SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


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

SC frowns upon strictures against lower judiciary
New Delhi, April 17
The Supreme Court has advised high courts to avoid passing strictures against lower judicial officers who “mostly work under a charged atmosphere and are constantly under psychological pressure”.

SC: No need for compulsory voting
New Delhi, April 17
Observing that people are aware of the importance of their right to vote, the Supreme Court today refused to entertain a PIL that sought a directive to the government for making voting compulsory.

LS Polls
Army mounts vigil along B’desh border

Dhubri (Assam), April 17
The Indian Army has mounted surveillance in remote parts of western Assam, close to the Bangladesh border, in view of the alert sounded by the Union Home Ministry about the possibility of terrorists trying to disrupt elections. Election to Lok Sabha constituencies in western Assam will be held on April 23.



EARLIER STORIES

Low turnout in UP, Bihar
Poll fatigue takes a toll in Hindi belt
Lack of issues to blame in Uttar Pradesh
Lucknow, April 17
A visible lack of enthusiasm among the voters of Uttar Pradesh was reflected in a significant lowering of polling percentage in ten of the 16 seats that went to polls yesterday. According to the figures provided by Chief Electoral Officer AK Bishnoi, the overall percentage has indeed increased by a per cent, from 47 per cent in 2004 to 48 percent, for these seats this year.

Bihar has witnessed an election every second year
Patna, April 17
The low percentage of polling (46 per cent) recorded in Bihar during the first phase of polls for the 15th Lok Sabha on Thursday must have aroused curiosity among the people outside this state. People back home are also attributing various factors for the low polls in 13 out of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies, which included Naxal strongholds like Jehanabad, Gaya, Aurangabad, Jamui and Karakat.

Notification issued for fifth phase of LS polls
New Delhi, April 17
Electoral process for the fifth and last phase of Lok Sabha polls covering 86 constituencies spread over nine States and Union Territories began with President Pratibha Patil issuing a notification today.

Advani promises to bring back money stashed abroad
Mumbai, April 17
BJP’s prime ministeral candidate LK Advani releases the report on black money, prepared by a four-member task force of the party, during a press conference in Mumbai The BJP leader and aspirant for the post of Prime Minister, LK Advani, said his party would bring home thousands of crores of rupees stashed away in tax havens by Indians over the decades.





BJP’s prime ministeral candidate LK Advani releases the report on black money, prepared by a four-member task force of the party, during a press conference in Mumbai on Friday. — PTI

BJP’s Kandhamal candidate gets bail
Kandhamal District and Sessions Judge today granted bail to Ashok Sahu, BJP’s candidate from the Kandhamal parliamentary segment, arrested earlier for allegedly making inflammatory remarks against Christians and the Church.

AIADMK manifesto vows to end Lankan war
Chennai, April 17
The AIADMK, in its election manifesto, has promised to end the war in Sri Lanka and ensure a separate state of Tamil Eelam for the island Tamils. In a significant reversal of stand from its 2001 manifesto for the Assembly elections which promised to implement the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, the party said it would cancel the scheme, if voted to power.

MP booked for beating polling agent
Hyderabad, April 17
The Andhra Pradesh police today filed a case against Hyderabad MP and Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) strongman Asaduddin Owaisi for beating up a polling agent of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) during the polling in city yesterday.

Golma Devi under EC scanner
Jaipur, April 17
Minister of State for Khadi and Gramodyog in the Congress government Golma Devi has come under the Election Commission (EC) scanner for reportedly distributing Rs 50,000 each to the kin of three labourers who lost their lives while digging a well in Dausa.

Hang Kasab publicly: Thackeray
Mumbai, April 17
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray today said Mumbai attack terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Kasab should not be provided any legal help and be hanged publicly near the Gateway of India. “Why should Kasab be provided legal help? There is public demand that he should be hanged near Gateway of India and no time should be lost in trial," Thackeray said in an editorial in Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana'. Alleging that Kasab was being treated as a "guest", the Sena chief said "Kasab's mother, who is coming to visit his son in prison, would now be given treatment as if she was a 'veermata' (martyr's mother)". — PTI

Read fine print before partnering NSG: Kakodkar
Mumbai, April 17
Cautioning about the pitfalls in dealing with foreign nuclear vendors, Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar today asked the Indian industry to read the fine print before entering into such deals.

