s eye every election, but figures show that Lok Sabha is getting “older” polls after polls if one goes by the average age of MPs.

The average age of MPs has been increasing since the first Lok Sabha when it was 46.5 years as against 52.63 years in the present Lok Sabha. While the first Lok Sabha had the youngest MPs, the 13th Lok Sabha had the oldest ones with the average of 55.5 years.

The second Lok Sabha was slightly older than the first when the average age of lawmakers increased to 46.7 years.

During the third Lok Sabha which was formed in 1962, the age of MPs increased by three years to 49.4 years.

However, the next Lok Sabha formed in 1967 saw a slight decline in this respect. The average of MPs during this tumultuous political period, which witnessed the split in Congress and rebellion against Indira Gandhi by Morarji Desai, was 48.7 years. In 1971, the fifth Lok Sabha which brought back Gandhi once again to power, the MPs grew more old to touch 49.2 years.

Interestingly, the sixth Lok Sabha saw the average age of MPs crossing 50 years for the first time when the youth of the country spearheaded an agitation against the declaration of Emergency by Indira Gandhi government.

The eighth Lok Sabha gave India its youngest Prime Minister in Rajiv Gandhi but the Lower House was not that young. While Rajiv was 40 when he became the Prime Minster, the average age of MPs was 51.4 years. The ninth and tenth Lok Sabha saw the MPs remaining on the 50-plus side, 51.3 and 51.4 years, respectively. —PTI

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Husband liable to maintain estranged wife: Court

New Delhi, March 8
A man is liable to maintain his estranged wife even if he does not possess any property or does not have a regular source of income, a Delhi court has said. “A married man more so a Hindu is under a legal and moral obligation to maintain his estranged wife even if he does not possess any property or has no income. The obligation to maintain her is personal in character and arises from the very existence of the relationship,” Additional Sessions Judge Nivedita Anil Sharma said.

The court’s observations came while dismissing a petition of a man challenging a Metropolitan Magistrate’s order asking him to pay Rs 8,000 monthly as interim maintenance to his estranged wife under the Domestic Violence Act.

The maintenance must be depending upon the status, family background, qualification and social circle of both the sides, the court said, adding that the man is under a legal responsibility to pay the money to his wife. It refused to allow the plea of the man that he had never maltreated his wife, who was living separately from him.

“Needless to mention here that it is mixed question of law and fact whether or not the respondent (wife) is living separately from the appellant (man) due to her own conduct and cannot be decided without adducing of evidence by both the sides,” the court said. — PTI

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Charities funding terror in Pak: US 

New Delhi, March 8
The United States has said many charities in Pakistan act as channels to fund terrorist organisations, besides providing material support.

A senior official of the US Treasury Department looking after terror financing said large amounts of charity meant for Pakistan-based organisations is being moved through hawala networks and hence is an "enormous" challenge to India and the world as a whole.

“You know when you talk about Pakistan, the charities that are there on the ground providing services guided by such communities legitimising violent extremist movements. They are very important for that,” Acting Assistant Secretary (Terrorist Financing) of US Department of the Treasury Daniel Glaser said.

Glaser, who was in the national capital recently, said such organisations move their money through alternate remittance system or hawala and that is an "enormous, enormous challenge to India and to all of us". He said it is beyond dispute that charities are a primary means by which terrorists raise, move, and utilise funds.

"Most terrorist organisations openly advertise themselves as charities. Charities represent a uniquely ideal vehicle not just to raise and move funds, but to provide material support to violent extremist movements in the form of radicalisation, indoctrination and logistical cover and support," he said.— PTI

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Govt to put 1,500 yoga poses on record 

New Delhi, March 8
The Indian government has started the exercise of putting on record as many as 1,500 yoga postures, in its efforts to prevent the traditional practice from being pirated elsewhere in the world. The move will also prevent foreign countries from patenting these postures, also known as asanas.

According to V K Gupta, project leader of Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), which is in charge of the initiative, 600 asanas have already been put on record.

"We have completed the transcription (putting it on record) of 600 asanas, out of a target of 1,500," said Gupta.

Under the TKDL project, 1,500 different yoga postures will be put on record from traditional sources of information like the yoga sutras of Patanjali, Vedas and Puranas.

Going by international patent system, intellectual property rights cannot be obtained by any individual or organisation, if the same is in public domain.

Once the postures are put on record, Gupta said, they would be made available in five international languages. — PTI 

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Bardhan bets on post-poll alliances
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
The Left parties would sit in Opposition but not bring down a UPA government in which Congress is a mere participant and not the dominant partner, if such a combination emerged after the elections. This emerged at a TV interview that Karan Thapar had with CPI leader A B Bardhan, aired on Sunday evening.

Bardhan’s comments came a month after his CPM counterpart Prakash Karat earlier said he could not rule out supporting a secular government in which the Congress may be a part but would not be leading it. “I can’t rule it out, but it seems unlikely,” he had said.

The CPI leader said he was confident that a non-Congress, non-BJP combination would come to power. If it did not, “We will sit in the Opposition”, he said, adding he was confident because of “ground realities” and Left leaders’ talks with several political parties.

Observing that he was hopeful of a combination of parties barring the BJP and the Congress emerging after elections, the CPI leader said his hopes were based on poll alliances and “certain post-poll possibilities”.

