SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

President confers gallantry awards
New Delhi, March 26
Hitting out at allies who have been maligning the Congress, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said, “The Congress had the ability to adjust to alliances”. The last five years had proved that ability. Wives of martyrs C Govidaswamy and Mahendra Pratap Singh break down before receiving the Shaurya Chakra award from the President at the Defence Investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan, in New Delhi on Thursday.
Wives of martyrs C Govidaswamy and Mahendra Pratap Singh break down before receiving the Shaurya Chakra award from the President at the Defence Investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan, in New Delhi on Thursday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

Soumya’s employer fined under labour laws
New Delhi, March 26
Employer of deceased Journalist Soumya Vishwanathan (26), the Headlines Today news Channel owned by M/s TV Today Network, was fined Rs 250 fine for breaking the Capital's work-hour norms by a city court. Soumya had left her Jhandewalan office around 3 am in her car, shortly after which she was found shot dead on Nelson Mandela Road in South Delhi.



EARLIER STORIES

Why not a US-style debate, Advani to PM
Seppa (Arunachal Pradesh), March 26
Senior BJP leader LK Advani today challenged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to a live TV debate similar to the practice in the US where rival political leaders take on each other.

I wanted Rahul in Cabinet: PM
New Delhi, March 26
Advocating a more responsible role to the youth icon in the Congress, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he wanted to take Rahul Gandhi, MP from Amethi, in his Cabinet. Talking to reporters after an investiture ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan this evening, the Prime Minister said, “I have been wanting to induct Mr Rahul in my Cabinet, but he always declined the offer.”

No question of leaving NDA over Varun episode: Nitish
New Delhi, March 26
Even as the BJP remained steadfast in its commitment to its Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi, the latest Hindutva icon, it received reassurance from the JD(U) that it was not going to make too much of an issue of Varun Gandhi’s utterances.

SC nod to action against MLAs
New Delhi, March 26
The Supreme Court today allowed the Meghalaya Speaker to go ahead with the disqualification proceedings against five MLAs under the anti-defection law.

Maya promises quota for upper class
Dhanbad, March 26
BSP supremo and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati today said if voted to power at the Centre, she will ensure reservation to the economically weaker section in upper class by making amendment to the Constitution.

BSP violating poll code: Babbar
Lucknow, March 26
While the state Election Commission is still awaiting to hear from New Delhi regarding Mainpuri DM’s complaint against Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Singh Yadav, it confirmed that Agra MP Raj Babbar has filed a complaint against the ruling BSP for allegedly violating the model code of conduct by organising caste-based conventions.

No alliance with Cong-DMK combine: Vijaykanth
Chennai, March 26
In a crucial blow to the efforts of the Congress to rope in the DMDK, led by actor Vijaykanth, and compensate for the loss of other allies in Tamil Nadu, the actor today announced that his party would go it alone in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections.

Maneka breaks silence on son’s issue, attacks Cong
New Delhi, March 26
Breaking her silence over her son’s alleged hate speech, Varun Gandhi’s mother and former Union Minister Maneka Gandhi today attacked the Congress, saying the party was taking up the case to “conceal” its “anti-Sikh acts”.

‘M’rashtra BJP wants Varun to campaign’
Mumbai, March 26
The Maharashtra unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party may ask the outfit’s central leadership to dispatch Varun Gandhi to the state as a star campaigner for the Lok Sabha elections, according to sources. Varun’s tape controversy has resulted in his popularity surging among the rank and file of the BJP and the Shiv Sena, according to the sources.

‘Fernandes likely to file papers on April 1’
Patna, March 26
Former NDA convenor and now the projected leader of the JD(U) rebels George Fernandes has finally decided to jump into the electoral arena from his old constituency Muzaffarpur.

How many crores did Big B make from KBC?
New Delhi, March 26
It is common knowledge that Amitabh Bachchan made crores of rupees by hosting the popular quiz show “Kaun Banega Crorepati” about 10 years ago. But what was the exact amount is still mired in a legal battle.

