SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

BJP attacks PM for refusing TV debate
New Delhi, April 11
The BJP today came down heavily on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for refusing to participate in a TV debate with LK Advani and his statement suggesting that he was not happy with the Congress’ decision to nominate controversial party leader Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar for the Lok Sabha polls.
LK Advani
“You have a situation in which the PM holds office but has no authority, while the person who wields authority has no accountability”

‘Voluntarily abdicated authority’
New Delhi, April 11
Reiterating his charge that Manmohan Singh is a weak prime minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani said Manmohan Singh had "voluntarily abdicated authority".

Advani all out to woo religious heads
New Delhi, April 11
As he makes a determined bid to take a shot at the prime ministership, BJP leader LK Advani has written to nearly 1,000 spiritual leaders belonging to different religions to seek their blessing and enlist their support for his candidature.





EARLIER STORIES



Veteran film actress Vyjayanthimala Bali with ISRO chairman G Madhvan Nair during the launch of the Bangalore Club for Kathakali and Arts in Bangalore
Veteran film actress Vyjayanthimala Bali with ISRO chairman G Madhvan Nair during the launch of the Bangalore Club for Kathakali and Arts in Bangalore on Saturday. — PTI

Praja Rajayam Party president Chiranjeevi after he flags off of the ‘Praja Rail’ from Secunderabad railway station
Praja Rajayam Party president Chiranjeevi after he flags off of the ‘Praja Rail’ from Secunderabad railway station on Saturday. — PTI

Bofors shadow looms over gun purchase
New Delhi, April 11
In India’s defence-related politics, “Bofors” is a dirty word. The defence establishment is hoping that it does not cloud the decision-making as a new set of artillery guns are to be purchased.

Cong in dilemma as Dausa awaits party nominee
Jaipur, April 11
Even as the countdown to the Lok Sabha elections has begun in the state, there seems to be no end to the Congress' predicament over the Dausa seat. The Congress released its second list of candidates late last night, but there was no word from the party on the Dausa seat.

‘Pink-slipped’, they think jobs, not votes
Bangalore, April 11
For hundreds of voters who have lost their jobs to the global meltdown - be it IT professionals or garment workers - the election tempo across India has little meaning. They are more concerned about landing a job at the earliest than to listen to the promises and slanging matches of political parties.

Use of party symbol denied to Apna Dal chief
Allahabad, April 11
Following a twist of fate, the Phoolpur returning officer has refrained Apna Dal National President Sonelal Patel from using his party’s official symbol - cup and saucer- in Phoolpur where he is a candidate.

Rahul hits out at Naidu for ignoring farm sector
Hyderabad, April 11
Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi yesterday lashed out at Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu for ignoring agriculture sector during his nine-year tenure as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.

Congress reluctant to take on Vaiko
Chennai, April 11
As most of the leaders in the Congress are reluctant to take on MDMK leader Vaiko in Virudhunagar constituency, amid allegations of Centre’s support to the Sri Lankan government against the LTTE, the party is considering leaving the seat to its ally, the DMK.

Karuna draws flak over ‘slave’ remark
Chennai, April 11
Expressing shock over the remarks of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi that people of Tamil Nadu were slaves who could not save the Sri Lankan Tamils, PMK founder S Ramadoss asked why Karunanidhi was pleading with AICC president Sonia Gandhi instead of snapping ties with Congress.

Left hits back at PM
New Delhi, April 11
The Left parties today hit back at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over his charge that the Third Front was helping the BJP in the Lok Sabha poll, saying the Congress had instead failed to check the saffron forces.

Registration of Land
Punjab restrained from recovering Rs 1.06 cr from FCI
New Delhi, April 11
The Supreme Court has issued an order, restraining the Punjab government from recovering Rs 1.06 crore from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the registration of land bought for just Rs 7.76 lakh in Hoshiarpur mandi.

Army may be left with just 7 firing ranges
Chandigarh, April 11
From a total of 104 field firing ranges (FFR) at one point of time, the world’s third largest Army is expected to left with just seven ranges by 2014. This could have an adverse effect on the Army’s training and operational preparedness.

Litterateur Vishnu Prabhakar dead
New Delhi, April 11
Renowned Hindi litterateur Vishnu Prabhakar died at a hospital here today after a brief illness. He was 97. Prabhakar is survived by two sons and two daughters.