“We are keeping the door open for such secular parties, which today happen to be elsewhere, we expect them to be with us ... Our expectations are based on reality and our talks. These are our expectations and you will see them come true,” Bardhan asserted.

Regarding Mayawati’s BSP, Bardhan was confident that the party would get into a post-poll arrangement even though the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister had not entered into any seat sharing for the Lok Sabha polls.

“She is against the BJP, against the Congress and she is campaigning on that issue,” he said, adding “breakfast with Mayawati will lead to a post-poll arrangement, I believe so and I hope so.”

He also ruled out the contention that the TDP could look for an understanding with the BJP after elections, saying “people learn from experience. Once bitten, twice shy. Let me tell you, the BJP is telling a lie. He (TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu) is not negotiating with the BJP.”

Excerpts from the interview:

Karan Thapar : If the next elections throw up a hung Parliament, as is widely believed to be the case, and the only way to prevent a BJP-led government to come to power is if you support a Congrss-led coalition, will you be ready to do that ?

A.B. Bardhan: No. You are not visualizing another alternative, because that is the alternative we are striving for. When we say a non-Congress, a non-BJP government…

KT: If the only way to prevent the BJP coming to power is to support a Congress-led coalition, will you be prepared ( to support it ) ?

ABB: No.

KT: So, you will allow BJP to come to power ?

ABB: BJP will not come to power; it is in such a disarray that in the entire race, it will be third.

KT: That may be your wishful thinking.

ABB: No, it is not my wishful thinking. You are assuming that Congress is in a position to form a government.

KT: I am assuming that.

ABB: No, I don’t think so. My assumptions start from real: that we will be number one, the Congress will be number two and the BJP may be number three.

KT: So, you will let the BJP come to power ?

ABB: BJP will not come to power.

KT: But it is not in your power to prevent it. Will you exercise that power by supporting the Congress or not ?

ABB: People are exercising their power to prevent the BJP to come to power.

KT: Would you be prepared to support a Congress-led government if Manmohan Singh was not the Prime Minister ?

ABB: That presumes that we are looking at individuals…We, communists look at policies. With or without Manmohan Singh if the same policies are perused …

KT: Are you saying that if the Congress were to give you a commitment…

ABB: Congress will case to be the Congress then.

KT: That is another matter. Many parties have changed policies…

ABB: You think Congress-this leopard will change its spots ?

KT: If the leopard is prepared to …

ABB: If the leopard is ready…

KT: Would you be prepared to support a government where the Congress was not in the prime ministerial position but simply a participant …

ABB: Right now I don’t want to talk about so many possibilities.

KT: …People want clarity…

ABB: The best option for the country is to vote for a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative.

KT: But if the country doesn’t come to that option…

ABB: Do you think it is wishful thinking on our part ?

ABB: …Congress can’t keep the BJP out of power.

KT: Another way to keep the BJP out would be to support UPA ?

ABB: No, we will sit in the opposition.

KT: You will permit someone like Sharad Pawar, Lalu Yadav…

ABB: Let there be. We will sit in the opposition.

KT: But you will not bring it down.

ABB: There was a BJP-led NDA government. We did not bring it down. The people brought it down. Leave it to the people.

KT: Three of your allies, Mayawati, Chandrababu Naiduand Devgowda, are distancing themselves…

ABB: Jayalalitha has created a problem for both Congress and the DMK

KT: She said of the Congress that “I cherish the friendship…”

ABB: I have good friendships with a number of Congress leaders and I cherish that friendship. That does not mean I am with them. I think she has put a cat amongst the pigeons.

KT: I think she has let the cat out of the bag…

ABB: The TDP, AIADM, the JD-S and NCP may be with the Congress in some states but in a number of other states they would have state-specific alliance.

KT: In January you were confident that Naveen Pattnaik would come over to you…

ABB: You just see. He will reduce BJP to half…I only told you about a post-poll alliance. Wait for that.

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‘Cash for votes’ far from rare, says study

New Delhi, March 8
They may be among the country’s best performing states, but when it comes to elections, a very large number of voters in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu take bribes to vote. So says the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies (CMS).

Bribery is also endemic in areas of influence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the study indicates. States ruled by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) fare slightly better.

However, similar corruption is least in states governed by the Left, says the survey conducted among 41,000 voters in 19 states and billed as the first-ever empirical study on cash for votes. The bribe taking voters also come from all sections of society: urban and rural, poor and not-so-poor, as well as the educated and the barely literate, says CMS. “Even in Delhi, 25 per cent of the voters received money for their vote,” says the survey.

The study took a sample size of 18,000 voters in 19 states in 2008 and 23,000 households belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) category in 2007. It did not cover other inducements like liquor or freebies for votes and focused only on the assembly and Lok Sabha elections.

The national average of people who took cash to cast their votes was found to be 22 per cent in the general category and 37 percent in BPL families. — IANS

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Differently abled worst hit by recession
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
Recessionary trends have severely impacted job markets for differently abled persons as their recruitment has been frozen by many companies in both the public and private sectors.

Presently, around 30 per cent queries on a bi-weekly radio programme on AIR devoted to the problems of the visually-impaired are related to job losses.

