SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


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

1 killed in Guwahati blast
Guwahati, March 31
Police personnel inspect the site after a blast in the Jyotikuchi area of Guwahati One person was killed and 13 others, including an eight-year-old child, were injured when suspected ULFA militants detonated a powerful bomb planted on a motorcycle parked along the road at Jyotikuchi area in Guwahati at 6 pm this evening.

Police personnel inspect the site after a blast in the Jyotikuchi area of Guwahati on Tuesday. — PTI

Pilibhit Sikhs come in support of Varun
Pilibhit, March 31
Terming charges against young BJP leader Varun Gandhi as a political conspiracy, a section of the Sikh community in this Uttar Pradesh district denied that the controversial politician had said anything against any group.

I will campaign for SP: Dutt
New Delhi, March 31
Hours after the Supreme Court denied Sanjay Dutt the permission to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow, the actor said no one could oust him from the city and he would camp there till the day of the election.

New controversy in BJP over Neera Yadav
New Delhi, March 31
Barely has the controversy in the BJP over the appointment of Sudhanshu Mittal as the sahprabhari for Assam died, than a new controversy has arisen over the entry of one time head of NOIDA Neera Yadav into the party.

Apologise, Cong to Advani
New Delhi, March 31
The Congress today challenged the BJP to come clean on issues of communalism and corruption. The party also asked BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani to apologise to the UPA government for his remarks that the government was silent on the issue of Indian wealth hoarded in Swiss accounts and other tax havens.


Don of a new era? Underworld don Abu Salem being escorted at Charbagh Railway Station before being produced in CBI court in Lucknow
Don of a new era? Underworld don Abu Salem being escorted at Charbagh Railway Station before being produced in CBI court in Lucknow on Tuesday in connection with the fake passport case. — PTI



EARLIER STORIES

CBI takes another somersault
New Delhi, March 31
The CBI has changed its stand for the third time in the corruption case against former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family members by informing the Supreme Court last week that it wanted to file its investigation report to the court, not to the government.

Now, Jaswant in cash row
Jaipur, March 31
Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh and a party MP were today accused of handing Rs 10,000 to a woman and distributing food packets among people in violation of the model code of conduct at an election meeting at Gagaria village in Rajasthan's Barmer district.

Alliance leaders unite against Cong
Hyderabad, March 31
After weeks of wrangle over seat-sharing, the four-party Opposition alliance in Andhra Pradesh, led by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), today announced that all irritants had been sorted out and vowed to put up a united fight in the coming elections to defeat the ruling Congress.

Possible SP-NCP tie-up worries Cong
Mumbai, March 31
The Congress in Maharashtra is worried about a tie-up between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The SP had announced that it would be contesting at least 15 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.

Stop misuse of kids for rallies, commission tells EC
New Delhi, March 31
On a day the BJP paraded before their supporters three children from Andhra Pradesh who have scripted ‘Bhay ho’ to counter Congress’ ‘Jai ho’ campaign, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked the Election Commission of India to frame guidelines to prevent the misuse of children for election purpose.

Students ‘detained’ to avoid paper leakage
Jaipur, March 31
A school in Rajasthan’s Sikar district illegally detained 43 girl students of Class XII for around 24 hours to avoid paper leakage after mistakenly distributing a paper that was to take place on a later date. What is even more surprising is that the step was taken with the permission of Board of Secondary Education Rajasthan.

When Ash left Amar speechless
New Delhi, March 31
Such is the oomph that Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai exudes that it can even leave speechless a hard-bitten politico like Amar Singh who is used to being surrounded by TV reporters eager for a sound byte.
Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar with actress Aishwarya Rai Bachhanduring Padma awards ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi
Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar with actress Aishwarya Rai Bachhanduring Padma awards ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Tuesday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal 
President Pratibha Patil presents Padma Bhushan 2009 to legendary playback singer Shamshad Begum during Padma awards ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delh
President Pratibha Patil presents Padma Bhushan 2009 to legendary playback singer Shamshad Begum during Padma awards ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Tuesday. — PTI 

Kasab’s lawyer to rethink decision after protests
Mumbai, March 31
Anjali Waghmare Anjali Waghmare, the lawyer who agreed to represent Mohammed Ajmal, alias Kasab, the only terrorist involved in the November 26 Mumbai terror attacks to be taken alive, is rethinking her decision following protests by the Shiv Sena. “I need one day to think over it,” Waghmare said. A huge crowd of Shiv Sena activists descended late Monday night on Waghmare’s residence here and raised slogans against her for agreeing to take up Kasab’s case.