‘Awards don’t excite me anymore’
New Delhi, March 26
She is the winner of Jnanpeeth and Magsaysay awards and a contender for the Man Booker prize, but awards no longer excite veteran writer Mahashweta Devi, who has donated all her prize money till date for the welfare of indigenous people.


                                                                      Mahashweta Devi
Mahashweta Devi

Gujarat not very friendly on RTI: Survey
New Delhi, March 26
When the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into existence it aimed at empowering the citizens to exercise their rights and seek information from the government. However, very few states have been facilitating the Act in the right spirit and Gujarat, according a survey, leads the way on this front.

EC asks DGP to show cause
Guwahati, March 26
The Election Commission (EC) has given a show cause notice to Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) president Chandra Mohan Patowary for making certain remarks against Congress candidate from Tezpur parliamentary constituency Mani Kumar Subba during a media briefing on March 23.

IIT-Kharagpur
Former SC judge to probe student’s death
Midnapore (WB), March 26
Former Supreme court judge UC Banerjee will conduct a judicial probe into the death of a third year engineering student in IIT-Kharagpur campus five days back and the subsequent violence. Banerjee, also the former Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court, would examine the circumstances leading to the death of the electrical engineering student Anil Kumar on March 22, the consequent violence and the alleged heckling of Damodar Acharya who ‘resigned’ from the Director’s post that very night, IIT sources said.

Vanishing pastures cause for concern
Leh, March 26
“Changthang, known for its world famous Pashmina goats, has now become a conflict zone among the stakeholders in sharing the scarce pasture of Changthang”, said Jigmet Takpa, conservator, forest, regional wildlife, Leh, who chaired the micro planning under a support programme conducted recently in the district.

Extra Flab
People prefer surgery to exercise: Expert
Chennai, March 26
More and more people are turning towards laparoscopic surgery to overcome obesity in a very short period, rather than relying on exercise and dieting, which takes a long time, Dr John Thanakumar, an expert surgeon in this field, said.





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President confers gallantry awards
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
Hitting out at allies who have been maligning the Congress, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said, “The Congress had the ability to adjust to alliances”. The last five years had proved that ability.

He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Defence investiture ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhawan here this evening. On being asked if what is the future of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) since allies were leaving it, The PM said “elections are unpredictable”. We have a record on the basis of which people of India will recognize what we have done.

He said so far he had not seen the resignation of Union Health minister A Ramadoss and leader of the PMK. He said the PMK had not broken away due to the government rather it was due to the state politics ( in Tamil Nadu) that he went away.

In a firm response to the claims of the Left that it “stopped the government from carrying out anti-people policies”, Manmohan Singh said it was self-praise on part of the Left to make such claims. History will judge us.

On the recent report of intrusion in Jammu and Kashmir, the Pm said “it was worrisome and a matter of concern”. Though he refused to let out details about his forthcoming visit to the G-20 summit in London and the forthcoming meeting with US President Barack Obama, the PM said bilateral and multi-lateral issues will be discussed. On being asked if India will raise the issue of Pakistan Manmohan Singh said “ ….all relevant issues will be raised”.

He said there was no danger to the economy due to deflation and the growth would continue at 6.5 to 7 percent as predicted.

Earlier, the President Pratibha Patil conferred eight Kirti Chakras, one Bar to Shaurya Chakra and 25 Shaurya Chakras to serving armed forces personnel and others for displaying conspicuous gallantry, indomitable courage and extreme devotion to duty. The President also conferred 15 Param Vishisht Seva Medals, two Uttam Yudh Seva Medals, one Bar to Ati Vishisht Seva Medal and twenty five Ati Vishisht Seva Medals to senior officers of the Armed Forces for distinguished service of an exceptional order. Two of the shaurya chakras have gone to men of the Zaranj-Delaram road project in in Taliban infested Afghanistan. Superintendent Mahendra Pratap Singh and mason C. Govindaswamy died on April 12, 2008 in a suicide bomb attack by Taliban militants. The road was handed over to Afghanistan a couple months ago.