Govt asks airports to beef up anti-terror measures
New Delhi, April 17
Faced with heightened terror threat to the aviation sector, airports and airlines have been asked to carry out drills to handle emergency situations and take specific measures to deal with emergencies.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee at a press conference in Kolkata India asks Lanka to check further casualties
New Delhi, April 17
Amid the increasing political temperature in Tamil Nadu over the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, India today asked Colombo to extend the pause in hostilities in the island nation to prevent further civilian casualties and enable trapped civilians to leave the war zone and move to secure locations.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee at a press conference in Kolkata on Friday. — PTI

IAF to propose Arjan’s name for Bharat Ratna
New Delhi, April 17
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to propose the name of Marshall of the IAF Arjan Singh for the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour.

Net to protect Modi from possible 
shoe attack 

Anand, April 17
In an attempt to save Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from a possible shoe attack, a net was put up on the stage from where Modi addressed a public meeting here today.

Army mounts vigil along B’desh border
Dhubri (Assam), April 17
The Indian Army has mounted surveillance in remote parts of western Assam, close to the Bangladesh border, in view of the alert sounded by the Union Home Ministry about the possibility of terrorists trying to disrupt elections. Election to Lok Sabha constituencies in western Assam will be held on April 23.





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SC frowns upon strictures against lower judiciary
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 17
The Supreme Court has advised high courts to avoid passing strictures against lower judicial officers who “mostly work under a charged atmosphere and are constantly under psychological pressure”.

Observing that such officers did not enjoy the benefits which were available to the higher courts, a Bench comprising Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam said that in view of this “remarks/observations and strictures are to be avoided.”

Expunging the “offending remarks” made by the Delhi High Court against Special Judge (NDPS) Parkash Singh Teji, the apex court said strictures should be avoided particularly if the officer had no occasion to put forth his reasoning.

Remanding a case back to the trial court on July 6, 2006, the HC had remarked that the learned Judge who passed the impugned judgment and decree “need be careful in future, rather than adopting a hasty, slip shod and perfunctory approach”.

The affected Judge challenged it in the Supreme Court, stating that by making such remarks behind his back, the HC failed to appreciate certain relevant facts. It was pointed out that the suit that was disposed of on December 19, 2005 had been filed in 1984.

Whatever mistake the HC had pointed out was “neither deliberate nor intentional”. He also highlighted that the HC failed to appreciate that the statement of prosecution witnesses was attached with the order sheet, but it was not arranged or placed where it should have been placed as per Rules 8 and 9 of the Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 1967.

“Judicial restraint and discipline are as necessary to the orderly administration of justice as they are to the effectiveness of the Army,” the Bench said in the judgment, written by Justice Sathasivam.

The court pointed out that higher courts everyday came across orders of the lower courts which were not justified either in law or in fact and modified them or set them aside. 

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SC: No need for compulsory voting
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 17
Observing that people are aware of the importance of their right to vote, the Supreme Court today refused to entertain a PIL that sought a directive to the government for making voting compulsory.

“In Kerala, the voting was 73 per cent. There was 86 per cent voting in one Parliamentary constituency. It is not because you force them. It is because people are conscious,” a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said.

“We can’t accept such inhuman suggestions,” the CJI said while responding to counsel Prasanna Kutty’s plea for cutting off electricity and water supplies to those who failed to vote in elections. When Kutty said candidates were taking voters to polling booths, the CJI observed that those contesting elections were spending crores of rupees as they were rich people.

Justice P Sathasivam wondered how could people be forced to vote as the Bench dismissed the PIL, asking the petitioner to approach the government.