Anjali Waghmare

Nine Shiv Sainiks arrested
Mumbai, March 31
As many as nine activists of the Shiv Sena were arrested here today for intimidating Anjali Waghmare, the government lawyer appointed to defend Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab. Waghmare withdrew from the brief following the demonstration outside her home.

2-year extension for PGI director
Chandigarh, March 31
The PGI director, Dr K.K. Talwar, who was due to retire today, has once again been given an extension for two years by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry. As per the orders issued today, Dr Talwar will continue as director as well as head of the cardiology department until 2011.b Dr Talwar (63), has earlier worked for 11 years in the PGI - from January 1970 to October 1980 - during which he did his DM in cardiology.






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1 killed in Guwahati blast
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, March 31
One person was killed and 13 others, including an eight-year-old child, were injured when suspected ULFA militants detonated a powerful bomb planted on a motorcycle parked along the road at Jyotikuchi area in Guwahati at 6 pm this evening.

The blast occurred about a kilometre away from the venue where Union External Affairs Minister and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee was to address an election rally of Congress candidate of Guwahati Parliamentary constituency.

Congress spokesman Bichitra Choudhury said Mukjherjee went ahead to address the poll rally even after the blast occurred in the area. Mukherjee is scheduled to address one more rally in the city tonight.

The injured were immediately rushed to Guwahati Medical College. The police claimed that the bomb was planted on a TVS motorcycle.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi instructed the city police to nab the culprits even as Opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader Chadra Mohan Patowary criticised the Congress government for failing to contain violence in the state.

The Assam police yesterday had announced that a group of ULFA militants had sneaked into the city with explosives to trigger blasts in the run up to the elections and alerted the people to keep an eye on any new face in their respective areas.

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Pilibhit Sikhs come in support of Varun

Pilibhit, March 31
Terming charges against young BJP leader Varun Gandhi as a political conspiracy, a section of the Sikh community in this Uttar Pradesh district denied that the controversial politician had said anything against any group.

“A large number of Sikhs and Muslims made it a point to attend Varun’s rally. He has never said a word against any community, be it Sikhs or Muslims,” said Amarjit Singh, a farmer of Gajraula Patti village in Pilibhit.

Some members of the Sikh community gathered at a farm house on Tuesday in support of Varun Gandhi, who has courted controversy after allegedly making inflammatory speeches against Muslims during his election rallies on March 6 and 7.

According to the statistics by the district administration, there are over 90,000 Punjabi and Sikh voters in Pilibhit. The district has over one million voters. Sikh and Punjabis of this district are mainly farmers.

“We support Varun and reject and condemn all attempts to defame, malign and prosecute him. We stand behind the proud son of India,” said Virender Singh of Udaykaranpur village.

The gathering of over 100 representatives of the Sikh community from all parts of the district also saw a few Muslims backing Varun.

“It is a conspiracy by the Congress and the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party to pull down our rising star. The Congress does not want any other Gandhi to go above Rahul Gandhi,” said Aslam Quraishi of Puranpur village.

“If Varun has said anything about a community, why aren’t leaders and members of that community protesting? It is totally a political conspiracy,” said another villager, Mahal Singh of Arjunpur.

“Maneka Gandhi has been our MP for the past five terms and we promise a huge victory for Varun also. Not only Sikhs and Punjabis, all residents of Pilibhit support Varun,” said Buta Singh of Damgarhi village.

Varun Gandhi was jailed for the alleged hate speech on Saturday. He was later booked for inciting violence in the region.

He was granted bail by a court here in two criminal cases but will remain behind the bars as he also faces charges under the stringent National Security Act. — IANS

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I will campaign for SP: Dutt
Manyta likely replacement, final decision later
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 31
Hours after the Supreme Court denied Sanjay Dutt the permission to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow, the actor said no one could oust him from the city and he would camp there till the day of the election.