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Soumya’s employer fined under labour laws
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
Employer of deceased Journalist Soumya Vishwanathan (26), the Headlines Today news Channel owned by M/s TV Today Network, was fined Rs 250 fine for breaking the Capital's work-hour norms by a city court.

Soumya had left her Jhandewalan office around 3 am in her car, shortly after which she was found shot dead on Nelson Mandela Road in South Delhi.

According to Labour Department sources, the quantum of fine for the sort of violation, which incurred in Soumya’s case was set in 1954 under the name of Delhi Shops and Establishments Act. The Section 14 of this Act outlaws any establishment allowing women to work between 9 pm and 7 am in summer and, 8 pm and 8 am, in winters. Whereas, under Section 40 of this Act, any contravention shall on conviction be punished with fine, which shall not be less than Rs 25 and, which may extend to Rs 250.

According to the sources, TV Today Network was found guilty under the Act and had to pay Rs 250 in February this year. Elaborating on the issue, a Labour official said that the Delhi government exempts employers who make workplaces “secure and safe” for employees and provide them “door to door” pick-up and drop facility.

The city's Shops and Establishments Chief Inspector had filed a complaint the naming employer, Managing Director Aroon Purie, and the establishment, M/s TV Today Network, as the accused.

The complaint said that the management having “not been granted any exemption” for Section 14, “the employer committed an offence by violating the provision... and is liable to be punished” under Section 40. It prayed “that the accused be summoned, tried and punished according to law.” However, a lawyer for Purie urged the court to “dispense with” his client’s personal appearance, saying he was “falsely implicated” and “imp leaded for malafide reasons.”

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Why not a US-style debate, Advani to PM

Seppa (Arunachal Pradesh), March 26
Senior BJP leader LK Advani today challenged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to a live TV debate similar to the practice in the US where rival political leaders take on each other.

Advani, who is locked in a war of words with Singh in the recent days, threw the challenge at a poll rally here after again dubbing the Congress leader as the “weakest Prime Minister” the country ever had.

The former Deputy Prime Minister said he was ready for a live debate with Manmohan Singh on various issues on TV channels like the practice followed in the US.

Reacting to the challenge, Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natrajan said the BJP seemed to be “obsessed” with everything US.

However, Natrajan said it was up to the Prime Minister to respond to the challenge. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury stepped in to suggest there should be a three-way debate that should also include other parties, including the Left. India is not a bipolar democracy and a two-way debate won’t not work, he said.

“The Indian political system is not like that of the US where you have bipolarity and a Presidential system,” Yechury added.

He, however, said the Prime Minister and Advani were welcome to have a debate on television. — PTI

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I wanted Rahul in Cabinet: PM

New Delhi, March 26
Advocating a more responsible role to the youth icon in the Congress, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he wanted to take Rahul Gandhi, MP from Amethi, in his Cabinet.

Talking to reporters after an investiture ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan this evening, the Prime Minister said, “I have been wanting to induct Mr Rahul in my Cabinet, but he always declined the offer.” In reply to a question, he said he was of the opinion that the party’s youth icon should be provided bigger and more responsive role in the party.

The youth were being given the leadership role all over the world.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi had made it clear yesterday after the release of the party manifesto that Singh was the only prime ministerial candidate of the UPA.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said he had not received the resignation of Health Minister Ambumani Ramadoss, whose party PMK had parted ways with the UPA and joined hands with the AIADMK of J Jayalalithaa.

The matter is related to politics in Tamil Nadu and his government has nothing to do with it, he added. — UNI

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No question of leaving NDA over Varun episode: Nitish
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
Even as the BJP remained steadfast in its commitment to its Pilibhit candidate Varun Gandhi, the latest Hindutva icon, it received reassurance from the JD(U) that it was not going to make too much of an issue of Varun Gandhi’s utterances.