Confirming the sorry trend to The Tribune, George Abraham, a social activist who works for the welfare of the visually-disabled, said though radio queries did not reveal the exact position of job losses for the differently abled, there was worrisome evidence of a shrinking job market for them.

“We have heard of firms freezing their recruitment and laying off of the physically challenged,” he said.

Precise trends can not, however, be predicted for the simple reason that India is among the few countries in the world that does not yet have any disability-related data, especially for the job market.

But in the US, the differently abled have been the worst hit due to global economic meltdown.

A study by Allsup, a leading provider of social security, financial and healthcare-related services to people with disab- ilities in the US, showed that social security disability insurance (SSDI) claims had increased significantly in the seven recession periods over the past four decades. The analysis includes the current recession that started in December 2007.

During 2008, the number of differently abled workers applying for SSDI benefits in the US touched a record high of over 2.3 million, says the study.

In Singapore, voluntary organisations report that from October to December 2008, their monthly average figures for employment of the disabled shrunk by a whopping 36 per cent.

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‘NSG men were shocked to find aviation crew missing’

New Delhi, March 8
Elite NSG commandos, on their way to Mumbai to fight terrorists in the early hours of November 27, were in for a rude shock when they found crew of the Aviation Research Centre plane missing.

“I was a little surprised ... I thought the crew was there. But they were at their homes. I called up the Aviation Research Centre Director around midnight for a plane and he said it would be ready by 2.30 am after refuelling,” former NSG chief JK Dutt said.

Dutt, who boarded the plane along with the first batch of 200 black cat commandos told here although there was no delay on NSG’s part for a take-off from Delhi, the “commandos had to lift the ammunition and heavy explosive boxes themselves, which also tires out the men.” Dutt said reports on former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil having kept the commando flight waiting were unfounded.

“I got a call from the Home Minister’s residence, which said the Minister wanted me to accompany him. I told them I would like to accompany my men in the same transport plane. They then said Patil would also come and board the same aircraft... I told them the huge plane had no air-conditioning and other facilities. I reached the Minister’s residence at around 1.45 am. By 2.20 am, we (Patil and myself) boarded the plane and the plane took off at 2.30 am,” Dutt said.

He said the crack commandos based at the Manesar garrison were asked to report by 2.00 am as a matter of Standard Operating Procedure.

“I was anticipating the events since the time I started viewing the visuals of the attack on Mumbai and hence I asked commandos of the 51 Special Action Group to remain prepared even before the orders of sending the NSG were given,” Dutt said.

He said the NSG Act at that time did not permit him to requisite a private passenger plane for “anti-terror operations”.

“The NSG Act only allowed the DG to requisition a private aircraft for anti-hijack operations and hence the question did not arise then,” Dutt said. — PTI

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Now, a ‘violation index’ to check campaigners

New Delhi, March 8
As part of its efforts to enforce the model code of conduct effectively, the Election Commission has asked poll officials to prepare a “violation index” to meticulously track candidates and star campaigners in the ensuing elections.

Chief electoral officers and district election officers have been asked to maintain a party-wise register to track any violation by candidates and campaigners.

This should be a sort of daily register indicating name of the candidate, campaigner and political party, brief description of violation, date of violation and the follow-up action, the EC said in a letter to chief electoral officers of all the states and union territories. The index would also be put in the public domain so that interested parties, including the media, could pick up the input and this might work as deterrence for the candidates and political parties against indulging in any violation, the EC said. The commission told the officials campaigns by leaders of various political parties should be meticulously tracked. In cases involving violation of code of conduct by a candidate put up by a party or by leaders of political parties, both the candidate and the party would be served with notices, the EC said. — PTI

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One-third of complaints  with NHRC against cops 

New Delhi, March 8
In what may be of concern to law enforcement agencies, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has received more complaints of rights violation against the police rather than against "mafias and underworld elements".

According to the statistics regarding complaints of human rights violations received by the NHRC last year, out of a total of 94,559 complaints, 35,341 or over one-third were against the police across the country.

This is much higher than even the complaints against "mafias and underworld operatives", who were named in 8,062 complaints received by the NHRC between January and December last year for human rights violations.

Complaints of human rights violations against defence forces and paramilitary forces remained very low in 2008.

While a total of 128 complaints of human rights violations were filed against defence forces in the NHRC last year, paramilitary forces faced 138.

However, human rights violations of the fair sex remained a continuing concern, with the NHRC receiving a total of 6,172 complaints in this connection last year.

There were human rights complaints too relating to prisons. This despite the fact that several guidelines have been issued to them from from NHRC and courts. A total of 2,764 complaints of human rights violations relating to different jails of the country were filed in theNHRC from January to December last year.

Complaints relating to atrocities against Dalits filed with the NHRC stood at 2,332 till December last year. — PTI

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Acquisition of ‘Jai ho’ rights ironic: Najma

Nagpur, March 8
Rajya Sabha member and former deputy chairman of the Upper House, Najma Heptullah, today said the acquisition of the rights for “Jai ho” song from “Slumdog Millionaire” by the Congress was ironical since the party was singularly responsible for India's poverty and hunger, which the movie had peddled to win the awards.

Speaking to reporters today, Heptullah said the Congress had no qualms about glorifying country's poverty and hunger. “It was Congress that gave poverty to the country, because it ruled for nearly 55 of the 60 years since independence,” she said.