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LS Polls
Army mounts vigil along B’desh border
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Dhubri (Assam), April 17
The Indian Army has mounted surveillance in remote parts of western Assam, close to the Bangladesh border, in view of the alert sounded by the Union Home Ministry about the possibility of terrorists trying to disrupt elections. Election to Lok Sabha constituencies in western Assam will be held on April 23.

The river isles, located along the course of the Brahmaputra that is used by infiltrators from Bangladesh to cross over illegally to Assam through 42-km long unfenced sector in Dhubri sector, is under strict surveillance by the Army in coordination with the Border Security Force (BSF).

Lt Gen VK Singh, chief of the Eastern Command, today made visits to different remote bases of the Army and also held talks with BSF officials at Panbari in Dhubri district to take stock of the situation.

Col SK Dutta of 4 Kumaon Regiment said the banned United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), along with Muslim Fundamentalist Organisations (MFOs), was active in the area.

MFOs are now into gun running, drug trafficking, counterfeit currency racket in river isle areas dominated by immigrant Muslims. To compound the matter, the banned ULFA has started outsourcing local vulnerable young men for extortion operations in these areas under Dhubri and Barpeta Lok Sabha constituencies in western Assam.

The Army shot dead 12 fundamentalists elements late last year, besides eliminating several ULFA leaders and cadres in the area. “The 109 battalion of the ULFA has been virtually put on the back foot with their top leaders forced out of the area,” an official said.

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Low turnout in UP, Bihar
Poll fatigue takes a toll in Hindi belt
Lack of issues to blame in Uttar Pradesh
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, April 17
A visible lack of enthusiasm among the voters of Uttar Pradesh was reflected in a significant lowering of polling percentage in ten of the 16 seats that went to polls yesterday. According to the figures provided by Chief Electoral Officer AK Bishnoi, the overall percentage has indeed increased by a per cent, from 47 per cent in 2004 to 48 percent, for these seats this year.

However, only six seats have increased their polling percentage. Of them only three (Chandauli, Mirzapur and Robertsganj) have made an increase of more than five percent from the 14 general election. In Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Deoria, the increase is between fractions of a percent to two per cent.

Commenting on this jump in polling in the three Naxal-hit districts of the state, Bishnoi expressed satisfaction that polling here had not only been peaceful but even registered an increase over the previous 2004 polls.

No official version was available from the Election Commission (EC) on the dip in percentage in the 10 constituencies of Eastern UP.

BJP official spokesperson HK Dikshit said the voters had been confused as the main two parties - BSP and SP - has not made their post alliance equations clear. “Look at this from the national perspective. Why would a voter be keen to vote if he does not know for sure where the candidate would align after elections.” observed Dikshit.

He described this low polling percentage an “ill-omen” for democracy. Some people were also busy with the harvesting and marriage season and did not bother to vote, Dikshit said.

SP chief spokesperson Rajendra Chadhury blamed the Mayawati government’s “reign of terror” responsible for the low turnout. “Giving tickets to known goondas and mafia and then describing them as garibon ka messiah (God-sent for the poor) had scared a lot of voters,” said Chadhury.

He also held the EC responsible for the low polling. “In complete preparation in terms of revision of voters list, harassing the voters over photo identity cards kept a large number of people from exercising sing their franchise,” noted the SP spokesperson.

A political observer described the lack of issues and non-identification of the voters with the candidates as the key factor for a large number of them remaining indoors. 

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Bihar has witnessed an election every second year
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, April 17
The low percentage of polling (46 per cent) recorded in Bihar during the first phase of polls for the 15th Lok Sabha on Thursday must have aroused curiosity among the people outside this state. People back home are also attributing various factors for the low polls in 13 out of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies, which included Naxal strongholds like Jehanabad, Gaya, Aurangabad, Jamui and Karakat.

Other than the poll boycott call by the outlawed Naxal outfits in their domain, reasons like scorching temperature, harvesting of wheat at the peak, on going marriage season etc. are being cited for it. But, there are also people who firmly believe that the voters in Bihar are going through a “poll-fatigue” syndrome because of the perennial elections in Bihar.