‘‘Lucknow is my own city, it is my home. I will remain there till April 30, the date of election. Also, I will campaign for the Samajwadi Party in the entire country,’’ said Sanjay Dutt, in a joint press conference this evening with SP general secretary Amar Singh, who termed the denial of permission to the actor ‘‘a political conspiracy’’. ‘‘Political opponents behind this development will repent,’’ said the SP leader.

Dutt also joined issues with Singh when asked if he thought the government had a role to play in today’s development: ‘‘The government was opposing my plea to contest. That’s all I can say.’’

Though no final word came from either of the two on who would replace the actor in the crucial Lok Sabha constituency, there is likelihood that his wife Manyta would be fielded.

When prodded on who would be SP’s candidate in Lucknow, Dutt said, ‘‘Ab main kya bataoon? Ghar ki baat hai (What should I say; it is a family matter). Whatever the party decides will happen.’’

Meanwhile, Amar Singh said the decision on the candidate would be taken by the party’s parliamentary board. ‘‘We will consult the party chief and other senior leaders besides Jaya Bachchan,’’ Singh said, adding that though Sanjay Dutt had been technically taken away from the party, in reality he would now have time to campaign for it all over the country.

Dutt, for his part, said he was happy about three things today: ‘‘The SC judgment acknowledges that I am not a TADA accused; that I have a successful acting career, and that I have a sound family background.’’

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New controversy in BJP over Neera Yadav
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 31
Barely has the controversy in the BJP over the appointment of Sudhanshu Mittal as the sahprabhari for Assam died, than a new controversy has arisen over the entry of one time head of NOIDA Neera Yadav into the party.

Neera Yadav, who was prevented by the courts from becoming the chief secretary of UP, was mentioned as one of the most corrupt state officials by the IAS association of the state and has earned a dubious reputation since. Critics of Rajnath Singh are attacking him for inducting into the party fold at this crucial juncture all kinds of elements with questionable integrity.

A SMS is doing the rounds in the BJP cricles saying” “ Nishikant Dube is BJP candidate from Godda (Jharkhand), Sudhanshu Mittal sahprabhari for North-East and Neera Yadav joins the BJP to garner votes for the party from Ghaziabad while LK Advani fights black money and corruption. Bhay Ho (Fear these).”

Incidentally, only today the party brought in a troupe of street singing children from Mumbai to demonstrate the launch of their rip-off on the Congress jingle “Jai Ho” criticising corruption and mismanagement by the UPA regime with theme line ending with “Bhay Ho.”

The SMS seeks to put Rajnath Singh, who is contesting from Ghaziabad, in the dock for trying to water down Advani’s anti-corruption plank. On Sunday Advani held a press conference insinuating that the Congress-led government was protecting those who have stashed away huge amounts in Swiss banks.

The anti-Rajnath camp in the BJP is working hard to pull the party president down a few notches. It has also blamed him for giving the party ticket to another notorious character Ramakant Yadav for the Azamgarh LS seat.

Formally, however the BJP has tried to play down the issue and party general secretary Arun Jaitley when asked tried to avoid commenting saying: “I don’t comment on individuals.” Later he added: “Her husband Mahendra Singh Yadav has been a three-time BJP MLA (He later joined the SP and has now returned to the BJP). She merely accompanied him in the home-coming ceremony.” 

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Swiss Accounts
Apologise, Cong to Advani
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 31
The Congress today challenged the BJP to come clean on issues of communalism and corruption. The party also asked BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani to apologise to the UPA government for his remarks that the government was silent on the issue of Indian wealth hoarded in Swiss accounts and other tax havens.

Citing the examples of former Uttar Pradesh chief secretary Neera Yadav joining the BJP and an accused in the Kandhamal anti-minority incidents being given the party ticket, Congress spokesman Aswini Kumar called the BJP a party that had “scaled new heights in showing utter contempt for public sensitivity on corruption, human sensitivity and dignity”.