“There is nothing to be happy about the Oscars won by ‘Slumdog’. I didn't like the movie. I didn't like the fact that it won the awards because of the poverty shown in it,” Heptullah said.

“India does not need to sell its ugly side when it has made tremendous progress in all spheres of life. Why is it that only movies that show India's negative side win awards? Excellent movies like 'Taare Zameen Par' and 'Lagaan' did not win any Oscars even when they showed a positive side,” she said.

“In fact, 'Lagaan' was an inspiring movie, and it showed the fight of a group of villagers against the British. That was probably the reason why it didn't do well at the Oscars,” the senior BJP leader said.

Replying to questions, Heptullah expressed hope that all political parties would give adequate representation to women while allotting tickets for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. “However, we must also see if women can really deal with the rough-and-tumble of mainstream politics. They have neither the muscle power nor the money power necessary. In this context, government funding of elections becomes very important - it will help women make their mark in politics,” she said.

Earlier, addressing a women's convention hosted by the BJP to mark International Women's Day this evening, Heptullah said the status of the common woman in the country was of prime concern. A woman in a position of power could assert her rights, but does a woman in a common household get what she wants and what she needs, Heptullah asked.

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For them, every day is a women’s day

Kolkata, March 8
For hundreds of young women in this metropolis, International Women’s Day was like any other day today in their lives, as they went out to work in various fields once considered as male bastions.

Asmita Dey (28) works as a petrol pump attendant in the posh Alipore area of the city while in China, a 25-year-old woman from the North-east, works as a security guard in a branch of a multinational bank.

Both of them work in all-woman organisations. The Bharat Petroleum outlet is run and managed completely by women. On the other hand, the only male employed by the Standard Chartered Bank branch of Jodhpur Park is the security guard posted outside the main gate.

“As we go out to work, we feel that we are working in a field where women normally don’t. We feel empowered and so every day is a women’s day for us,” outlet manager Shamim Ara says.

Ara took the initiative of starting a petrol pump run by women to prove that they could be equally adept in handling responsibility in areas of male dominion.

“We got approval for our project, which started in March 2004. We believe that men and women are equal. We can do better than men, but cannot be worse. We have proved ourselves by now,” Ara said.

Since the idea was to empower women, they picked up poor and helpless women through NGOs and trained them to work at the outlet.

“Many of them are orphans or single mothers, whose only source of income is this petrol pump,” she said.

Asked about security concerns, she said their employees never felt threatened.

“However, because of government rules, we cannot employ women on the night shift.” Women employees work from six in the morning till nine at night. For the all-woman bank, it was a customer survey that paved the way.

“The survey stressed the need for a comfort factor, which would encourage women, particularly those employed, to make the best use of their money. And, so we converted to an all-women branch in 2007 to give women a non-inhibiting environment,” Branch Manager Julie Sharma said.

A total of thirteen women aged between 28 to 33 years work at the branch. — PTI

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Violation of poll code 
UDF complains against SDF

Gangtok, March 8
The United Democratic Front (UDF), a representative body of the Opposition parties, has asked the Election Commission (EC) to take action against the Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF) for violating the model code of conduct by allegedly spending Rs 5 crore on the foundation day celebrations of the ruling party four days ago.

The SDF spent over Rs 5 crore and mobilised about 10,000 vehicles for its foundation day function at Rangpo on Wednesday, which amounted to a flagrant violation of the model code of conduct put in place for the forthcoming Assembly and Parliamentary polls in Sikkim, UDF chief coordinator KN Upreti said in a release.

Stating that the spending of public money and the use of official machinery and vehicles tantamount to a clear violation of the model code of conduct, Upreti urged the EC to take stern action against the SDF for flouting the norms in the regard.

The UDF leader also alleged that the ruling party activists were defacing buildings by painting banners and posters for electoral purposes, which he claimed, was yet another example of violation of the model code of conduct. — PTI

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Canada’s research award for Delhi IIT prof
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
A professor in electrical engineering at the Delhi IIT will team up with a researcher of the University of British Columbia to conduct joint research on the most pressing problems of wireless communication system design. The award to the Indo-Canadian team is at the behest of the International Research Chairs Initiative (IRCI).

Prof Ranjan K Mallik and Dr Robert Schober have been jointly awarded a research chair by the Canada’s International Development Research Centre, one of world’s leading institutions in international development.

The award of research chair to the Indo-Canadian team is being viewed as a major boost to research in wireless technology in India as well.

This award will also strengthen the University of British Columbia’s involvement with the Centre of Excellence in Telecommunication Technology and Management of the Delhi IIT that has been established by the Government of India.

The IRCI is a collaboration between Canada ’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canada Research Chairs Programme. Launched in December 2007, applications are solicited for joint research between Canada Research Chairs and their counterparts at universities in the developing world. The selected teams will receive up to $1 million over five years, each to address a key development challenge.

Mallik and Schober’s team was one of the eight successful teams that were selected from among 104 applications through a rigorous peer-review process.

“I look forward to this collaborative research program,” said Mallik, a recipient of the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar prize in engineering sciences.

The demand for wireless communications is expected to significantly increase over the next decade especially in emerging industrial nations such as India. This strong growth area is of vital importance to the Indian economy and to large sections of its population that do not have access to technologies such as mobile phones, fixed Internet access, and mobile Internet access.

