SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Ambani’s skyscraper makes it to Forbes list
New York, March 15
India’s richest resident Mukesh Ambani’s upcoming skyscraper in Mumbai and wealthiest NRI Lakshmi Mittal’s getaway in the Alps are among the world’s top 10 ‘billionaire playgrounds’ for the year.

Cong sniffs power in Meghalaya
Guwahati, March 15
Assam minister and Congress leader Dr Himanta Biswa Sharma, an accused of masterminding the political crisis in Meghalaya by the ruling Meghalaya People’s Alliance (MPA), today claimed that spadework for the change of guard in Meghalaya had already been done and the outcome would be there for all to see during the MPA’s floor test in Meghalaya Assembly on March 17.

Non-filing Of Expenses
EC disqualifies 3,423 candidates
New Delhi, March 15
The Election Commission (EC) has disqualified 3,423 candidates for not filing the details of the expenses incurred during the last Lok Sabha or recent Assembly polls, which they contested.



EARLIER STORIES



Girls celebrate ‘Rang-panchmi’, the fifth day of Holi festival, in Bhopal
Girls celebrate ‘Rang-panchmi’, the fifth day of Holi festival, in Bhopal on Sunday. — PTI

Maya’s dinner diplomacy works
New Delhi, March 15
BSP supremo Mayawati not only threw a red carpet welcome for the Third Front allies at her new 14, Gurdwara Rakabganj Road residence here tonight but also arranged a special gourmet delight for them. Her dinner diplomacy — apparently aimed at laying to rest the crisis that had cropped up in the alliance over prime minister’s post — it seemed, worked.

‘Cash for alliance’ slur on AGP, BJP
Guwahati, March 15
The Assam Congress is trying to rake up a ‘cash for alliance’ scam out of the seat-sharing deal arrived at by regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the BJP in Assam for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.

Clarify stand on Marathi PM, Sena to BJP
Mumbai, March 15
Two days after reaching a seat-sharing pact with the BJP, the Shiv Sena today once again came out in strong support for a Marathi prime minister and asked its saffron ally to clarify its stand on the issue.

Reddy’s son to contest poll
Hyderabad, March 15
Ending a long suspense, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s son YS Jaganmohan Reddy today announced that he would contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from the Kadapa constituency.

Forest officials with locals capture a leopard at Jyotikuchi, in Guwahati
Forest officials with locals capture a leopard at Jyotikuchi, in Guwahati, on Sunday. — PTI

Oscar winner A R Rehman at the shrine of Sufi Khawaja Moinuddeen Chishti in Ajmer
Oscar winner A R Rehman at the shrine of Sufi Khawaja Moinuddeen Chishti in Ajmer on Saturday. — PTI

SC to hear Kachroo case today
New Delhi, March 15
The Supreme Court is likely to take up tomorrow the murder case of first-year medical science student Aman Kachroo, who was brutally killed on March 8 at his college hostel in Himachal Pradesh in gross violation of the apex court's directives to check ragging in educational institutions.

Top Bihar cops under EC scanner
Patna, March 15
Gautam and headquarters ADG Neelmani have come under the Election Commission’s (EC) scanner for going to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s residence on the occasion of Holi to greet him.

Visually impaired get knowledge portal
To benefit 44 million people
New Delhi, March 15
The world of 44 million visually-impaired is about to change, with the launch of India’s first knowledge portal last week which answers all question a low-vision person wants to ask.

Pranab, Dasmunshi’s wife in WB list
New Delhi, March 15
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee would be the Congress candidate from the Jangirpur constituency while ailing minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi's wife Deepa would fight from Raiganj, the Congress announced today, releasing the list of candidates for Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.

Paramilitary forces to be one of the largest recruiters
New Delhi, March 15
At a time when there is almost a total freeze in recruitment everywhere owing to global economic recession, the paramilitary forces have emerged as one of the largest recruiters in the country if one goes by the government's plan to strengthen the six organisations.

PMO e-mail system hit by virus
New Delhi, March 15
E-mail system of the Prime Minister’s Office was under the grip of a computer virus for three months last year forcing officials to replace the software. The technical glitch plagued the e-mail communication system of the PMO, which was based on the Microsoft Outlook Express, from February to April in 2008.