According to them, the low polling further vindicates this theory. JD(U) spokesman Shivanand Tiwary said people of Bihar had been exercising their right to franchise almost every year since the last Lok Sabha polls in 2004. The state had to face two Assembly elections in 2005. As no political party or alliance could form the government after the Assembly election held in February, 2005, and the state was placed under the President’s rule, elections for constituting the state Assembly were held again in November the same year.

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Notification issued for fifth phase of LS polls

New Delhi, April 17
Electoral process for the fifth and last phase of Lok Sabha polls covering 86 constituencies spread over nine States and Union Territories began with President Pratibha Patil issuing a notification today.

In the final phase, elections would be held on May 13 for 39 seats in Tamil Nadu, 14 in Uttar Pradesh, 11 in West Bengal, nine in Punjab, five in Uttarakhand, four seats in Himachal Pradesh, two in Jammu and Kashmir, one each in Chandigarh and Puducherry.

The filing of nominations, commencing from today with the issuance of notification, would end on April 24.

The final phase will decide the electoral fortunes of several Union Ministers, including P Chidambaram, in Tamil Nadu. All the 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu and the lone seat in Puducherry will have a single phase polling on May 13. Other prominent contestants figuring in the last phase include Varun Gandhi (Pilibhit), his mother Maneka Gandhi (Aonla), cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin (Moradabad) and Jayaprada (Rampur). The counting of votes would take place on May 16. — PTI

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Advani promises to bring back money stashed abroad
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, April 17
The BJP leader and aspirant for the post of Prime Minister, LK Advani, said his party would bring home thousands of crores of rupees stashed away in tax havens by Indians over the decades.

Addressing the media here today, Advani said he would take measures to bring home the money within 100 days of being elected to office.

“The money is stashed away in nearly 70 tax havens around the world, including Swiss banks,” Advani said.

He added that a four-member task force of the BJP has submitted an interim report in this regard.

“Between Rs 25 lakh crore and Rs 70 lakh crore are lying abroad,” Advani said.

“Of this, nearly Rs 6.88 lakh crore were syphoned out of the country in the past five years,” he said, quoting from the report. Advani further said the report was prepared by chartered accountant S. Gurumurthy, Prof Vaidyanathan of IIM, Bangalore, security expert Ajit Doval and lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani.

However, Advani whose name was linked to the Jain Hawala Scandal in the 1990s was on the defencive when asked about the possibility of the party’s supporters holding funds abroad.

“We will spare no one if caught,” Advani said. He added that India should press for the repatriation of funds from tax havens as was being done by countries like the US.

Advani further raised the possibility of slush funds being used to fund terrorist activities in the country.

Referring to his promise to act on the slush funds issue within 100 days of being elected, Advani claimed the BJP had a track record of fulfilling its promises. “In 1964, we had said we would make India a nuclear weapons state and the assurance was fulfilled in 1998 despite opposition from America, China and even Manmohan Singh,” Advani said.

Switzerland: We will play by rules

New Delhi: Switzerland has said it would always play in accordance with the ‘principle of law’ if any request about disclosure of bank accounts was made. This assumes significance against the backdrop of the BJP's demand on bringing back money stashed in banks abroad.

Switzerland Ambassador Philippe Welti said as of now there were no such requests with his government. “One has to first see the request,’’ Welti said. Switzerland will play according to the principle of law. — TNS

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BJP’s Kandhamal candidate gets bail
Aditi Tandon writes from Bhubaneshwar

Kandhamal District and Sessions Judge today granted bail to Ashok Sahu, BJP’s candidate from the Kandhamal parliamentary segment, arrested earlier for allegedly making inflammatory remarks against Christians and the Church.

Sahu will be released tomorrow from G. Udaygiri sub jail, where he was lodged on April 14, following his arrest in the non-bailable offences under Sections 505 and 295-A of the IPC (for inciting communal passions and hate speech).

The sections were added following instructions from the Election Commission which viewed the CD of the alleged communal speech Sahu had delivered at Raikia in Udaygiri, on April 5.