The growth can only be sustained through high quality research for improved and affordable products and highly qualified personnel to implement these new ideas.

The research by Mallik and Schober will address these two needs and provide significant opportunities for technology transfer to industry. Its long-term goal is to generate fundamental theories and technologies that have a lasting impact on the field of wireless communications and to foster research and development in the wireless communications sector in India and in Canada.

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Rs 1,500 cr to keep democracy going
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
How expensive is a general election? Though provisional figures suggest that the previous general election, held in 2004, cost the country or the State Rs 1,300 crore, elections are becoming costlier and more techno-savy with every new edition.

When the country went for its first-ever elections in 1952 with a single member Election Commission headed by Sukumar Sen, it cost the State Rs 10.45 crore. And now when the country is all set to go to the polls, the estimated cost is expected to touch or cross Rs 1,500 crore.

This does not include the money spent by the parties and contestants on wooing voters.

Interestingly, the total number of electors for the first elections was 17,32,13,635. And now the number of electors has gone past 71.42 crore and may touch the 73 crore mark by the time the election process is completed. What’s more, Uttar Pradesh, even after its reorganisation, will have 11.65 crore voters this time.

The evolution of elections has witnessed some interesting developments with specified ballot boxes for each candidate to the present electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Though online voting is still to be introduced in the country, those connected with election reforms and cost cutting do not rule out online voting being introduced by the time the country goes for the polls to elect its 16th Lok Sabha.

It was just a day before India became a Republic that the first Election Commissioner was appointed. From 1950 to 1989, it continued as a single-member commission. For a brief period from October 1989 to January 1990, the Election Commission had three members. Till October 1993, it continued as a single-member commission but on October 1, 1993, it was permanently changed into a three-member commission with each member of the commission getting the same salary and allowances as a judge of the Supreme Court.

The controversy between Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswamy and Election Commissioner Naveen Chawla notwithstanding, each member of the commission has equal powers in decision-making and in case of a dispute, the majority decision prevails. Election Commissioners retire at the age of 65.

Before the EVMs were introduced in the Parur assembly constituency in Kerala in 1982, the Election Commission had been using the marking system of voting in which names and election symbols of all candidates were printed on the same paper and the voter used to put a mark or stamp on the symbol of the candidate he or she wanted to vote for.

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Low production makes sugar costlier
Ruchika M Khanna
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
High sugar price is leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of most of its consumers. In the past one year, the price has shot up by almost Rs 9.50 per kg - from Rs 14 per kg in March 2007 to Rs 23.50 per kg at present.

The root cause behind the steep rise could be traced to the five million tonne sugar production shortfall. As against the consumption requirement of 22 million tonnes, the total sugar output in the country is just 17 million tonnes this year.

With the area under sugarcane being diverted for high-yielding crops like wheat and paddy in most states, the sugar production has taken a hit.

Interestingly, this production shortfall in sugar is driving up its prices not just in the domestic market, but also in the global market. With large area under sugarcane production in South America having being diverted to biofuel cultivation, a global deficit of 3.5 million tonnes is projected for 2008-09. The decline in area under sugar cane cultivation in India has added to the global shortfall in its production.

The sources added that the prices were likely to escalate further and could touch Rs 30 per kg. The new government would have to immediately import sugar in order to bridge the gap in demand and supply.

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Assam police has no ammo for AK-47s
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 8
A couple of thousand AK-47 assault rifles are lying idle in the weaponry of Assam police for the simple reason that there is no ammunition to fire. Not only that, sophisticated INSAS rifles procured for the force that is fighting well-armed insurgents, too, are lying unused, courtesy defective planning.

This was revealed in the latest report of the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) where the Assam Police Director General has been quoted as saying that “non-receipt of delivery and non-availability of railway wagons” were the reasons why the ammunition for those rifles could not be arranged.

The CAG report has also brought to light the fact that while the MHA provided the 2,000 AK-47s to the Assam Police in 2004-05, it was only after a lapse of two year that the latter placed orders for 3.25 lakh rounds of ammunition (valued at Rs 96 lakh) to the ordinance factory, Bharangaon.

While the ammunition did not arrive till the time when the CAG team carried out the audit (September 2008), the report said “the objective of utilisation of sophisticated weapons in place of outdated ones was not achieved due to defective planning”.

The MHA in 2004-06 provided the Assam police with 5,200 INSAS rifles worth Rs 13.06 crore. While the DGP’s office (in October-November 2006) issued 1,680 of these rifles to 24 districts and 3,520 rifles to the battalions, those given to the districts were withdrawn in December 2007.

The reason given for the withdrawal was: INSAS rifle was a specialised weapon and should be held only by specially-trained personnel of two new battalions “likely to be raised”. Thirty-two of these INSAS rifles were issued to police stations in Kamrup district while the rest were lying idle as the two new battalions were yet to be raised.

The CAG report rapped the state police saying that “procurement of INSAS rifles without assessing its requirement resulted in idling of weaponry worth Rs 4.13 crore”. 

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TN cracks down on LTTE supporters
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 8
The Tamil Nadu police today cracked down on LTTE supporters in the state, arresting many persons including MDMK propaganda secretary Nanjil Sampath and popular film director Seeman. A case was registered against the MDMK leader at Tiruppur in western Tamil Nadu where he participated in a public meeting titled “Is Eelam Tamilian an orphan” (Eelam is the homeland of Sri Lankan Tamils).