Illegal mining eroding Rajasthan forest cover
Jaipur, March 15
Holding reserves for 44 major and 22 minor minerals, Rajasthan is witnessing destruction of forests due to rampant illegal mining. This has been stated in the sixth ‘State of India's Environment’ report, "Rich Lands, Poor People: Is sustainable mining possible", prepared by the Centre for Science and Environment.

Anchor of Chinese make found off Gujarat coast
Ahmedabad, March 15
Marine archaeologists have found a stone anchor in the Gulf of Khambhat with a design similar to the ones used by Chinese and Japanese ships in 12th-14th century AD, giving the first offshore evidence indicating India's trade relations with the two Asian countries.

Talaq by Chand valid, says seminary   
Muzaffarnagar, March 15
The triple-talaq by Chand Mohammad may be “unacceptable” to his second wife Fiza, but leading Islamic seminary Darul Uloom has said the divorce by former Haryana Deputy Chief Minister is “legal” under Muslim law.

J&K killings: Army refuses to be part of govt probe
New Delhi, March 15
The Army has refused to participate in the inquiry being conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir government into the killing of two innocent civilians in Sopore town (North Kashmir) last month, saying such a probe was not valid.

Fiza

2 gored to death
Ariyalur, March 15
Two persons were gored to death and 65 others injured in a ‘Jallikattu’ (bull fight) at Thirumanur, near here, last night. According to reports received at the police headquarters here today, the deceased were identified as Nanni (40) of Vadugapalayam village and Ganesan of (38) of Siruvalur village.





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Ambani’s skyscraper makes it to Forbes list

This picture shows a layout of Mukesh Ambani’s upcoming skyscraper in Mumbai, a 550 feet, 27-storeyed building that would cost around $1 billion
This picture shows a layout of Mukesh Ambani’s upcoming skyscraper in Mumbai, a 550 feet, 27-storeyed building that would cost around $1 billion.

New York, March 15
India’s richest resident Mukesh Ambani’s upcoming skyscraper in Mumbai and wealthiest NRI Lakshmi Mittal’s getaway in the Alps are among the world’s top 10 ‘billionaire playgrounds’ for the year. Others on the list include Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s 200-acre ranch on Wildcat Ridge in Colorado, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s 416-foot megayacht Octopus and Apussuit Adventure Camp, a remote skiing resort in West Greenland frequented by software czar Bill Gates.

The list of the top 10 ‘billionaire playgrounds’ has been compiled by Forbes Traveller - a luxury travel publication of American business magazine Forbes known for its lists of richest persons in the world. “Whether it’s seeking out crystal-clear Caribbean waters, retreating to a mountain hideaway or sailing the seven seas in style, the world’s billionaires are, in some ways, just like us. They want to relax in privacy and luxury. The only difference is, they don’t get worried when the bill arrives,” Forbes Traveller said in a report on its website.

About Lakshmi Mittal’s St Moritz holiday getaway in Switzerland, the report said: “After this industrialist billionaire built his fortune mostly with steel, he moved to London but retained his Indian passport. In addition to his palatial residence on London’s Kensington Palace Garden aka Billionaires Row, Mittal keeps a home in St Moritz.

“Why waste time (on) jets when you can build your playground closer home? Why not, in fact, make your home itself the playground? That's what Mukesh Ambani is doing. The Indian petrochem and telecom tycoon is constructing a 550-foot, 27-story skyscraper residence in Mumbai at an estimated cost of $1 billion,” Forbes Traveller said.

The house would reportedly resemble a virtual glass palace with six floors of parking and a helipad and its top four floors would provide a view of the Arabian Sea and also the city’s skyline.

Bill Gates, who has wrested his position as the world’s richest person from friend and legendary investor Warren Buffett despite a fall in his net worth to $40 billion, flies to his playground in West Greenland whenever he needs a break. — PTI

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Cong sniffs power in Meghalaya
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 15
Assam minister and Congress leader Dr Himanta Biswa Sharma, an accused of masterminding the political crisis in Meghalaya by the ruling Meghalaya People’s Alliance (MPA), today claimed that spadework for the change of guard in Meghalaya had already been done and the outcome would be there for all to see during the MPA’s floor test in Meghalaya Assembly on March 17.