Of late JD(U) leaders, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, hoping to dent the RJD-LJP Muslim vote bank by reasserting his secular credentials in Bihar, chided Varun for his utterances.

But today Nitish, who has been here since yesterday, holding strategy sessions with BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley about their joint campaign, was categorical in his assertion that there was no question of JD(U) moving away from the BJP under any circumstances.

Acknowledging that his party has been approached both by the Congress and the Left Front to move to the UPA or the Third Front as the case may be, Nitish said, “There is no question of any tie-up with the Congress...As far as JD(U) is concerned, we do not think of either Third Front or any other option. We have only one option...We are with the NDA and committed to making LK Advani the Prime Minister of the country.”

He said, “If people vote the NDA to power, a government led by Advani will be formed. If this does not happen, we will respect peoples’ verdict.”

He dismissed recent visit of CPM politbureau member Sitaram Yechury to JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, saying, “Yechury keeps on visiting Yadav.”

Nitish’s assurance acted as a morale booster to BJP president Rajnath Singh, who reasserted his party’s commitment to Varun Gandhi and even hinted at sending more firey leaders like Uma Bharti, Yogi Adityanath and Vinay Katiyar to Pilibhit to campaign for Varun Gandhi and charge the election atmosphere further.

Sources indicated that Varun ’s anti-minority utterances were not just off the cuff remarks. Pilibhit has sizeable Lodh population who were considered a safe BJP vote bank. But since Kalyan Singh left the BJP there was apprehsnion that this vote bank could move away from the BJP, specially if Kalyan Singh came there to campaign against the BJP.

But the Lodh community has traditionally been swayed by Hindutva sentiments. Therefore, there was a conscious attempt by Varun to appeal to their Hindutva sentiments.

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SC nod to action against MLAs
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 26
The Supreme Court today allowed the Meghalaya Speaker to go ahead with the disqualification proceedings against five MLAs under the anti-defection law.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan has in the process set aside the Gauhati High Court order that had restrained the Speaker from disqualifying the MLAs for defecting from the NCP-led Meghalaya Progressive Alliance (MPA).

The Assembly Speaker had the power under the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution to decide on disqualification matters and the HC could not interfere in the process, the apex court ruled. The apex court made the observation while disposing of a petition filed by Conrad K Sangma.

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Maya promises quota for upper class

Dhanbad, March 26
BSP supremo and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati today said if voted to power at the Centre, she will ensure reservation to the economically weaker section in upper class by making amendment to the Constitution.

Addressing an election meeting at the Golf Ground here, she said the BSP on its own would contest election on all the 14 seats in Jharkhand and also clarified that her party had not joined hands with any other political party.

Lambasting the Congress, the BJP and their allies, Mayawati said even after 61 years of independence, there was no improvement in the social and economic conditions of several sects like the Sikh, Christian, Muslim and other sections of society because of the wrong policies of these parties.

Hitting out at the political parties, the BSP supremo said, '”Nation is still gripped by poverty, which is leading many people to opt for Naxalism or follow some other wrong path.” Mayawati asserted that even after the independence the poor are being exploited, which has led to the rise of menace of Naxalism and terrorism in the country and added that the Congress, the BJP and their allies have only ditched the people of the country in last 61 years.

She said the financial policies of these parties are made according to the businessmen and added that if one has to get rid of the sky-rocketing prices, these parties should be removed from power.

Mayawati also asserted that the BSP was the only party which got financial assistance from its party workers and not from businessmen.

“The BSP is neither supporting any specific caste nor is against any particular caste or religion. The party will work for all,” she quipped. — UNI

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BSP violating poll code: Babbar
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, March 26
While the state Election Commission is still awaiting to hear from New Delhi regarding Mainpuri DM’s complaint against Samajwadi Party President Mulayam Singh Yadav, it confirmed that Agra MP Raj Babbar has filed a complaint against the ruling BSP for allegedly violating the model code of conduct by organising caste-based conventions.