“The parading of Neera Yadav, first woman IAS officer to lose her job following a censure and observations of charges of corruption by the Supreme Court, as its latest entrant in its ranks has shown how sensitive the BJP is to corruption and probity in public. Fielding of the prime accused in the anti-Christian riots in Kandhamal is the most brazen affront to human sensitivity and dignity” he said. Yadav was voted as the second most-corrupt bureaucrat in the state by the UP IAS Officers’ Association in 1994-95. 

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DA case against Mulayam
CBI takes another somersault

R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, March 31
The CBI has changed its stand for the third time in the corruption case against former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family members by informing the Supreme Court last week that it wanted to file its investigation report to the court, not to the government.

On October 26, 2007, the CBI filed a status report and sought the apex court's permission to pursue its investigation “without any further reference to the Union Government or the State (UP) Government.” This was contrary to the court directive to the agency on March 1, 2007 to submit its preliminary report to the Centre, which “may take further steps depending upon the outcome” of the initial investigation.

After the July 22, 2008 confidence vote in the Lok Sabha, where the Congress-led UPA government survived thanks to the support from Mulayam’s Samajwadi Party, the CBI filed another application before the court on December 6, seeking permission to withdraw its October 26, 2007, plea. This meant the CBI wanted to submit its report to the government, not to the court.

On February 10 this year, it informed a Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph that it had sought Law Ministry’s opinion in the case, invoking the wrath of the court which observed: “It is incomprehensible…Why did you go to the government? You should have acted on your own or come to us.”

Subsequently, the apex court also chastised the agency for changing its stand time and again and sought a copy of the CBI manual to find out whether the agency was supposed to function independently or consult the government wherever necessary.

In its latest application to the court earlier this month, the CBI said it “stands by its recommendations made in the Status Report of October 26, 2007,” making it clear that it wanted to take directives only from the court, not the government. The DA case, filed in the form of a PIL by one Vishwanath Chaturvedi, came up for hearing today before a Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and HL Dattu.

Senior counsel, Mukul Rohtagi, arguing for Akilesh Yadav, Mulayam’s son, said the court had allowed the PIL by mistake as it was filed in “private interest and not public interest.”

Amar questions petitioner’s credibility

The Congress-Samajwadi Party feud was out in the open today, with the latter casting serious aspersions on the credibility of the petitioner in the disproportionate assets case against SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, and seeking a probe into the “alleged dubious roles” of CBI officers handling the case.

Making public a video CD which allegedly has the petitioner and former Congressman Vishwanath Chaturvedi claiming that he implicated SP chief at the behest of top Congress leadership, SP general secretary Amar Singh levelled serious allegations against Congress and demanded investigations into Chaturvedi’s role in the case.

“The petitioner is on camera, saying he was used by the Congress leadership in a larger conspiracy to fix Mulayam Singh. This petitioner has earlier fought elections on Congress ticket; he now claims to be dejected with the Congress and is homing in on the BSP. We seek a probe into his role. He is casting aspersions on none other than UPA chief Sonia Gandhi. Let truth be known,” alleged Amar Singh, who also pointed fingers at the integrity of CBI’s law officer Gopal Subramaniam, alleging that the officer was in regular touch with them when the Congress needed SP’s support to save the government but started ignoring their calls once the SP-Congress relationship soured.

Relief in cash distribution case

The Election Commission today let-off former UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh on the issue of alleged distribution of cash by his party workers at a ‘Holi milan’ programme in Etawah district in Uttar Pradesh.

In a separate case the EC last night issued a notice to Mulayam Singh for allegedly threatening the DM of Mainpuri, S Ministhi. The woman IAS officer had cancelled gun licences in the area and this had irritated Mulayam.

On alleged distribution of cash the Commission has decided not to proceed further on the matter, Deputy Election Commissioner R Balakrishnan told reporters here today. He, however, refused to comment on allegation that the EC was soft on Yadav but was harsh on BJP candidate from Pilibhit Varun Gandhi.

The EC had earlier served a notice to the SP leader for distributing cash to people. Mulayam contended that it was a part of the festivities in Uttar Pradesh. In case of the threat to the DM the Commission has examined the CDs containing the speeches made in Mainpuri on March 23. Mulayam Singh has been asked to give his reply by 4 p.m. on Friday else the EC would take action without any further notice.