The MPA having the NCP and the regional United Democratic Party (UDP) as its main constituents, has been reduced to a minority government in 60-member Meghalaya House in the wake of back-to-back resignations by two Independent MLAs and two cabinet ministers from two regional parties.

“We have done our work in respect of Meghalaya. What happens next will unravel during the floor test the MPA will face on Tuesday,” Assam minister Dr Sharma said adding that it was the AICC that had assigned the Assam Congress the task of helping out the Meghalaya Congress unit.

Meanwhile, a rejuvenated Congress under the stewardship of former Chief Minister and the Opposition leader D D Lapang are tying up all loose ends to stake claim to form the next government in Meghalaya following the floor test of the ‘minority’ MPA government on March 17.

The Congress has 26 MLAs of its own and is supported by three other Independent legislators. It is, however, not yet clear whether the two ministers who quit the MPA government joined the Congress-led coalition or not. The MPA, however, maintains that it would pass the floor test in the Assembly.

Scotching speculations about a possible Congress-NCP government in Meghalaya, the Congress has denied having struck any deal with the NCP or other parties for formation of the next government in the event of collapse of the MPA Government. A senior leader of the party said the political crisis would, however, end after March 17 trial of strength in the Assembly.

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Non-filing Of Expenses
EC disqualifies 3,423 candidates

New Delhi, March 15
The Election Commission (EC) has disqualified 3,423 candidates for not filing the details of the expenses incurred during the last Lok Sabha or recent Assembly polls, which they contested.

Of them, a major chunk of 1,075 candidates are from Uttar Pradesh and 616 from Bihar who had contested the Assembly polls in these two states, respectively.

They have been disqualified for three years, the EC said, adding that almost 99 per cent of the candidates were independents.

Noting that after elections every candidate was required to file an account of expenses, the EC said if candidates did not comply, show cause notice would be served and action taken under the Representation of the People Act.

Section 10A of the Act states that if the EC is satisfied that a person has failed to submit an account of expenses within the timeframe and has no good reason or justification, it can disqualify that person for three years from the date of the order.

Interestingly, seven candidates, who had contested the Lok Sabha polls, were disqualified in Uttar Pradesh, which has the maximum number of 80 seats. In Bihar, 15 candidates were disqualified.

Outer Delhi Lok Sabha seat and Deeg Assembly constituency in Rajasthan saw one candidate each being disqualified for not filing the accounts.

Announcing the schedule for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the Commission said Income Tax sleuths would keep a close watch on the poll expenses of the candidates.

Officials from the Income Tax will be posted on poll duty and will report to the Election Commission for followup action, according to Chief Election Commissioner-designate Navin Chawla.

A cell comprising experts drawn from Income Tax department is planned to be set up in the Commission to deal with information on poll expenses of candidates. — PTI

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Maya’s dinner diplomacy works
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

AIADMK absent

Jayalalitha’s AIADMK representative V. Maitreyan stayed away from the dinner even though he earlier attended the meeting on seat arrangement with the Third Front partners. The meeting was held at the CPM headquarters where the BJD on Sunday formally joined the “conglomeration of like-minded parties”. Its representative Jay Panda, however, clarified that the BJD had joined the alliance that would have seat-sharing arrangements to defeat the Congress and BJP.

New Delhi, March 15
BSP supremo Mayawati not only threw a red carpet welcome for the Third Front allies at her new 14, Gurdwara Rakabganj Road residence here tonight but also arranged a special gourmet delight for them. Her dinner diplomacy — apparently aimed at laying to rest the crisis that had cropped up in the alliance over prime minister’s post — it seemed, worked.

For, the PM’s post issue was not at all raised during the dinner, leaders present at the gathering said. “Neither she mentioned it nor did anybody else. The talks were restricted to keeping the UPA and NDA out of power,” a Left leader said.