“We have received a complaint, along with photograph of such convention in Agra, from MP Raj Babbar and a report has been sought from the city’s district magistrate in this regard,” Additional Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha said today. Babbar, who is now contesting on a Congress ticket from Fatehpur Sikri, has alleged the ruling BSP of organising caste conventions.

In the complaint Babbar pointed out that in clear violation of the model code of conduct the BSP had organised conventions of Lodh, Nishad, Kashyap and Binda communities in Agra on March 8. A Jat Bhaichara Sammelan had also been held on March 18.

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No alliance with Cong-DMK combine: Vijaykanth
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 26
In a crucial blow to the efforts of the Congress to rope in the DMDK, led by actor Vijaykanth, and compensate for the loss of other allies in Tamil Nadu, the actor today announced that his party would go it alone in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections.

Releasing the list of his party candidates for nine Lok Sabha seats at Kaliayakavilai village in Kanyakumari district, Vijaykanth said, “I have alliance only with god and people. The DMDK will not have alliance with the Congress-DMK combine. The party will go it alone.”

Coming down heavily on the Congress for not protecting the Tamil population in Sri Lanka, Vijaykanth, whose eight per cent vote share throughout the state could swing the results decisively, said hundreds of innocent Tamil people were being killed by the Sri Lankan military everyday and the Congress-led government at the Centre had not taken any meaningful step to save them.

Referring to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister yesterday, that the Centre would continue its efforts to bring peace in Sri Lanka, the DMDK leader, who had named his elder son after LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran, asked, “What is the use of bringing peace, after the death of all the Tamils in Sri Lanka.”

Flaying Foreign Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee for failing to bring about a ceasefire in the island nation, Vijaykanth said the visit of the senior minister to Colombo was a total failure. Citing the offer of three seats to the Congress in Bihar, he said the national parties were dependent on regional parties for survival.

The constituencies for which he announced party candidates included the strongholds of Congress like Kanyakumari, Dindigul and Theni, which effectively ends any scope for negotiations with the Congress.

Barring a few seats in southern and western Tamil Nadu, Vijaykanth has a considerable chunk of votes in more than 30 Lok Sabha constituencies, where any party aligning has more chances of winning. Going by an analysis of the the 2006 Assembly elections, he has more than a lakh votes in nine Lok Sabha constituencies, compared to the PMK, which polled more than a lakh votes in only four constituencies in 1996 LS elections, which was the last time it contested without any alliance.

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Maneka breaks silence on son’s issue, attacks Cong

New Delhi, March 26
Breaking her silence over her son’s alleged hate speech, Varun Gandhi’s mother and former Union Minister Maneka Gandhi today attacked the Congress, saying the party was taking up the case to “conceal” its “anti-Sikh acts”.

“It has become empirical for the Congress to show such tapes (of hate speeches) to conceal their anti-Sikh acts,” Gandhi told a regional news channel.

“It is the Congress which should be ashamed for giving party tickets to people involved in the anti-Sikh riots in which thousands of Sikhs were killed,” she added.

Apart from the CD portraying Varun speaking against the Muslim community, another clip was submitted to the Election Commission by Congress, which depicted Varun speaking against Sikh community as well.

“The EC has also dismissed the tape as a fake one and it actually is a fake one because Varun has not spoken anything like that,” Gandhi claimed. — PTI

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‘M’rashtra BJP wants Varun to campaign’
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 26
The Maharashtra unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party may ask the outfit’s central leadership to dispatch Varun Gandhi to the state as a star campaigner for the Lok Sabha elections, according to sources. Varun’s tape controversy has resulted in his popularity surging among the rank and file of the BJP and the Shiv Sena, according to the sources.

The Shiv Sena has already extended its support for Varun. “He is a Gandhi we really like,” the party mouthpiece, Saamna, quoted Bal Thackeray as saying shortly after the controversy broke. The BJP may take a decision on Varun depending on the legal outcome of the case filed against him.