2 bombs recovered in Guwahati
Guwahati, April 11
Two powerful bombs, suspected to have been made to disrupt the Lok Sabha elections, were recovered from a house in the Lokhra area of the city today. The police has arrested the owner of the house, Babul Das.





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BJP attacks PM for refusing TV debate
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 11
The BJP today came down heavily on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for refusing to participate in a TV debate with LK Advani and his statement suggesting that he was not happy with the Congress’ decision to nominate controversial party leader Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar for the Lok Sabha polls.

A day after Manmohan Singh stated that he did not consider Advani worthy of being “an alternative Prime Minister” by taking him on in a TV debate, BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a tongue in cheek remark, told the Prime Minister: “You have no authority to grant legitimacy to Advaniji. It depends on the people of the country to decide who should be their leader.”

Prasad said the BJP found it quite strange that Manmohan Singh was shying away from a debate in an age which has witnessed the proliferation of news channels across the country. “If other politicians from the Congress and the BJP as well as other parties could debate on TV, why not the PM?’’ he wondered.

The BJP spokesman also said nothing could show the Prime Minister’s “greater helplessness” than his expression that he was not in favour of giving ticket to Tytler and Sajjan Kumar for the elections, which have since been withdrawn in view of the anti-Sikh riot cases against them. “Why were they given the ticket in the first place when it was know that there were cases against them?’’ he asked. He also alleged that the UPA government had been misusing the CBI and this was amply reflected in the investigative agency giving a clean chit to Tytler in an anti-Sikh riot case.

The BJP leader criticised Manmohan Singh for not campaigning at all in Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

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‘Voluntarily abdicated authority’

New Delhi, April 11
Reiterating his charge that Manmohan Singh is a weak prime minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani said Manmohan Singh had "voluntarily abdicated authority".

In an interview to CNN-IBN TV channel, Advani said: “You have a situation in which the Prime Minister holds office but has no authority, while the person who wields the authority has no accountability", hinting at the Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

"This is not a democracy”, said Advani, adding that Manmohan Singh had "voluntarily abdicated authority".

He also said Manmohan Singh's weakness as Prime Minister was “patently” visible and “very clear”.

“I have known cases where the Prime Minister has proposed some course of action but he is not able to implement it unless he gets clearance from the Congress party president,” Advani said.

The BJP leader said:”I described him as a weak prime minister in the context of the fact that I have seen prime ministers earlier who had the support of only four MPs in the house and yet they were never at a disadvantage.”

"I have seen Chandrashekar, I have seen H.D. Deve Gowda,” Advani added. His comments come a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during an interaction with women journalists in New Delhi, said he did not wish to have a television debate with Advani as he did not want to accord Advani the privilege of being "an alternative Prime Minister". — IANS

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Advani all out to woo religious heads
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Key NDA promises

  • Consulting spiritual leaders on a regular basis on major challenges facing the nation by evolving a suitable consultative mechanism.
  • Religious conversions using fraudulent and unethical means to be outlawed.
  • Ensuring that all religious establishments play an important role in inculcating spiritual and patriotic values among the people.
  • Launching a national mission for the beautification and development of all major pilgrimage centres of all faiths-communities.
  • Cleaning up of the Ganga and other rivers on a priority basis. Protecting cow and her progeny.
  • Regulating all foreign funds as per government norms to ensure that they are used solely for the purpose for which they are received.
  • Promoting India’s spiritual heritage worldwide.

New Delhi, April 11
As he makes a determined bid to take a shot at the prime ministership, BJP leader LK Advani has written to nearly 1,000 spiritual leaders belonging to different religions to seek their blessing and enlist their support for his candidature.

In his three-page letter, Advani has made many tall promises should the NDA get the people’s mandate in the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha, including promoting spiritual tourism in a big way, protecting the Ram Sethu and ensuring that controversies like the Amarnath Shrine Board, which sparked unrest in Jammu and Kashmir last year, were not repeated.

“It would be our endeavour to provide an honest and corruption-free government, committed to protecting the vital interests of the nation and dedicated to promoting the welfare of the people, especially those who are underprivileged,’’ he said.

The leader of the Opposition did not forget to sharply attack the Manmohan Singh government, both on the security as well as economic front, emphasising that it would be the endeavour of the NDA, if elected to power, to replace the “mood of despair” in the country with hope and confidence.