Emerging after hosting the grand reception, Mayawati herself gave the final declaration on the matter (that the issue had been kept aside for now). Among other leaders who flanked Mayawati outside her residence as she made the announcement were JDS chief Deve Gowda, TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu, TRS’ Chandrashekhar Rao, BJD’s Jay Panda and Left’s Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury and A.B. Bardhan.

But one thing was for sure: the Third Front gathering took the centrestage right under the shadow of Congress’ electoral war-room - 15, Rakabganj Road, the Delhi residence of Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, which now serves as the location for the party’s Lok Sabha strategy.

Also present was a massive media contingent, which, for once, had its back to the Congress war-room. While the media awaited Mayawati for her final word, top Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jairam Ramesh and Ahmad Patel went in and out of their election office.

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‘Cash for alliance’ slur on AGP, BJP
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 15
The Assam Congress is trying to rake up a ‘cash for alliance’ scam out of the seat-sharing deal arrived at by regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the BJP in Assam for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls.

Assam Congress leader and state health minister Dr Himanta Bishwa Sharma accused the AGP of taking huge amount of cash to strike the seat-sharing deal with the BJP and claimed to have substantial evidence to prove his allegation.

He alleged that the “alliance” between the AGP and BJP was not based on any ideology but was possible after a huge amount of cash changed hands.

Reacting sharply to the Congress’ allegation, AGP general secretary Atul Bora challenged the Congress to prove the charges. Another AGP senior leader Padma Hazarika vowed to quit public life if the charges of cash deal behind the seat-sharing agreement with the BJP could be proved by the Congress.

The AGP leaders have dared Congress leader Sharma to make public the reported video footage in his possession on cash transaction between AGP-BJP, failing which the regional party threatened to file a defamation suit against him.

However, an unperturbed Dr Sharma today said he was ready with all evidences to prove his allegation in the court if the AGP filed a defamation case. “In case I fail to prove my allegations in court, I will quit politics,” he said.

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Clarify stand on Marathi PM, Sena to BJP

Mumbai, March 15
Two days after reaching a seat-sharing pact with the BJP, the Shiv Sena today once again came out in strong support for a Marathi prime minister and asked its saffron ally to clarify its stand on the issue.

In an article published today in the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, party’s spokesperson Sanjay Raut has come out in strong support of having a Maharashtrian as the PM and criticised MNS chief Raj Thackeray who has ridiculed the possibility of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar becoming the PM.

Later, in a press conference here, he said: “The BJP should clear it’s stand about Marathi man for the top job. Senior leaders in the state like Munde and Gadkari would not like if a Marathi grabs the post.”

Raut, however, agreed that as his party is a part of NDA, it would support Advani for the post. “But if someone thinks that a Marathi does not deserve the top job then they should dare to declare it publicly,” he said, adding: “The issue of a Marathi prime minister should not be ridiculed in Maharashtra at least”. — PTI

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Reddy’s son to contest poll

Hyderabad, March 15
Ending a long suspense, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s son YS Jaganmohan Reddy today announced that he would contest the upcoming Lok Sabha polls from the Kadapa constituency.

“I have decided to contest the polls from Kadapa, which was earlier represented by my father,” said Jaganmohan at a road show in Proddatur. Kadapa is currently represented by Rajasekhara Reddy’s younger brother YS Vivekananda Reddy.

In 2005, Vivekananda had sought to resign from his Lok Sabha membership to enable Jaganmohan make his political debut but Congress chief Sonia Gandhi rejected the move.

However, the Congress has not yet officially declared Jaganmohan’s candidature for the Lok Sabha polls. — PTI

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SC to hear Kachroo case today

New Delhi, March 15
The Supreme Court is likely to take up tomorrow the murder case of first-year medical science student Aman Kachroo, who was brutally killed on March 8 at his college hostel in Himachal Pradesh in gross violation of the apex court's directives to check ragging in educational institutions.

So far 30 young lives have been lost due to torture and humiliation of freshers in the guise of ragging during the last five years.

Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, who is also an amicus curiae (friend of the court), has already made it clear that he will be approaching the apex court tomorrow for appropriate action against Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, authorities including principal, hostel warden and manager for contempt of the Supreme Court by not taking action on the complaint of 19-year-old Kachroo against a senior student.