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‘Fernandes likely to file papers on April 1’
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, March 26
Former NDA convenor and now the projected leader of the JD(U) rebels George Fernandes has finally decided to jump into the electoral arena from his old constituency Muzaffarpur.

The octogenarian socialist will file his nomination papers on April 1 as an Independent candidate. This decision was announced by the supporters of George in latter’s presence just before he left Muzaffarpur for New Delhi today.

“George will be back here on March 31 and he will file his papers from Muzaffarpur on April 1”, said Ganesh Yadav, a former Minister of Bihar.

The JD(U) had denied party symbol to George on the ground of his ill health and proposed him a membership of the Rajya Sabha at the first opportunity. However, George and his diehard supporters, which also includes dissident JD(U) leaders, did not agree to the proposal. They took the initiative to bring George all the way from Delhi to Muzaffarpur via Patna and make him appear fit to fight the ‘battle’. Now they have decided to put him in the fray against the official JD(U) nominee.

Many senior leaders who have just quit the JD(U) after being denied party symbols to contest the Lok Sabha polls were seen meeting George and expressing their solidarity with him at Muzaffarpur. Apparently, they are planning to form a front under his leadership to take on Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav. Although George does not appear to be all that fit, the JD(U) rebels are making all efforts to keep him at the helm and fight their battle under his banner.

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How many crores did Big B make from KBC?
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 26
It is common knowledge that Amitabh Bachchan made crores of rupees by hosting the popular quiz show “Kaun Banega Crorepati” about 10 years ago.

But what was the exact amount is still mired in a legal battle. The Income Tax Department has filed a petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the income declared by the Big B for the year 2000-01 when he was the host. In his original return for the assessment year 2001-02, he had declared an income of about Rs 4.62 crore. Subsequently, he filed two revised returns, once placing the income at Rs 6.09 crore and then at Rs 3.24 crore. But, he finally stuck to Rs 4.62 crore.

According to the IT Department's petition, the assessing officer passed an order on March 30, 2004, placing the income at Rs 46.29 crore, ten times of the declared amount of Rs 4.62 crore. The Department had included the “receipts from M/s E Entertainment Ltd (EEL) a non-resident company based in BritishVirgin Island (BVI) for hosting the game show” KBC.

The Department also disallowed the claim of 30 per cent deduction under Section 80RR of the IT Act.

Amitabh challenged the order before the IT Apellate Tribunal (ITAT), which struck down on May 18, 2005 the Department's demand. The Department then went to the Bombay High Court. In the meanwhile, on March 20, 2006, Mumbai Commissioner of IT (Central-I) set aside the order of the assessment officer on the ground that not even “minimal enquiries” had been conducted.

The assessing officer then reassessed the income at Rs 13.47 crore. The Big B challenged this before the tribunal that once again ruled in favour of the assessee on August 28, 2007. Unrelenting, the Department went to the HC in January 31, 2008. The HC dismissed the appeal on August 7, 2008. The Department has now come to the SC, challenging the HC order.

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‘Awards don’t excite me anymore’

New Delhi, March 26
She is the winner of Jnanpeeth and Magsaysay awards and a contender for the Man Booker prize, but awards no longer excite veteran writer Mahashweta Devi, who has donated all her prize money till date for the welfare of indigenous people.

A well-known social activist Mahashweta and Britain-based Indian origin author V S Naipaul are amongst 14 authors from 12 countries who are in the race for the £60,000 third Man Booker International prize.

"I have received several prestigious awards before. I am doing my work. It is good to get recognition but I have no more excitement left for any award. Anyway this is only the nomination, not the award (Booker)," the 84-year-old writer told PTI from Kolkata.

Mahashweta said she had donated almost all her prize money till date for the cause of indigenous people and that she would continue to do the same in future.

"I am doing whatever I can. I never had the lure for money. I am happy that I can use that for the people who need it the most," the writer whose work is largely inspired by the Naxalite movement in West Bengal said.