On national security, Advani pointed out that cross-border terrorism claimed more innocent lives in India in the past 5 years than the combined terrorism-related toll in the entire world, except Iraq. He also spoke about “unchecked infiltration” from Bangladesh and anti-India forces raising their heads elsewhere. The developments in Pakistan were a matter of worry for India.

Touching economic issues, he argued that the “mismanagement of the economy” by the UPA government had brought enormous misery to the common man and the unprecedented rise in the prices of essential commodities had affected all sections of society. “In addition to the existing problem of widespread unemployment, our country is now witnessing a new problem of job losses on a massive scale.’’

Seeking to strike an emotional chord with the spiritual leaders, he noted that India is a religious country where people seek guidance of religious leaders in matters both worldly and other-worldly. “I am sure you will give the right guidance in the present circumstances.”

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Bofors shadow looms over gun purchase
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 11
In India’s defence-related politics, “Bofors” is a dirty word. The defence establishment is hoping that it does not cloud the decision-making as a new set of artillery guns are to be purchased.

International gun makers have now submitted proposals to supply 155 MM artillery guns that can replace the ageing stock of the Swedish-made Bofors artillery guns.

A field trial that will include hot and cold weather-firing capabilities will be conducted in the coming months, sources said. Leading gun makers are in the fray, sources said, while adding that the names cannot be disclosed at this stage.

India intends to buy some 400 of these and manufacture a few hundred more. However, the multi-billion dollar purchase is stuck in long-winded decision-making due to political sensitivities.

These new guns will be self-propelled as well as towed. An ultra light variant is also sought for deployment in the Himalayan region facing Pakistan and China. The guns being sought are between 39 and 53 caliber sizes. The lower the caliber, the shorter its shot, explained a senior officer. This is needed in the mountains.

India has not purchased any artillery guns in the past two decades following allegations of kickbacks in the purchase of the Bofors gun in 1986. Some progress was made when India and Israel signed a deal in March to manufacture ammunition for the 155 MM guns in India. This signals that new “artillery pieces” are to be purchased and this time, the establishment is serious.

The process to buy new guns has been on for the past eight years, but it has been bogged down in controversies. The last time---a year ago---the government had cancelled the procurement programme. This happened as BAE Bofors and Soltam of Israel emerged as front-runners following technical trials. Sources within the Army said the Bofors gun scored higher. This made it politically difficult to make a decision.

The Indian government announced last year that none of the guns met the qualitative requirements (QRs) and the contract would be floated again.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Defence Ministry had scrapped the tender for 22 attack helicopters as the three companies offering the choppers did not meet staff qualitative requirements set by the government.

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Cong in dilemma as Dausa awaits party nominee
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, April 11
Even as the countdown to the Lok Sabha elections has begun in the state, there seems to be no end to the Congress' predicament over the Dausa seat.

The Congress released its second list of candidates late last night, but there was no word from the party on the Dausa seat. Apprehending division in the Meena vote, who constitute 15 per cent of the state's population, the Congress doesn't want to confront mercurial tribal leader Kirori Lal Meena who has been eyeing the Dausa seat ever since the announcement of the Lok Sabha elections.

Though the Congress has tried to keep the channels of negotiation open with Kirori Lal by not declaring its nominee for Dausa, the party's move to field Union Minister Namo Narayan Meena from the neighbouring Tonk-Sawai Madhopur seat may irk the Meena stalwart. In his "social engineering" formula, Meena had suggested to the Congress to field a non-Meena candidate from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur as, according to him, putting up Meena candidates on two neighbouring seats could lead to the polarisation of votes. However, it seems his suggestions have not gone down well with the party leadership. After initially trying to placate Kirori Lal, the state Congress leadership had toughened its stand and asked him not to interfere in the party's internal matters.

Apart from Dausa, the Alwar Lok Sabha seat has become a new cause of worry for the ruling party. Congress candidate Bhanwar Jitendra Singh has expressed his inability to contest the elections on health grounds, which has forced the party to look for an alternative at the eleventh hour. The situation has become all the more difficult for the Congress as it had denied the party ticket to sitting Alwar MP Karan Singh Yadav and opted for Jitendra, who is known for his proximity to AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi. The Congress ended up earning the wrath of the dominant Yadav community in the constituency which has often sent a Yadav candidate to Parliament.