The Prevention of the Ragging in Colleges and Institutions Bill, which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2005 is yet to become a law. The Bill makes the offence of ragging punishable with imprisonment up to three years and a fine of Rs 25,000, and empowers the government to ban ragging in educational institutions.

A Bench headed by Justice Arijit Pasayat, who had issued directions to check the menace of ragging can also take suo motu cognizance against the authorities of the college.

Four senior doctors, who had beaten Kachroo to death had already been booked under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code and the post-mortem report had revealed that he has sustained multiple fractures on his body as result of beating by the accused, who were badly drunk. — UNI

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Top Bihar cops under EC scanner
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 15
Gautam and headquarters ADG Neelmani have come under the Election Commission’s (EC) scanner for going to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s residence on the occasion of Holi to greet him.

The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) here has sought a report from the state government on this issue on the basis of local newspaper reports.

Sources in the CEO office said any government officer who made personal visit to the Chief Minister or any other minister or politician’s house after the announcement of polls amounted to violation of the model code of conduct and it could invite action against the officer concerned.

The DGP and the ADG were spotted at 1, Anney Marg (official residence), of the Chief Minister on March 11 evening.

Many others, including party leaders, had gone to greet the CM even though the latter had announced earlier that he would not be celebrating Holi because of the devastation caused by the Kosi floods.

Sources said it was Nitish who realised the “mistake” made by the top brass of his police force and snapped at the duo for coming to his house in civil clothes.

The CEO office will initiate any follow -up action in this matter only after getting a report from the state Home Department.

Notably, the EC had taken an exception to a similar visit (private visit) by the then IG and the DIG of the CRPF deputed in Bihar to the CM house ( Rabri Devi’s house) to meet Lalu Prasad Yadav (Railway Minister) during the Assembly Polls in 2005. Both the officers of the CRPF were immediately replaced at the behest of the EC.

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Visually impaired get knowledge portal
To benefit 44 million people

Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 15
The world of 44 million visually-impaired is about to change, with the launch of India’s first knowledge portal last week which answers all question a low-vision person wants to ask.

Laced with information on over 100 eye conditions, education facilities, services and job markets for the blind, the portal — www.eyeway.org — seeks to fill the gaps in the sector of disability studies.

Of the 2,500 registered schools India has for all categories of disabled persons, there are only about 253 schools for the blind. The numbers to be catered are a whopping 440 lakh; over 70 per cent of these are in rural India, where the concentration of institutes for the blind is negligible.

The portal reaches out to these largely-neglected categories, especially those who suffer irreversible blindness due to medical conditions that develop later in life. The man behind the portal - George Abraham - himself suffers from blindness due to optical atrophy - a congenital condition.

As CEO of Score Foundation, which designed the website, Abraham refers rather humbly to his team’s mighty effort: “We want to tell the visually impaired that there is a world beyond blindness. The problem is with the mind, not with the eyes.”

The portal is smart as it has a multi-sensorial approach to education and offers the users all information on the knowledge sources available for them. It tells a blind mobile phone recharge shop owner where to get the software that would enable him to transfer balance from his cell phone to that of the customers; it informs a graduate sitting for exams where to seek his legal right of an extra 20 minutes per hour to write the exam.

The Score Foundation just helped Gautam Baruah of Guwahati become the first visually impaired person in India to transfer balance to his customer’s cell phone by himself. He was until now asking his wife for help. “This sense of independence is what we seek to deliver,” Abraham says. He will soon launch the website in Hindi and other regional languages.

To use the portal, people would require a screen reading software to operate the computer and access the website. The software can be downloaded from Internet and is also available in the market for Rs 50,000 - a prohibitive cost for the simple reason that the manufacture of this site is not indigenous.

“There are sites where users can download the software,” says Abraham, who describes the portal as “a knowledge takeaway that works through the web, radio, helpdesk, talking books and mobile training.”

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Pranab, Dasmunshi’s wife in WB list
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 15
External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee would be the Congress candidate from the Jangirpur constituency while ailing minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi's wife Deepa would fight from Raiganj, the Congress announced today, releasing the list of candidates for Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal.