Releasing parts of his speech at the meeting, the police said he had been arrested at Tambaram, a suburban town, near Chennai, where he was scheduled to address a public meeting to pay tribute to Tamil Nadu youths who had committed self-immolation seeking immediate ceasefire in the island nation.

In his speech, Sampath had implicitly warned that Tamil Nadu would secede from the Union if the Centre continued to wage a proxy war against the island Tamils and alleged that Congress president Sonia Gandhi had taken steps to provide weapons, training and funds to the Sri Lankan government only to avenge the killing of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

He had held Sonia responsible for the killing of Tamil children and women in the island nation.

The police also released the speech of Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam leader Kolathur Mani, who was arrested for a speech titled “Eelam is burning” at Dindigul in western Tamil Nadu. Mani had hailed the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and had said the former Prime Minister was only punished for the atrocities committed by the IPKF against Tamil women and youths in Sri Lanka.

The speech of film director Seeman, who was booked under NSA, contained assertions that Tigers represent the people of Sri Lanka. He had also attacked the Congress party, saying that a party which could not solve the Cauvery river water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka had not no maral authority to speak about national unity and integrity.Tamil Nadu DGP Rajendran had issued a stern warning that strong action would be taken against anyone speaking in support of the banned LTTE and disturbing the law and order situation in the state.

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Madras HC Violence
Lawyers reject CJ’s truce talk
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 8
Sriking a defiant posture, Tamil Nadu lawyers today rejected pleas by designated Chief Justice of Madras High Court Hemant Laxman Gokhale to abandon their court boycott and asserted that it would continue till the police officials responsible for lathicharge on them were suspended.

The lawyers also rejected the report of Justice BN Sri Krishna, saying it had hardly recommended any action against the police, despite admitting that they acted with highhandedness.

A resolution passed at the joint action committee of lawyers condemned Sri Krishna’s remarks against lawyers and judges. The resolution also charged the Tamil Nadu government with “protecting the police officials involved in the brutal assault on lawyers”.The lawyers also said they would not attend the reception for the new Chief Justice, even though they would attend the swearing-in ceremony at the Raj Bhavan tomorrow. A committee comprising senior lawyers had been constituted to initiate legal action against police officials who attacked the lawyers, RC Paul Kanagaraj, who presided over the joint action committee meeting said.

A protest demonstration would be held in front of the HC building condemning the remarks of the Sri Krishna committee against lawyers and judges, he added. Lawyers throughout Tamil Nadu have been boycotting the courts from Februray 19 following a lathicharge on them by the police, who entered the HC premises, following a scuffle between a group of lawyers and a police team.

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MP Girdhari Bhargava dead

Ahmedabad, March 8
Veteran BJP leader and six-time MP from Rajasthan Girdhari Lal Bhargava died following a massive heart attack here this morning, according to party sources.

He was 73. Bhargava, who represented Jaipur and was named the party’s candidate for the Lok Sabha elections, is survived by his wife, a son and three daughters.

The BJP leader, who was here to attend a Parliamentary Committee meeting, complained of uneasiness early this morning. On the advice of the doctor, he was rushed to Apollo hospital where he suffered a massive heart attack and breathed his last at 8 am. His funeral will be held tomorrow in Jaipur, the sources said. — PTI

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110 held in farmhouse party raid

Bangalore, March 8 
The police raided a farmhouse at a village in Ramanagara district, about 25 km from here, early today and detained 110 persons, including 20 women, engaged in a party.

“So far we have not found any drugs but liquor was consumed,” a senior police official told here.

The Ramanagara police raided the premises at Chunchanakuppe near Dodda Aaaladamara at around 4 am.

The detainees include four women of foreign origin - one each from Tanzania and Bhutan and two from Iran.

The police is interrogating Adam, who allegedly organised the party. If no drugs were found, the detainees would be charged with only the relevant sections of Excise Act. — PTI

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Tribune adalat
Statement of provident fund not provided

I wrote to the Central Public Information Officer, Punjab National Bank, Head Office: New Delhi, asking for the statement of my provident fund (A/c No. 48097) for the period 1.10.2006 to 31.1.2007 on 24.3.2007.

Although two years have passed, the PF statement has not been given to me. I wrote many letters to the bank in this regard, but all in vain. I also complained to the Central Information Commission, New Delhi, on 24.2.2007. Even the Central Information Commission directions (F No. PBA/07/902, November 22, 2007) have failed to get me the desired statement.

Krishan Kumar Batra,

F-7/56, Mata Kaulan Marg,

Kashmir Avenue, Amritsar

Long delay in issuing arms licence

I had applied for an arms licence in August, 2004 and the state government had recommended the case for issuance of a new P/Bore licence. The Secretary, Government of Punjab, Department of Home Affairs and Justice (Home-II Branch), Chandigarh, had recommended and sent the application for final approval to the under Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs (Arms Wing), New Delhi, vide letter No. 5/24/05-2H2/2316, dated 26.6.2006.

They had asked for a few justifications which were provided to them without any delay. What to speak of obtaining a new licence, I have not been able to even know till date the status of my application despite running from pillar to post for more than four years.