Arguing Sahu’s bail plea before the court today, his counsel questioned the loss of time in registration of the FIR (the case was registered on April 9) and said no communal tension was reported in Kandhamal in the interregnum.

“The speech was only against one individual - Radhakanta Nayak - and not a community or society. That was why no communal disturbance was reported in after it was delivered,” was the argument of Sahu’s lawyer who added that an accused could be kept in judicial custody only if there was apprehension that he would tamper with the evidence.

But in this case the only evidence - the CD of the speech - is in custody of the district administration and the government, said Sahu’s lawyer, challenging the last ground for denial of bail to his client.

“Since there is also no probability of my client absconding, he can’t be kept in judicial custody,” was the argument. The BJP leader’s counsel further added that Sahu was a respected retired IPS officer and was arrested from the Phulbani block of Kandhamal district.

“My client was in Kandhamal throughout his campaign following the registration of the FIR on April 9 and he had no intention of absconding,” he stated.

Sahu had filed for bail on April 15, saying his constitutional right as a candidate would be violated if he was not granted bail by April 16, the day his constituency went for polls. The BJP candidate also moved an urgent petition on the same day, asking the district court to immediately call for records from the Balliguda lower court, which sent him to judicial custody earlier. Since the records were delayed, the district court adjourned hearing on Sahu’s bail plea, which was allowed today.

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AIADMK manifesto vows to end Lankan war
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, April 17
The AIADMK, in its election manifesto, has promised to end the war in Sri Lanka and ensure a separate state of Tamil Eelam for the island Tamils. In a significant reversal of stand from its 2001 manifesto for the Assembly elections which promised to implement the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, the party said it would cancel the scheme, if voted to power.

In its earlier manifesto, the party had called the Ram Sethu as Adams bridge and said the canal project would be implemented by cutting through the bridge. The AIADMK would take steps to form a consensus opinion for canceling the Indo-US nuclear deal, the manifesto said.

The “cradle-baby scheme”, introduced by the party in Tamil Nadu, would be extended throughout the country. Under this scheme, cradles were kept at public places like hospitals, where parents, who did not want female children, could leave them and the state government would take care of the babies.

The party said there should be no income tax for those drawing monthly salary and sought tax exemption for an annual income upto Rs 5 lakh. The “annadhanam scheme” (free meals for the poor at temples), introduced by the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, would be extended to 10,000 temples throughout India.

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MP booked for beating polling agent
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, April 17
The Andhra Pradesh police today filed a case against Hyderabad MP and Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) strongman Asaduddin Owaisi for beating up a polling agent of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) during the polling in city yesterday.

Owaisi, who is seeking re-election from the state capital, was caught on camera thrashing up a political rival in full public view near a polling station in the Sultan Shahi area in the old city.

A case of rioting was booked against him at Moghalpura police station. The cases have been booked under IPC Sections 147 (rioting), 448 (trespass), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons) 188 (disobedience to order promulgated by public servant) and Section 132 of the Representation of People Act.

The TDP polling agent Syed Saleemuddin was beaten with a stick after a word was spread that he was distributing money to the voters near a polling station. The footage of Owaisi, along with his followers, chasing the TDP worker was aired on local television news channels.

“It is a law and order problem and the police will deal with the case accordingly, the state Chief Electoral Officer IV Subba Rao said.

The first phase of polling, covering 22 Lok Sabha seats, including Hyderabad and 154 Assembly constituencies, was held yesterday.

Hyderabad has been a traditional bastion of MIM. However, Owaisi is facing a tough contest this time around as he is pitted against Zahid Ali Khan, a noted journalist and editor of local Urdu daily Siasat. Khan is supported by the four-party opposition alliance comprising TDP, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), CPI and CPM.

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Golma Devi under EC scanner
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, April 17
Minister of State for Khadi and Gramodyog in the Congress government Golma Devi has come under the Election Commission (EC) scanner for reportedly distributing Rs 50,000 each to the kin of three labourers who lost their lives while digging a well in Dausa.