Mukherjee represents Jangirpur in the outgoing Lok Sabha while Raiganj is represented by Dasmunsi, who has been in coma for past several months now. The party has fielded Asit Mal from Bolpur.

Bolpur is represented by Speaker of the outgoing Lok Sabha Somnath Chatterjee, who has announced that he would not be contesting the Lok Sabha poll.

The Congress and the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress are in a seat-sharing deal in the state. The Congress would contest from 14 of the state's 42 constituencies, leaving the rest for the Trinamool.

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Paramilitary forces to be one of the largest recruiters

New Delhi, March 15
At a time when there is almost a total freeze in recruitment everywhere owing to global economic recession, the paramilitary forces have emerged as one of the largest recruiters in the country if one goes by the government's plan to strengthen the six organisations.

Home Ministry officials here said the CRPF, BSF, CISF, ITBP, SSB and the NSG have been authorised to raise 123 new battalions which would be coming up in the next two to three years.

Each battalion of the forces will have about 1,100 personnel and hence the total number of persons, including women, to be recruited by them would be over 1.35 lakh.

In the coming financial year (2009-10), about 25 new battalions would be raised totalling to approximately 28,000 personnel from across the country.

“After Mumbai terror attacks, there has been a push to modernise the paramilitary forces in terms of both equipment and personnel. Additional battalions have been sanctioned keeping the future and present requirements in mind," an official said.

At present, seven paramilitary forces, namely the CISF, CRPF, BSF, NSG, ITBP, SSB and the Assam Rifles (under Defence Ministry) have 7,17,909 personnel, with the CRPF being the largest with 201 battalions.

Sources said the CISF, which at present has about 1,12,000 personnel, has been given the go-ahead to raise it strength to 1,45,000. In all, the force would see its strength going up by 37 new battalions after the completion of the expansion plan in the next three years.

Similarly, the CRPF which has been sanctioned 10 new battalions to be raised as Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (COBRA).

The NSG, which draws its men on deputation from the Army and the paramilitary forces, has also been allotted four new battalions but it seems to have hit hurdles following the Army's reluctance to immediately contribute its share of personnel to the elite force.

The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), which guards the India-Bhutan and India-Nepal borders, has been sanctioned 37 new battalions and the BSF has been granted 29 new battalions of which about five would be raised in the next fiscal.

Sources said the Home Ministry has also drawn a futuristic plan for the paramilitary forces keeping in mind the requirements for the next 10 years. They said a proposal to increase more battalions of the paramilitary forces is already with the Ministry and a decision would be taken once the present sanctioned strength is raised. — PTI

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PMO e-mail system hit by virus

New Delhi, March 15
E-mail system of the Prime Minister’s Office was under the grip of a computer virus for three months last year forcing officials to replace the software.

The technical glitch plagued the e-mail communication system of the PMO, which was based on the Microsoft Outlook Express, from February to April in 2008.

Although the extent of damage was uncertain, the PMO said most of the e-mails addressed to it were not received.

The problem was detected only in late April after which the Microsoft Outlook Express e-mail software was discontinued and replaced by another software - Squirrel mail.

The matter came to light during one of the hearings of the Central Information Commission where the PMO submitted that “there was virus problem during the months of February-March-April that was finally diagnosed only late in April”.

The commission was hearing the plea of Air Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd), who had complained to the PMO, through an e-mail, about various discrepancies in the Hindi version of the RTI Act, circulated by the Department of Personnel and Training.

In its submission to the commission, the PMO said, “Many mails reportedly sent were not received in the Outlook Express and subsequently the Outlook Express was discontinued and the Squirrel Mail was used.”

“What is surprising is the fact that otherwise prompt IT experts posted in the PMO failed to diagnose the problem for three long months,” an IT expert, on condition of anonymity, said. — PTI

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Illegal mining eroding Rajasthan forest cover
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, March 15
Holding reserves for 44 major and 22 minor minerals, Rajasthan is witnessing destruction of forests due to rampant illegal mining. This has been stated in the sixth ‘State of India's Environment’ report, "Rich Lands, Poor People: Is sustainable mining possible", prepared by the Centre for Science and Environment.