Meanwhile, the six candidates the Congress has announced in its second list include two royal family members. The party has fielded Divya Singh, wife of Bharatpur royal scion Vishvendra Singh, from the Jaipur Rural seat and Ijjeyaraj Singh, a member of the Kota royal family, from the Kota Lok Sabha seat. The other Congress candidates include Namo Narayan Meena (Tonk-Sawai Madhopur), Mahadev Singh Khandela (Sikar), Rafique Mandelia (Churu) and Khilarilal Bhairwa (Karauli-Dhaulpur).

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‘Pink-slipped’, they think jobs, not votes

Bangalore, April 11
For hundreds of voters who have lost their jobs to the global meltdown - be it IT professionals or garment workers - the election tempo across India has little meaning. They are more concerned about landing a job at the earliest than to listen to the promises and slanging matches of political parties.

“I know exercising the voting right is very important for all citizens. But I am disappointed and in no mood to vote,” said IT professional Rajesh P, who was given the pink slip by a top-notch MNC four months ago.

At the other end is Jaya Shekhar, a widow with two children who was shown the door five months ago by the garment company she was working for.

Naveen lost his job in the marketing division of a reputed financial company three months ago. “Non-performance” was stated as the reason for packing him off. The 28-year-old, who gave only his first name, is desperate for a job. He has not told his parents that he was jobless.

There are hundreds like Rajesh, Jaya and Naveen in the city for whom the priority right now is to find a job and not the elections.

Voting in Karnataka will take place April 23 when 17 constituencies, including four in Bangalore, go to the polls and April 30, when voting will take place in the remaining 11 constituencies.

“Not a single party, be it the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, the Congress or the Janata Dal-Secular, has said anything about rehabilitating thousands of people who lost their jobs due to recession,” Rajesh told.

“I was a part of the IT industry for around six years. Now I am jobless. Even after a frantic search all these months, I am yet to get an offer. Why are the parties shying away from talking about the issue and measures to provide relief to those who have lost jobs?” he asked.

Jaya (45), was earning Rs 3,500 a month with which she managed her house and sent her two children to school. Now the children sit at home as she cannot pay the school fees.

“My husband is dead and I was the sole breadwinner of my home till recently. I have stopped sending my children to school. Politicians come to ask for votes from poor people like us, but they have no solution to my problem. Will they give me back my job?” posed Jaya. She is among the hundreds of garment workers who have been laid off after recession took hold of the United States, impacting several economies across the world and in turn India’s garment exports. There is no estimate, like in the high-wage IT sector, of the number of persons who have lost jobs. All that officials say on condition of anonymity is that the figure is in hundreds.

Unites-Professionals, India, (Union for Information Technology-Enabled Services -Professionals), a union of employees in IT Enabled Services, had expressed fears at the beginning of the year that around 50,000 techies in India may get pink slips in the first half of the year itself.

“Giving pink slips to employees has become the order of the day in Bangalore. But all are in denial mode, be it political parties or industry bodies. It is better that we accept the problem soon to solve it quickly,” asserted Karthik Shekhar, general secretary of UNITES-Professionals, told.

Bangalore is one of the worst affected cities in the country in terms of jobs as it is home to 40 per cent of Indian IT and BPO professionals. — IANS

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Use of party symbol denied to Apna Dal chief
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Allahabad, April 11
Following a twist of fate, the Phoolpur returning officer has refrained Apna Dal National President Sonelal Patel from using his party’s official symbol - cup and saucer- in Phoolpur where he is a candidate.

Instead the symbol has been allotted to estranged party general secretary Pradeep Srivastava who is now no longer in the party.

This unbelievable development of a party’s president being denied the official symbol occurred when Patel first decided to field Srivastava from Phoolpur and even issued him a Form A certificate under his signatures authorising him the use of party symbol. On March 31, Srivastava filed his nomination as the Apna Dal candidate from Phoolpur. Soon after that, jailed mafia-turned-parliamentarian Atiq Ahmad announced his decision to join the Apna Dal and contest from Pratapgarh. In this case, probably elated by the entry of a high- profile Atiq Ahmad, the Apna Dal president overlooked the technical detail. Srivastava, determined to pay back Patel in his own coin, obviously took no initiative in this regard.