“The Commission considers such threats as obstacles to the conduct of free and fair elections, as such actions affect the morale of the district election machinery,” the notice said. 

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Now, Jaswant in cash row

Jaipur, March 31
Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh and a party MP were today accused of handing Rs 10,000 to a woman and distributing food packets among people in violation of the model code of conduct at an election meeting at Gagaria village in Rajasthan's Barmer district.

The former union minister accompanied by BJP MP from Tonk Kailash Meghwal had gone to the district to campaign for his son Manvendra Singh this afternoon.

“Prima facie Rs 10,000 was given to a woman on the dias by the two leaders who also distributed 6,000 food packets at the meeting, state’s Chief Election Officer Vinod Zutshi said.

The complaint against the two leaders has been forwarded to the Election Commission, he said.

Meanwhile, reacting to the charge BJP spokesman Balbir Punj wondered if the EC guidelines apply to the parents of the candidates as well.

“I wonder whether the model code of conduct applies to the parents of the candidates as well because Jaswant Singh is not a candidate,” BJP spokesperson Balbir Punj said.

Singh held a number of campaign meetings in parts of Barmer district, including Gadraraod and Ramsar tehsils to drum up support for his son, he said. — PTI 

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Alliance leaders unite against Cong
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, March 31
After weeks of wrangle over seat-sharing, the four-party Opposition alliance in Andhra Pradesh, led by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), today announced that all irritants had been sorted out and vowed to put up a united fight in the coming elections to defeat the ruling Congress.

In a show of unity amidst doubts over survival of “Maha Kootami” (Grand Alliance), its leaders N Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), K Chandrasekhar Rao (Telangana Rashtra Samithi), K Narayana (CPI) and BV Raghavulu addressed a joint press conference here and made it clear that the alliance was intact.

“Some differences and problems are natural when four parties come together. We have sorted them out and are raring to go for the electoral battle with a common aim of defeating the Congress,” Naidu said.

Though the leaders put up a picture of unity, confusion continued over the choice of Assembly seats to be contested by each party. There was also a question mark over the fate of candidates fielded by the TDP and the TRS in each other’s seats in a tit-for-tat move.

As per the broad agreement among alliance partners, the TRS has been allotted 45 Assembly seats, out of a total of 119 in Telangana region and nine out of 17 Lok Sabha seats, while CPI and CPM were given 14 Assembly and two LS seats each. However, the CPM is unhappy with the “unilateral decision” taken by the TDP on the seat-sharing arrangement and has been insisting on four more Assembly seats.

The differences between the TDP and TRS had reached a boiling point on the last day of filing of nominations yesterday with the former springing a surprise and putting up its candidates in at least 20 constituencies earmarked for the Telangana party.

The move was apparently a rebuff to the TRS for fielding its nominees in seats allotted to the TDP and the Left parties. A rattled TRS chief rushed to Naidu’s residence last night to hold parleys and it was decided that both parties would follow alliance dharma and withdraw candidates from each other’s seats.

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Possible SP-NCP tie-up worries Cong
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 31
The Congress in Maharashtra is worried about a tie-up between the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). The SP had announced that it would be contesting at least 15 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.

However, SP leaders in Mumbai have indicated that a plan has been drawn up not to field candidates in the seats being contested by the NCP in alliance with the Congress. While the NCP will be contesting 22 seats, the Congress will try its fortune in the rest.

The only seat in which the Congress is contesting where the SP won’t be putting up candidate is the Mumbai North Central seat where Priya Dutt is contesting. SP leader has indicated that the party may not put up a candidate against Priya.

The SP hopes to play the role of spoiler by cutting into Muslim votes where the Congress is fielding its candidates. Reports of a meeting between NCP leader Sharad Pawar and Amar Singh has created a turmoil within the Congress. Leaders of the grand old party said Pawar might have cut deals with the Shiv Sena and the SP in order to sabotage the Congress’s prospects.

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Stop misuse of kids for rallies, commission tells EC
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 31
On a day the BJP paraded before their supporters three children from Andhra Pradesh who have scripted ‘Bhay ho’ to counter Congress’ ‘Jai ho’ campaign, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) asked the Election Commission of India to frame guidelines to prevent the misuse of children for election purpose.