According to the report, the illegal mines in the state lack mechanism for implementation of environmental protection measures. The report also airs concern about the plight of the workers engaged in these mines. "Because these mines operate beyond the law, workers' rights are not recognised. They are neither provided basic amenities like toilets and water nor safety procedures or compensation for accidents," states the report.

The report also mentions the lifting of ban on mining leases in Schedule-V areas by the previous BJP regime and apprehends that the Congress government may soon give in to pressure from the industry, which seems all set to grab the mining leases.

As per this 350-page report, the state government has failed to regulate illegal mining in forest areas. Udaipur, the district with the maximum forest cover, is also the most mined. According to the report, the government has "issued leases for hundreds of mines in Sariska National Park despite repeated Supreme Court orders to shut them down", which had wreaked havoc on the forest cover of the state.

The report goes on to add that extensive mining of sandstone, marble and other minerals has "converted the Aravallis into a rocky wasteland", further adding that despite Supreme Court orders mining has continued unabated in the Aravallis.

The report says Rajasthan is the only producer of garnet, jasper, selenite, wollastonite and zinc concentrates. However, it is best known for its production of marble, sandstone, marble and other stones. It produces 10 per cent of the world's and 70 per cent of India's output of sandstone.

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Anchor of Chinese make found off Gujarat coast

Ahmedabad, March 15
Marine archaeologists have found a stone anchor in the Gulf of Khambhat with a design similar to the ones used by Chinese and Japanese ships in 12th-14th century AD, giving the first offshore evidence indicating India's trade relations with the two Asian countries.

This stone anchor was found during an exploration headed by two marine archaeologists -- AS Gaur and BK Bhatt -- from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, in the later half of 2008.

"Though there are a lot of references and Chinese pottery (found from coastal sites) indicating trade relations between the two Asian nations (China and Japan) in the past, but this anchor from the offshore region is the first evidence from Indian waters. Similar type of anchors have been found from Chinese and Japanese waters," Gaur said.

Gaur and Bhatt have described the findings of their exploration in a paper 'Marine Archaeological Exploration on the Western Coast, Gulf of Khambhat' posted on NIO's website.

The exploration was conducted on the east coast of Saurashtra along the coastal areas of Bhavnagar district namely Gogha, Hatab, Gopnath and Vallabhipur.

"One of the anchors found at Hathab (in Bhavnagar) made of laterite has been discovered for the first time from Indian waters. It has a shallow and wide groove on all four faces of the block," the duo have stated in their paper.

"It is very similar to those reported from Chinese, Japanese and Korean waters datable to the 12-l4th century AD. This is the first direct evidence of Indo-Chinese trade during the early medieval period," they further wrote.

Gaur said the discovery of a large number of stone anchors from Gogha suggests that it was an important port town during the medieval period. Majority of anchors found along the Saurashtra coast belong to the Indo-Arab type, dated between 8th and 14th century AD and are made up of basalt or limestone.

Also, for the first time Islamic glazed wares have been collected from the vicinity of these anchors. — PTI

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Talaq by Chand valid, says seminary

Muzaffarnagar, March 15
The triple-talaq by Chand Mohammad may be “unacceptable” to his second wife Fiza, but leading Islamic seminary Darul Uloom has said the divorce by former Haryana Deputy Chief Minister is “legal” under Muslim law.

“Talaq, uttered thrice, is legal under the Shariat and in this situation Fiza is free to marry another man if she wants after passing of the three-month Iddat period,” said the incharge of seminary’s Fatwa department Mufti Ahsan Kasmi.

He also said “a divorce is not necessary if Chand reconverts to Hinduism”.

Chand, alias Chander Mohan, who is the son of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, married former Assistant Advocate-General of Haryana Anuradha Bali, alias Fiza, in November last year after both of them converted to Islam.

Chand yesterday divorced his wife over phone through SMS, accusing her of making “false” allegations against him, but she said the separation in this manner was “not acceptable” to her.