Author of novels like 'Jhansir Rani' , 'Aranye Adhikar (on Birsa Munda's life)' and 'Hazaar Churasir Maa (on Naxalite moment)', Mahashweta has had a long association with tribals and other underprivileged sections of society.

She has also raised her voice in Nandigram, Singur, Kerala and in Gujarat. "I don't know from where I get energy. I am doing this from decades. I raise issues in Bangla newspapers and will keep writing in future also," she responded when asked about her motivation at this age. — PTI

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Gujarat not very friendly on RTI: Survey
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 26
When the Right to Information (RTI) Act came into existence it aimed at empowering the citizens to exercise their rights and seek information from the government. However, very few states have been facilitating the Act in the right spirit and Gujarat, according a survey, leads the way on this front.

While officials at the Central Information Commission (CIC) agree that outside Delhi implementation of the Act hasn’t been satisfactory as it should have been and even the rate of disposal of cases was also low, a survey carried out in Gujarat points out that there is lack of information even at the official level.

According to a survey carried out by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, an NGO, at taluka level in Gujarat, 76 per cent of the offices did not display the name or the designation of the Public Information Officers (PIOs).

The RTI Act requires the name and designation of PIOs to be proactively disclosed to people. Besides, 80 per cent of the offices did not display the name or the designation of appellate authorities (AAs) and less than 20 per cent of the offices prominently displayed notice boards containing information about the identity of PIOs and AA.

Same was the situation with the availability and accessibility of the officers. At the taluka level, less than 40 per cent of the offices were able to confirm that they had compiled information that was required to be proactively disclosed under the Act.

A staggering 94 per cent of the offices required the survey team to submit formal applications for obtaining proactively disclosed information and 85 per cent of the offices required the survey team to pay application fees for obtaining pro-actively disclosed information, which was against the letter and spirit of the RTI Act.

The survey, which is the first of its kind, also brought out that 22 per cent of the offices took between 10-30 days to provide this information which ideally should have been given to the survey team immediately.

The record was significantly different at the district level offices. While 75 per cent of the offices had displayed the name and designation of PIOs and AAs on notice boards, 62 per cent of the offices had placed these notice boards at prominently visible locations. However, only 25 per cent of the offices provided a copy of the notification relating to the designation of their PIOs.

The record of compliance was also significantly better at the district-level offices where 79 per cent of the offices were able to confirm that they had compiled information that was required to be proactively disclosed.

However, most of the offices had displayed on their notice boards very little information that is required to be proactively disclosed under the RTI Act.Despite receiving close to Rs 1,000 by way of application fees more than 70 per cent of the taluka-level offices and over 40 pre cent of the district-level offices did not provide copies of their proactively disclosed information.

As regards training of PIOs and APIOs less than a third of the PIOs (29.16 per cent) and APIOs (27.45 per cent) interviewed by the survey team at the taluka level claimed that they were trained to implement the RTI Act.

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EC asks DGP to show cause
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 26
The Election Commission (EC) has given a show cause notice to Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) president Chandra Mohan Patowary for making certain remarks against Congress candidate from Tezpur parliamentary constituency Mani Kumar Subba during a media briefing on March 23. The EC has given seven days time to the AGP president to reply to the notice, according to an official source here.

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IIT-Kharagpur
Former SC judge to probe student’s death

Midnapore (WB), March 26
Former Supreme court judge UC Banerjee will conduct a judicial probe into the death of a third year engineering student in IIT-Kharagpur campus five days back and the subsequent violence. Banerjee, also the former Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court, would examine the circumstances leading to the death of the electrical engineering student Anil Kumar on March 22, the consequent violence and the alleged heckling of Damodar Acharya who ‘resigned’ from the Director’s post that very night, IIT sources said.