In a strongly worded letter to the Commission, NCPCR chairperson Shanta Sinha expressed deep reservation to the continuing exhibition of school children during election rallies, and sought that the practice be ended. There are high court orders barring the practice, but the same goes on unabated.

The NCPCR letter is addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami, and takes serious note of a Congress rally in a Karnal village, where primary school children were used to show off an impressive gathering.

Terming the practice a grave violation of children’s rights, the NCPCR observes: “School children are being routinely taken to election rallies organized by political parties and being used in elections in many ways”.

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Students ‘detained’ to avoid paper leakage Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, March 31
A school in Rajasthan’s Sikar district illegally detained 43 girl students of Class XII for around 24 hours to avoid paper leakage after mistakenly distributing a paper that was to take place on a later date. What is even more surprising is that the step was taken with the permission of Board of Secondary Education Rajasthan.

The incident occurred at Gramin Mahila Shikshan Sansthan at Shivsinghpura village of Sikar district. The school authorities distributed Sanskrit-II instead of Sanskrit-I paper on Monday. When the students brought the matter to the invigilators’ notice the authorities intimated the state board about the goof-up.

The board officials, who were in the area, reached the school and seized the question papers distributed mistakenly. The students were then given Sanskrit-I paper.

However, the trouble for the students didn’t end here. After they were through with their Sanskrit-I paper they were told to stay back in the school till Wednesday, the day when Sanskrit-II paper was supposed to take place. The parents initially resented the move, contending that why would their daughters pay the price of the invigilators’ mistake?

However, the school authorities succeeded in somehow persuading them to agree to it. A section of parents also brought their wards clothes, eatables and books after they came to know about the authorities’ decision.

Surprisingly, the board officials justified their move, stating that they had taken the consent of the girls’ parents before asking them to stay put in the school for two days. They said the step was necessary to check paper leakage. They also admitted that though they had second set of the paper ready but it had not been printed and now even if they go ahead with its printing it would be difficult to organize everything as 42,000 students were to take exams in 1,393 centres across the state.

Education Minister Bhanwar Lal sided with the state board decision today morning, stating that they had got the consent of the girls’ parents. However, following media reports, the state government soon postponed the paper and ordered a high-level probe into the entire incident. The government also ordered the release of the students who were illegally detained by the school. The board has now rescheduled the paper on April 12.

This is not the first case when the state board is in the new for the wrong reasons. A couple of days back a “wrong question” came to the fore in Mathematics-II paper of Class X. The board has now declared that the students who attempted the question will get 3 bonus marks while attributing the wrong question to “printing mistake”.

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When Ash left Amar speechless

New Delhi, March 31
Such is the oomph that Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai exudes that it can even leave speechless a hard-bitten politico like Amar Singh who is used to being surrounded by TV reporters eager for a sound byte.

That's exactly what happened at the Rashtrapati Bhawan Tuesday as Aishwarya arrived in style to receive her Padma Shri civilian honour from President Pratibha Patil.

Tall and lissome and clad in an embroidered pink sari, she was quite naturally the cynosure of all eyes as she regally swept into the ornate Durbar Hall for the ceremony.

It was only a little later that the audience realised that she was accompanied by her equally tall father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan and the rather shorter Amar Singh, who is the general secretary of the Samajwadi Party and a very visible face on TV these days in the run up to the general elections. As the TV cameras rolled, Aishwarya quite visibly savoured the moment even as Singh seemed lost.

Aishwarya was quickly surrounded by eager autograph seekers thrusting forward. A smaller group surrounded Bachchan and as for Amar Singh, he moved from one to the other, not quite knowing what to do. Finally, he decided to call it a day and slunk into the background, his expression seeming to say: “What am I doing here?” And, when Aishwarya trooped out grandly, Amar Singh quietly followed her and Bachchan.

“Come on, give him a break,” remarked a wag. “Perhaps he's feeling lost because this is one place he can't play his politics.”

“It's not that,” remarked another. “It's called the Aishwarya effect of being overshadowed.” — IANS 

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Kasab’s lawyer to rethink decision after protests
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, March 31
Anjali Waghmare, the lawyer who agreed to represent Mohammed Ajmal, alias Kasab, the only terrorist involved in the November 26 Mumbai terror attacks to be taken alive, is rethinking her decision following protests by the Shiv Sena.