With the last date for withdrawal for the second phase over on April 8, Phoolpur returning office Rajeev Agarwal heard out both the parties and dismissed Patel’s claim that Srivastava should not be allowed to contest on the party’s official symbol. This has left Patel with little choice but to contest as an Independent candidate.

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Rahul hits out at Naidu for ignoring farm sector
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, April 11
Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi yesterday lashed out at Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu for ignoring agriculture sector during his nine-year tenure as Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.

“Naidu had pursued pro-corporate policies at the cost of agriculture. In fact, he had said agriculture was a useless profession,” Rahul said while addressing public meetings during his election campaign in the state.

Making a comparison between the policies of the previous TDP regime and the present Congress government, he said his party stood apart because of its sustained focus on “inclusive growth”.

“The difference between our thinking and the thinking of the Opposition is that we believe if India is to move forward everybody has to move forward. The Opposition believes that some parts of India can move forward and the rest of India can be left behind,” Rahul said.

“The fundamental difference is that we believe in poor people of this country and we believe that the future of this country will be decided by the poor. We believe that the only difference between the poor and the rich of this country is that of opportunity. It has been the ideology of the Congress for the last 60 years. We are going to do everything to give the opportunity to the poor and make sure the country moves forward,” he said.

The young Congress leader was addressing public meetings at Mylavaram in Krishna district of coastal Andhra and at Vyra in Khammam district of the Telangana region.

The goal of the Congress, he said, was to bring a change in the life of the poor.

Referring to Andhra Pradesh, he said “If you ask people who has done work here, ask them about irrigation, insurance and micro-finance, they will give you the answer. The Congress government in Andhra Pradesh has done solid work during the last five years.”

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Congress reluctant to take on Vaiko
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, April 11
As most of the leaders in the Congress are reluctant to take on MDMK leader Vaiko in Virudhunagar constituency, amid allegations of Centre’s support to the Sri Lankan government against the LTTE, the party is considering leaving the seat to its ally, the DMK.

Although, the support for the Congress is strong in southern districts than in other parts of the state, the party leaders are very hesitant to face Vaiko due to his pro-LTTE credentials. They fear that Vaiko could easily label them as “anti-Tamil” and no Congress leader in the state would like to challenge the MDMK leader in his oratorical skills, field work or charisma.

On the other hand, the DMK is said to be keen on ensuring a stiff contest for Vaiko, so that he will be forced to spend most of his time in Virudhunagar. This would reduce the time he would campaign in other parts of the state. If the MDMK leader is prevented from campaigning across the state, the DMK-Congress front may perform better, it is hoped.

TN CM M Karunanidhi’s son M.K. Azhagiri, who considers Vaiko as a major challenge to his family’s dominance, is also very keen to field a heavyweight candidate against the MDMK leader and supervise the campaign. In that case, a defeat for the DMK’s candidate in Virudhunagar will be a personal blow to Azhagiri, who is yet to prove his strength outside Madurai district.

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Karuna draws flak over ‘slave’ remark
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, April 11
Expressing shock over the remarks of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi that people of Tamil Nadu were slaves who could not save the Sri Lankan Tamils, PMK founder S Ramadoss asked why Karunanidhi was pleading with AICC president Sonia Gandhi instead of snapping ties with Congress.

Ramadoss said the DMK had shared power at the Centre for several years and had done nothing to solve the Sri Lankan Tamils crisis. After being in power at the Centre for many years, the DMK leader was saying that people of Tamil Nadu were slaves who could not do anything to protect their brethern in Sri Lanka. Such remarks were shocking and surprising, he said.

The CM should make it clear to the Congress that his party would sever its electoral ties with the latter, if the Congress-led Union government did not take steps for an immediate ceasefire, Ramadoss said.

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Left hits back at PM

New Delhi, April 11
The Left parties today hit back at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over his charge that the Third Front was helping the BJP in the Lok Sabha poll, saying the Congress had instead failed to check the saffron forces.

One of the Left parties, the CPI, also said that the PM's statement that he would have quit if he had failed to get the Indo-US nuclear deal passed, showed that he had made it his "personal agenda" and had "pressurised" the Congress and the allies. On Singh's charge, CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat told PTI that "it is not the Congress, but the non-Congress, non-BJP alternative which has effectively put paid to the chances of the BJP coming to power at the Centre. It is only this alternative which has isolated the BJP." Karat, who is campaigning in Karnataka, said: "The BJP cannot even make its mark in states like Tamil Nadu, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh where its traditional allies have joined the Third Front as the secular alternative is emerging stronger with more UPA allies falling in line."