Banerjee, currently based in Kolkata, has been briefed about the situation by the Chairman, IIT Board of Governors, B Muthuraman, and is likely to visit the campus shortly, the sources said. Teaching schedules operated normally in the campus after the elite institution was rocked by student violence during which the bungalow of the dean was damaged and his car vandalised. The students, who had demanded immediate suspension of the superintendent of institute-run BC Roy Hospital alleging negligence leading to Kumar’s death, “literally forced” Acharya to hand over charge to Deputy Director Madhusudan Chakraborty. — PTI

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Vanishing pastures cause for concern
Our Correspondent

Leh, March 26
“Changthang, known for its world famous Pashmina goats, has now become a conflict zone among the stakeholders in sharing the scarce pasture of Changthang”, said Jigmet Takpa, conservator, forest, regional wildlife, Leh, who chaired the micro planning under a support programme conducted recently in the district.

Takpa was presenting a paper on bio-analysis of Changthang on the occasion of one-day workshop on co-management of rangeland or natural resources of Ladakh, which was mainly focusing on the Changthang region.

Organised by the district Animal Husbandry Department, Leh, under the centrally sponsored scheme Border Area Development Programme, local community from Changthang apart from other agencies working in the region also participated in the workshop.

Takpa said shortage of pasture in Changthang was arising by increase of livestock population followed by influx of Tibetan Refugee.

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Extra Flab
People prefer surgery to exercise: Expert
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, March 26
More and more people are turning towards laparoscopic surgery to overcome obesity in a very short period, rather than relying on exercise and dieting, which takes a long time, Dr John Thanakumar, an expert surgeon in this field, said.

Talking to The Tribune on the sidelines of a special camp to treat obesity at the Globus Hospitals and Health City here, John Thanakumar, who is also the honorary secretary of the Indian Association of Gastrointestinal Endosurgeons, said more and more people were preferring laparoscopic surgery since exercise and dieting would not be enough for morbid obesity.

People were turning towards laparoscopic surgery, since it involved less bleeding, less post operative pain and earlier return to work, he reasoned. Diabetic patients were choosing this method, since elevated blood sugar and lipid levels return to normal after surgery, Thanakumar said.

While the earlier surgical treatment involved placement of a small collar on the upper stomach, restricting the intake of food, the latest method of laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy, a part of the stomach itself would be removed, he said.

Explaining obesity, he said, “It is excess of fat in the body. The amount of obesity is calculated by the body mass index (BMI), which is known by dividing the weight of a person in kilograms by his height in metres. A BMI of more than 30 is indicative of obesity”.

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BRIEFLY

Extra time for blind kids
CHENNAI:
The Madras High Court said on Wednesday that visually challenged students were entitled to have a scribe or write their examination in Braille method, and for both categories they will get one hour extra time. The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice HL Gokhale and Justice FM Ibrahim Kalifulla, was disposing of a PIL petition by the Tamil Nadu Handicapped Federation Charitable Trust, represented by its secretary-trustee P Simmachandran, seeking to call for records relating to a phonogram circular of the director of government examinations and quash the same.

Earth Hour
KOHIMA:
Nagaland is all set to observe the “Earth Hour” throughout the state on Saturday by switching off all the lights for an hour from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm. All Nagaland Public Schools Association (ANPSA) President Aheto Sumi has already informed the schools to mobilise the students and parents to observe the day.

Boy slaps teacher
AHMEDNAGAR:
Parents of a class IX student in Zarekathi, about 92 kms from here, were arrested on Thursday for instigating their son to slap his teacher in front of the school’s headmaster and other staff members, the police said. Manoj Fulmali had supposedly made some obscene comments about girl students in his class for which he was asked to bring his parents to school on Wednesday by his teacher Shailaja Anap. He got angry with Anap and slapped her, the police said. Anap registered a complaint with the police after which Manoj’s parents were arrested.

5 die as boat capsizes
GULBARGA:
As many as five persons drowned and seven others were missing when a country-made boat capsized while crossing Bhima river nere Aurad village in this district on Thursday. The police said the body of three men and two women have been recovered and search is on for remaining seven. — Source: Agencies

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