“I need one day to think over it,” Waghmare said. A huge crowd of Shiv Sena activists descended late Monday night on Waghmare’s residence here and raised slogans against her for agreeing to take up Kasab’s case.

The lawyer is a member of the Maharashtra government’s legal aid cell and was asked to represent Kasab.

However, her attempts to explain things to the Shiv Sena activists fell on deaf ears and Waghmare was forced to write an apology for agreeing to take up Kasab’s case.

Incidentally, Waghmare is a wife of a police sub-inspector and lives in the quarters provided to police officials.

She told the court that she was threatened and intimidated by the mob which consisted of more than 300 persons.

Maharashtra’s Home Minister Jayant Patil has now said security had been increased for Waghmare.

Meanwhile, Judge ML Tahilyani of the special court said the court would consider charging the protesters with contempt of court.

Nine protesters from the crowd have been arrested.

Patil also added that Waghmare had been representing a victim of the Mumbai terror attack who has sued the state for compensation.

The court may consider this aspect as well while considering whether to replace her, the minister said. 

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Nine Shiv Sainiks arrested

Mumbai, March 31
As many as nine activists of the Shiv Sena were arrested here today for intimidating Anjali Waghmare, the government lawyer appointed to defend Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab. Waghmare withdrew from the brief following the demonstration outside her home.

Apart from the nine held, Shiv Sena’s Mumbai South division head Ajay Chaudhary was “wanted” by the police, said an official at the Worli police station.

Chaudhary had led 500 Sena activists to Waghmare’s Worli residence late last night and raised slogans demanding that she should not take up Kasab’s case.

Waghmare, the wife of a policeman, lives inside a well-guarded complex of flats and the demonstrators could not get in. But following the vociferous protests that continued till the early hours today, Waghmare gave a letter to Chaudhary, expressing regret for having consented to represent Kasab and promised not to take up the legal assignment.

Waghmare and KP Pawar — both empanelled on the Maharashtra Legal Aid Committee — were appointed as government lawyers by Special Judge ML Tahilyani yesterday to defend Kasab in the Nov 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai. The judge has set April 6 as the date for the trial. — IANS 

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2-year extension for PGI director
Anuja Jaiswal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 31
The PGI director, Dr K.K. Talwar, who was due to retire today, has once again been given an extension for two years by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry. As per the orders issued today, Dr Talwar will continue as director as well as head of the cardiology department until 2011.

Dr Talwar (63), has earlier worked for 11 years in the PGI - from January 1970 to October 1980 - during which he did his DM in cardiology. Later, he joined AIIMS as assistant professor in 1980. He became professor in 1992 and also received the BC Roy Award in 2000 in the category of eminent medical teacher.

He became head of the department of cardiology at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, in 2002. He took over as director PGI in April 2004 for a four-year term and was given a year’s extension in April 2008.

During his stint at the PGI, Dr Talwar has been credited with vastly improving the functioning of the institute. However, he has had a tough time with the hospital’s employees unions, which have tried to scuttle his extensions by launching vilification campaigns against him more than once. Incidentally, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had taken a serious note of the union activities and noted that “politics of class III and IV employees had ruined the institution”.

The news of Dr Talwar’s extension would also not to the liking of his detractors within his fraternity. However, they could now raise noises on the issues of his getting the dual charge of director and the head of the cardiology department, a post that he had himself left after a similar controversy had erupted at the AIIMS, New Delhi.

When contacted, Dr Talwar, who was in Delhi, confirmed the development but refused to say anything further. “I’ll say something once I return,” he said.

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BRIEFLY

Mumbai girl swims into Limca Book of Records
MUMBAI:
About 18 months after swimming across the 30-km Messinikos Gulf in Greece at the tender age of eight, a schoolgirl from the city, Swapnali Yadav has earned an entry in the “Limca Book of Records” for that feat. Swapnali’s entry in the 2008-09 edition of the book has been accepted and she has received a certificate to this effect from its publishers, her father told reporters on Tuesday. On September 1, 2007, Swapnali became the youngest-ever in open marathon swimming history to achieve the feat.