However, a member of Shariat court Mufti Zulfikar said talaq over telphone was legal and the couple was now divorced. — PTI

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J&K killings: Army refuses to be part of govt probe

New Delhi, March 15
The Army has refused to participate in the inquiry being conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir government into the killing of two innocent civilians in Sopore town (North Kashmir) last month, saying such a probe was not valid.

The inquiry, initiated by state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, had blamed the Army personnel present at the site of encounter for not verifying the claims of their informers before shooting down the innocents.

The civilian inquiry had asked the Army to present before it the personnel who were involved in the killing but sources said the Brigade Command stated, through a letter, that such an inquiry was not valid under the Army Act.

Citing the Army Act, the force handed over a statement giving their version of the story, sources said.

The Army’s rejection of the government probe is likely to figure in the high-level meeting between Omar, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and the Army authorities scheduled for Wednesday in Jammu, the sources said.

Earlier, Omar had come down heavily on security forces for using excess force and had announced an inquiry into the killing of the two youths on February 22. — PTI

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2 gored to death

Ariyalur, March 15
Two persons were gored to death and 65 others injured in a ‘Jallikattu’ (bull fight) at Thirumanur, near here, last night.

According to reports received at the police headquarters here today, the deceased were identified as Nanni (40) of Vadugapalayam village and Ganesan of (38) of Siruvalur village.

While Nanni succumbed to his injuries on the way to Thanjavur Medical College Hospital, Ganesan died at the same hospital this morning.

All the injured were treated at the medical camp at the site.

However, 19 of them were referred to Thanjavur Medical College, the police added. — UNI

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BRIEFLY

Another UP engineer shot
LUCKNOW:
Panic gripped the native area of former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav after armed criminals shot dead an engineer and critically injured another near Saifai in Etawah district. According to the police, two engineers of Reliance Communication, Dhirendra Parihar and Bijendra, were coming towards Etawah when some criminals shot at them under the Karhal police station area on Saturday night. While Dhirendra died on the spot, Bijendra was admitted to the hospital with bullet wounds. The police sources said the criminals wanted to rob the engineers who were on a motorcycle. — UNI

Mrinal films in poor state
KOLKATA:
A mini retrospective of iconic film-maker Mrinal Sen at the prestigious Cannes film festival has fallen through after it was found that most of his masterpieces were in extremely bad shape. “The festival authorities had zeroed in on my Calcutta trilogy films on the situation in the 70s - namely Interview, Calcutta 71 and Padatik - for a mini retrospective, but the negatives were found to be in very bad shape,” the Dadasaheb Phalke winning veteran director told PTI. “I am not going to Cannes this time,” he said. “Almost all my films are in very bad condition as they were not preserved properly,” he added. — PTI

Security up along border
AGARTALA:
Security along Tripura’s 856-km long border with Bangladesh has been strengthened and vigil intensified in view of the coming Lok Sabha polls, BSF sources said here on Sunday. The BSF has increased vigil to keep insurgents or members of any fundamentalist outfit from Bangladesh at bay, the sources said. Night curfew has been imposed along the border across the state for an indefinite period by the district authorities. They have also barred vehicular movement and carrying of arms in the frontiers during night, official sources said. — PTI

CCTV to help trace man
MUMBAI:
The Government Railway Police will sift through the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) footages to trace the man, who allegedly threatened a 17-year-old girl after which she jumped off a moving train at Lower Parel, the police said. “We have asked the victim to go through the CCTV footages using which we could identify the man who threatened her with a knife. As per her complaint, the accused had boarded the train at Dadar railway station. We have CCTV footages of Dadar and Mumbai Central railway stations,” B Rane, senior police inspector GRP police station at Mumbai Central said. — PTI

Scriptures a click away
KOTA:
A website on Jain religion has been created with a collection of 623 scriptures, a Jain spiritual leader has said. Rare scriptures, written around 2000 years ago, can be accessed through the site, www.jaingranths.com, which will be launched on March 19. The grants (holy books) are made available in Sanskrit, Prakrit, Dhundhari, English and Gujarati languages or dialects, Jain Acharya Suvidhi Sagar said here on Saturday. — PTI

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