"Therefore, it is an illusion that the formation of the Third Front would automatically help the BJP come back to power," he said.

CPI National Secretary D Raja said the Prime Minister's remarks against the Third Front showed that the Congress and BJP were getting "jittery" over the emergence of the non-BJP, non-Congress alliance as a viable alternative. — PTI

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Registration of Land
Punjab restrained from recovering Rs 1.06 cr from FCI
R. Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 11
The Supreme Court has issued an order, restraining the Punjab government from recovering Rs 1.06 crore from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for the registration of land bought for just Rs 7.76 lakh in Hoshiarpur mandi.

A Bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir and B. Sudershan Reddy also sought the state government’s response to a petition filed by the FCI, challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s verdict in the case relating to the 1973 sale involving 23,978 square yards.

Appearing for the FCI, counsel Ajit Pudussery said the authorities had threatened to auction the corporation’s godowns in the light of the High Court’s verdict on September 18, 2008, ordering impounding of the registration deed and recovery of Rs 1.06 crore based on the present market value of the property.

“Any sale of the godowns will cause irreparable harm and injury to the public interest, as the FCI is procuring food grains for public distribution on a “no profit no loss” basis and a “huge amount” of stamp duty will be a burden on the exchequer,” the corporation contended in its petition.

“The HC erred in law and facts while applying Section 47A of the Indian Stamp Act, 1899, under which the market value was determined on the basis of the date of allotment (January 15, 1973 in the present case), and not on the date of registration,” the FCI said.

The HC order “is totally arbitrary and illegal and violation of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution of India and thus on this short ground alone is liable to be set aside by the apex court,” the corporation said.

Though the FCI took the possession of land in 1973 and constructed its godowns shortly thereafter, the administrator, New Mandi Township, Punjab, issued formal letter of allotment only on May 18, 2005.

The FCI presented documents for registration to the Naib Tehsildar on September 2, 2005, who referred the matter to the Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) for approval.

The Hoshiarpur collector served a notice on the FCI on November 17, 2005, under the Punjab Stamp (Dealing of under valued Instruments) Rules, 1983, to show cause as to why proceeding should not initiated under the Act. The Collector (Stamps) rejected the FCI’s submissions on January 12, 2006.

The FCI was also unsuccessful with its appeals to the Commissioner, Jalandhar Division, and the HC.

The HC had completely ignored the fact that the allotment letter had been issued belatedly and therefore there was no question of the sale being undervalued, the FCI contended in its petition to the apex court.

Further, both the parties --- (Administrator, New Mandi Township, Punjab) and the FCI ---were statutory entities and “thus by no stretch of imagination it can be said that these bodies have indulged in any under valuation of the property to evade the stamp duty,” the FCI has contended.

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Army may be left with just 7 firing ranges
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, April 11
From a total of 104 field firing ranges (FFR) at one point of time, the world’s third largest Army is expected to left with just seven ranges by 2014. This could have an adverse effect on the Army’s training and operational preparedness.

Official documents reveal that non-clearance of forest land by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and a Supreme Court judgment thereon have led to state governments shying away from notifying the field ranges.

The Army had earlier acquired 12 ranges and 92 notified ranges. Out of the notified ranges, only 40 are available to the Army since the notification for the others have expired. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has initiated a process of consultation with all stakeholders in order to find a mutually acceptable solution to the problem.

Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence had, in its report released in February, taken serious note of the situation and stated that it was high time that the MOD initiated expeditious and concrete steps to resolve the issue in national interest in a time- bound manner.

Consequent to the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and the Supreme Court rulings of 2002, it has become binding upon state governments to obtain clearance from the MOEF to permit use of forest land for non-forest activity. Though field firing by the armed forces is not classified as a non-forest activity under the Act, it is considered as such. Accordingly, the Army is liable to pay huge amounts as compensatory afforestation and net present value for obtaining re-notification of the FFRs by the state governments.

Under the Manoeuvre Field Firing and Artillery Practice Act, the state governments are empowered to notify ranges in their jurisdiction. It is only after the range is notified and the area concerned is cleared of civil population that live firing training can be undertaken.