BSP leader shot dead
LUCKNOW:
Atlest two unidentified assailants shot dead Umesh Shukla, a BSP leader, in Uttar Pradesh’s Allahabad district, the police said on Tuesday. “Umesh Shukla, who was a village head in Allahabad district, was shot dead by two men in Naini locality of Allahabad,” police inspector Indrajeet Chaturvedi told over the telephone. Shukla and one of his relatives were returning home in a car when two motorcycle-borne assailants blocked their way and opened fire. The BSP leader died on his way to the hospital, Chaturvedi said.

12-hr bandh in Kohima
KOHIMA:
Normal trade activity on Tuesday was affected in the Nagaland capital town as Kohima Chamber of Commerce called for a 12-hr bandh against extortion, harassment and intimidation of the business community by underground elements and miscreants. All shops and business establishments downed their shutters in response to the bandh call, sources of the chambers said.

Fashion fiesta
KOLKATA:
Kolkata is all set to showcase its newest fashion fiesta while tracing its journey back to the roots in the four-day Kolkata Fashion Week (KFW). “Titled ‘Return to Roots’ the fashion blitzkrieg aims at providing a platform to budding fashion designers,” Yudhajit Dutta, Director, Mindscape Group of Companies, told mediapersons here yesterday. Bipasha Basu, John Abraham, Raima Sen, Riya Sen, Minisha Lamba, Dino Morea, Mahi Gill, June Malya, Neha Dhupia, Monami Ghosh will be few of the showstoppers at KFW.

53 ultras surrender in Assam
GUWAHATI:
Altogether 53 militants, including 44 from the banned ULFA surrendered before the Army in Assam’s Tinsukia district on Tuesday. Besides the 44 ULFA militants, there were three NSCN militants and six members of the Adivasi National Liberation Army. Among the ULFA militants, four were women. The militants surrendered before the GOC of 2nd Mountain division Maj Gen B S Sachar in the presence of Tinsukia superintendent of police Diganta Bora.

Unaccounted money seized
CHENNAI:
Officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has arrested three Filipino nationals and seized unaccounted $56,251 from them at the Anna International airport here on Monday. A DRI release on Tuesday said acting on specific intelligence, the officials, intercepted the Filipinos, while they were about to board the flights to Manila via Kuala Lumpur/Singapore and effected the seizure, worth Rs 31 lakh in Indian money value. As they did not declare the foreign currencies to the Customs authorities and also did not possess any valid documents for taking them out of India, the currencies were seized. On interrogation, they admitted to smuggling the currencies out of India without proper documents.

'Desi' Air Force One
NEW DELHI:
President Pratibha Patil, the supreme commander of the armed forces will Wednesday undertake her maiden flight in the Indian version of Air Force One, journeying to Assam in a newly acquired Business Boeing Jet (BBJ) of the Indian Air Force (IAF). Patterned on the US president's office-in-the-sky, the jet is one of three the IAF has purchased and which is equipped with state-of-the-art security gadgets and the latest communication systems.

Boeing lab
BANGALORE:
Global aerospace major Boeing has set up a research and technology lab here to develop advanced aerospace technologies and solutions for its next-generation products and services, a senior official said Tuesday. The India lab, Boeing's third of its kind outside the US, will initially have 30 aerospace engineers working on multiple projects that include advanced aircraft and spacecraft designs and new structure and materials technologies.

‘Son of India’
NEW DELHI:
Calling himself a son of India, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual head of the Tibetan Buddhists, Tuesday praised the "non-sectarian principles" of the country on the 50th anniversary of his escape from Tibet. "The non-sectarian principles are very much alive in this country. Fifty years ago, I came to India as a 24-year-old homeless refugee and have been greatly inspired since then by great leaders like (first prime minister) Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru," he said.

Urban services ‘lax’
NEW DELHI:
The condition of urban infrastructure in India is abysmal and services to the urban poor are pathetic, according to a survey released Tuesday. The Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), a civil society organisation, carried out the survey involving 3,820 individuals in low and high income earning categories in six Indian cities - Jaipur, Raipur, Ranchi, Patna, Shimla and Varanasi.

Source: Agencies

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