Achil Anand, Kapurthala

Increment not paid

While drawing my monthly salary on January 30, 2009, I found that my annual increment due on January 1, 2009, was not included in the salary of January, 2009, which is a routine work. On enquiry from the accounts and establishment branches, I was told that the Joint

Director (Audit) had not okayed the entry of the annual increment in my service book for making its payment. If one goes by the Civil Service Rules, the annual increment of an employee cannot be withheld unless there is something adverse pending against an employee.

Vide a letter, dated February 17, 2009, I requested the Registrar of Kurukshetra University to look into the matter and request the Joint Director (Audit) to clear the annual increment when nothing is pending against me. Till date nothing has been done.

Davinder Sachdeva,

Superintendent (PRO), KUK

Passport not delivered

I applied for a passport on 5.3.2008 to the DC office, Sangrur, vide application No. Z270579-80. I reminded the office concerned several times through speedpost letters dated 23.10.2008, 25.11.2008 and 12.1.2009. But till date, I have neither received my passport nor any response.

Neelam Rani,

Jain Villa, Mann Colony,

Gali No. 2, B/side Garg Filling Station, Sangrur

BSNL mobile trouble

I purchased a BSNL mobile connection (No. 9464211484) on July 30, 2008. On August 12, 2008, I requested for excel power (10 paise call p/m for one BSNL local landline No. of choice 01642254441 and BSNL local mobile No. 9464662622) at 12.19 pm.

Request for excel power for landline No. was activated immediately at 12.25 pm the same day as per an SMS received from No. 53733. But request for mobile number was not activated till September 24, 2008, when again I lodged a formal complaint with the customer care centre of BSNL, Bathinda exchange.

Again I received an SMS (from No. 53733) that “Dear customer, your request for excel power has been accepted and is queued for activation!” Again I visited the same office in December, 2008 and got the same “readymade answer”. I fail to understand how much more time will they take to clear this “long-pending queue” request?

Jagjit Singh Chatha

VPO Khemoana, Bathinda

Bajaj Allianz insurance owes a reply

I purchased Bajaj Allianz Insurance policy(0074156901), from regional office, Mohali. When filling the proposal form company’s representative had said the policy was single premium policy of Rs 30,000 and maturity period was three years.

Next year the company asked me to deposit second instalment of Rs 30,000 and said maturity period was 10 years in stead of three and two more instalments each of Rs30,000 had to be deposited. I approached the company representative who visited my house with a person and threatened me with dire consequence if I did not deposit second instalment of premium. I reported to the regional head of the company that half proposal form was left blank by the representative. Policy holder also alleged the proposal form was found to be forged The regional head assured to change the policy into single premium policy after consulting the head office. But nothing has been done so far . The company has been ringing me up to deposit the second instalment without replying to my query and acting against the erring company official. The matter was also reported to the police .

Jagir Singh

House no. 83 Phase XI,

SAS Nagar (Mohali) 

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IIT, IIM grads in fray
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 8
At least 40 graduates of Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) will contest for seats in the Lok Sabha, promises the Bharat Punarnirman Dal ( BPD) national president, Ajit Shukla. Eight candidates have already been finalised for constituencies like South and East Delhi, Lucknow and Hyderabad etc., says Shukla, who himself has a M.Tech degree from IIT, Bombay.

This will not be the first time BPD will be putting up IIT and IIM alumni in the electoral fray. In the UP Assembly election in 2007, it had put up several such candidates but none of them had won. So while he middle classes clamour for better educated politicians, even they do not appear to cast their votes in favour of the most educated candidate. Indeed the BPD candidate in Kanpur, Omendra Bharat, an M.Tech from IIT Kanpur, could poll only 2.5 per cent of the votes in 2007.

But an unfazed Shukla counters by citing the example of Ajay Singh, a B.Tech from Russia, ended up polling more votes in Nawabganj assembly constituency than the candidate put up by the then strongman of Barabanki, Beni Prasad Verma.

BPD sources privately concede that their electoral adventure is more in the nature of symbolic defiance. “ We are all concerned about the country and would like to contribute to nation-building. But the system is such that without money or muscle power at our disposal, we are pariahs for mainstream political parties.

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Parties launch sop operas
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 8
It is raining sops in Andhra Pradesh as two major contenders for power-TDP and actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party-unveiled their draft manifestoes yesterday, doling out promises ranging from colour televisions to electronic cash transfer to poor families.

Shedding his reforms-savvy image, the TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu came out with an aggressively populist agenda while releasing his party’s draft manifesto for the next month’s simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assembly.

Taking a cue from DMK in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, he said his party, if voted to power, would provide colour TVs to all poor families free of cost. These households will also get free power supply. The TDP would also introduce a “cash-transfer scheme” under which money is directly transferred to the accounts of the poor families. While the poorest of the poor will get Rs 2,000 per month, the poor families will be given Rs 1,500 each and middle class families would get Rs 1,000. 

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Accused want chargesheet in Urdu

Mumbai, March 8
Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin, the two Indians accused in the November 26 terror strikes here, have requested a local court to translate the 11,000-page chargesheet file into Urdu.

The duo made this request before a metropolitan magistrate on March 6 stating that the chargesheet filed by the Mumbai crime branch is in English and Marathi, which the two do not understand.