Non-availability of field ranges has serious ramifications for the Army. Besides putting enormous pressure on a few available ranges, troops have to travel long distances, entailing huge financial costs and logistical burden. It also upsets the training schedules, operational commitments and routine regimental activity.

About a decade ago, a comprehensive three-year study undertaken by a special task force under the directives of the Parliament's Estimates Committee had recommended that to meet the Army's "bottom line requirement", six ranges in various parts of the country be "acquired on priority". It had also recommended a long-term notification of 14 FFRs in various commands for a minimum period of 25 years.

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Litterateur Vishnu Prabhakar dead

Vishnu Prabhakar New Delhi, April 11
Renowned Hindi litterateur Vishnu Prabhakar died at a hospital here today after a brief illness. He was 97.

Prabhakar is survived by two sons and two daughters.

His son Atul Prabhakar said he was in hospital since March 23 due to heart problem and urine infection.

Prabhakar had decided to donate his body to the All India Institute of Medical Science.

Honoured with the Padma Bhushan and Sahitya Akademi awards, Prabhakar worked as Drama director in All India Radio from 1955 to 1957.

His famous works include Awara, Masiha, Pankheen, Jane Anjane, Dhalti Raat, Swapnamayi, Nav Prabhat and Doctor besides “Ardhanarishwar” for which he was awarded Sahitya Akademi. — PTI

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2 bombs recovered in Guwahati

Guwahati, April 11
Two powerful bombs, suspected to have been made to disrupt the Lok Sabha elections, were recovered from a house in the Lokhra area of the city today. The police has arrested the owner of the house, Babul Das.

The police launched a search operation and cordoned off the house following a tip-off that bombs were kept in the house to carry out violence on the eve of the elections.

During search operations, two bombs weighing 10 kg and three kg each were recovered from the house, the police said. — PTI

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BRIEFLY


Tina Ambani, chairperson of Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, at the launch of Parkinson’s disease care programme in Mumbai
Tina Ambani, chairperson of Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, at the launch of Parkinson’s disease care programme in Mumbai on Saturday. — PTI

Ragging causes blurred vision
Coimbatore:
In another case of brutal ragging, a first year management student was allegedly thrashed and punched in his eyes by five senior students for his refusal to part with Rs 3000 following which the boy’s vision was affected. Though the incident took place a month ago, it came to light only on Friday when Akhil Dev, son of novelist Sunil Parameshwaran in Kerala, complained to City Police Commissioner KC Mahali about it. Akhil, a student of BBM at PSG college of Arts and Science was still undergoing treatment for the injuries, particularly in the eyes, the police said. A case has been registered in this regard. — PTI

US national held with live cartridges
MUMBAI:
An American national was arrested at the city airport after seven live cartridges were found in his luggage, the police said on Saturday. Henry Hen was held on Friday night when he was boarding a flight to the US and seven live cartridges of .22 bore were recovered from his jacket, which was a part of his hand luggage, a senior police official from the Sahar police station said. — PTI

Militants fire at train
ASSAM:
Hours after an attack on a train, militants fired at a goods train in central Assam’s North Cachhar Hills district Saturday morning, leaving two special Assam police officers (SPOs) persons killed and a railway protection force personnel injured. Official sources said Dima Halan Daogah insurgents fired at the train near Warengdisa as it was proceeding towards Dijaonra from Lamdingat at 7.50 am. All trains on both sides of the track have been halted. The same group had on Friday attacked a train from a hilltop at Badarpur-lumding Barak Vally Express, killing a CRPF jawan and critically injured 14 passengers. — TNS

Private hospital bombed
IMPHAL:
Unidentified militants hurled two powerful bombs at a private hospital at around 10 pm in Imphal West district of Manipur but it failed to explode, the police said on Saturday. They lobbed the bombs at Imphal Hospital at Lalambung area near here. Later bomb experts defused the bombs at a safe place. Monetary demand by a militant outfit appeared to be the cause of the incident, the police said. — PTI

Air passengers taken ill
CHENNAI:
As many as eight passengers of a Colombo-bound Air Lanka flight suffered food poisoning on Saturday, after they were served with refreshments, airport officials said. The other passengers brought the matter to the notice of Airport Manager who inspected the food and found that they had crossed the expiry date, the officials said. The affected persons were administered treatment before they resumed the journey, the officials added. — PTI

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