The magistrate will pass an order on the request tomorrow. Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist caught alive in the 26/11 attack, is also likely to make a similar request, sources said.

If the court accepts the request then the crime branch will have to first comply with the order after which the case will be committed to the special court set up inside the high security Arthur Road prison.

“If the magistrate directs the prosecution to translate the chargesheet in Urdu, then that will have to be complied with before the case is committed to the sessions court,” special public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam told here.

The crime branch had on February 25 filed a 11,000-page chargesheet against 38 accused in connection with the audacious terror strikes that killed over 170 persons. — PTI

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Two Syrians held with elephant tusks

Ahmedabad, March 8
Two Syrian nationals were arrested at Sardar Patel International Airport here on Sunday for attempting to take away elephant tusks, a customs official said.

“We have apprehended two persons after we found two elephant tusks from their baggage. These persons were about to board a flight to Sharjah,” he said. “Both are Syrian nationals and had come with a ship to Alang (in Bhavnagar) ship-breaking yard a few days ago,” he added.

The official said during interrogation the duo revealed that they had found the tusks placed as decorative items in the ship. They are valued at around Rs 2 lakh and are of different sizes, he added.

According to the customs official, since the matter involved elephant tusks, they have called forest officials, who are interrogating the duo. Further verification of the two, is under process, he added. — PTI

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20 women among 110 held in party raid

Bangalore, March 8 
The police raided a farmhouse at a village in Ramanagara district, about 25 km from here, early today and detained 110 persons, including 20 women, engaged in a party.

“So far we have not found any drugs but liquor was consumed,” a senior police official told here.

The Ramanagara police raided the premises at Chunchanakuppe near Dodda Aaaladamara at around 4 am.

The detainees include four women of foreign origin - one each from Tanzania and Bhutan and two from Iran.

The police is interrogating Adam, who allegedly organised the party. If no drugs were found, the detainees would be charged with only the relevant sections of Excise Act. — PTI

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Pollscape
Pinki vs Mayawati

Will Pinki smile ? Or will Mayawati have the last laugh ? For those with short memory, Pinki Sonkar, protagonist of the Oscar-winning documentary, is all set for her new role as a political campaigner. “ With the help of Pinki, we will unmask the anti-Dalit face of Mayawati,” says National Dalit Front general secretary Udit Raj. Pinki’s parents, he claimed, have agreed to let her take part in public meetings. Raj also admitted giving Rs 5,000 to the family as “cash reward”. Mayawati, he alleged, had done nothing for the family. The Maharashtra Government at least allotted flats in Mumbai to the slum children who featured in the Oscar-winning film, Slumdog Millionaire, he cribbed.

Printers thrive

The elections have come as a boon to industries hit by recession. Printers are a happy lot, merrily printing posters and booklets. One such booklet has been brought out by the Congress in three major languages.The booklet predictably highlights the achievements of the UPA government. Being distributed all over the country, the booklet will help party leaders and the cadre counter criticism and calumny by the Opposition.

The booklet highlights NREGA, the right to information and loan waiver, among other matters. The 54-page booklet compares the achievements with the progress made during the NDA regime.

Sons and daughters

“Son-stroke” is rampant in Indian elections and this summer is not going to be any different.Mulayam Singh Yadav’s son, Akhilesh, and Ajit Singh’s son, Jayant Chowdhury, will also be contesting the elections besides Rahul Gandhi and Maneka Gandhi’s son Varun. While Rahul had comfortably won the Amethi seat last time, Varun had fallen by the wayside.

Rahul would be contesting from Amethi for the second time in the state which sends the maximum of 80 Lok Sabha members. His mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi had moved to the Rae Bareli constituency in the last elections and left Amethi to her son. Sons of three present and former Chief Ministers are also in the fray. Dushyant Singh, Anurag Thakur and BY Raghvendra, sons of Vasundhara Raje, Prem Kumar Dhumal and BS Yeddiurappa, are also certain to contest. 

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BRIEFLY

New Delhi
Congress for Prez rule :
Congress today demanded that Orissa be brought under President's Rule to ensure free and fair polls in the wake of BJP withdrawing support to the BJD-led government in the state. Since BJP, a pre-election ally, has broken away from BJD it would be better that the next elections are held under President's Rule in the state, Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed told PTI here. — PTI 

Aurangabad
5 teachers held in copying case
: The police has arrested 14 persons, including five teachers, for helping students to copy during the on-going Class X board examinations. Acting on a tip off, the police raided the house of one Moin Khan and arrested them while they were busy “preparing copies” for the English paper. Th police later also raided a staff room in Sillod tehsil of the district and caught a teacher red-handed while preparing carbon copies of the answers for the English paper. The accused, however, absconded from the scene,the police added. — PTI

Ahmedabad
2 Syrians held with elephant tusks :
Two Syrian nationals were arrested at Sardar Patel International Airport here on Sunday for attempting to take away elephant tusks, a customs official said. “We have apprehended two persons after we found two elephant tusks from their baggage. These persons were about to board a flight to Sharjah,” he said. “Both are Syrian nationals and had come with a ship to Alang (in Bhavnagar) ship-breaking yard a few days ago,” he added. The tusks are valued at around Rs 2 lakh. — PTI

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