Golma allegedly disbursed the amount while attending a function at Dubbi village of Dausa district. Incidentally, Golma’s husband and firebrand tribal leader Kirori Lal Meena is contesting the Lok Sabha election as an Independent candidate from Dausa.

According to sources, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) has sought a report on the incident from the district administration.

Though Golma had resigned from her post following her husband’s tiff with the Congress over LS ticket, her resignation is yet to be accepted.

This is the second such incident in the past few days after Hemaram Choudhary and Ameen Khan, both Congress ministers, allegedly distributed cash along with merit certificates to students at a function in Barmer early this week.

A report in this connection has already been sent to the CEO who has forwarded it to the EC in New Delhi. 

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Read fine print before partnering NSG: Kakodkar

Mumbai, April 17
Cautioning about the pitfalls in dealing with foreign nuclear vendors, Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar today asked the Indian industry to read the fine print before entering into such deals.

“As a country, we must conduct ourselves in a manner consistent with strategic wisdom... but we must read the fine print before entering into partnerships with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG),” Kakodkar told a CII meet here.

Kakodkar stressed that it is important that the Indian industry works closely with the Department of Atomic Energy while partnering global players, so that the country’s interests are not sacrificed. He was speaking about opportunities and challenges of nuclear power in India. In international dealings, there are issues regarding the Intellectual Property Rights and Proliferation, which Indian industries should not compromise on.

“Global big players do not like India having capabilities. Politically, this is something that may not be to the liking of entities abroad,” he said.

India’s agreement with the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group last September enabled the country to carry out global nuclear commerce. It will pave the way for India to become a global nuclear supply chain hub in the near future. It is important to develop partnerships with NSG members, Kakodkar stressed, but India’s autonomy should not be compromised at the same time.

As far as manufacturing and export of equipment is concerned, Kakodkar said it was important that the industry took licences from the DAE, in line with the international requirement of keeping nuclear proliferation under check.

“It is part of our responsible national behaviour and our international commitments. Develop your partnerships, but do not compromise on the nation’s interest,” he said. On the stringent check kept on nuclear material, Kakodkar said, “The control needs to be even more tighter as the proliferation sensitivity (of nuclear materials) is the highest.”

“By our international commitments, we are obliged to ensure a full material accounting system. We are obliged to maintain physical protection,” he added. 
— PTI

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Govt asks airports to beef up anti-terror measures

New Delhi, April 17
Faced with heightened terror threat to the aviation sector, airports and airlines have been asked to carry out drills to handle emergency situations and take specific measures to deal with emergencies.

Special instructions have also been issued to cautiously handle the situations like that on February 1 when an IndiGo aircraft had to make an emergency landing at Indira Gandhi International Airport here due to the disruptive behaviour of a passenger, who was later arrested.

Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar today chaired a meeting on civil aviation security to review all steps taken so far in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror strikes.

At the meeting, attended by top Home and Civil Aviation Ministry officials and others concerned, it was decided that only one Central Committee would be handling the emergencies at the Delhi airport, instead of the existing two-tier system, to reduce overlap during such situations.

Several standard operating procedures, including certain new additional measures, have been recommended to be followed by all agencies concerned to face any eventuality. — PTI

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India asks Lanka to check further casualties
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17
Amid the increasing political temperature in Tamil Nadu over the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, India today asked Colombo to extend the pause in hostilities in the island nation to prevent further civilian casualties and enable trapped civilians to leave the war zone and move to secure locations.

“Continuation of precipitate military actions leading to further civilian casualties at this time would be totally unacceptable,” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement.

The statement came in the wake of reports that emotions were running high in Tamil Nadu where political parties, bracing up for the Lok Sabha polls, have alleged that India was not doing enough to stop the ‘genocide’ of Tamils in the island nation.

The UPA government obviously is worried about the fallout of the situation in Sri Lanka on its electoral prospects in the state, where one of its main constituents, the DMK, is engaged in a bitter fight with its traditional rival, the AIADMK.

Mukherjee said while it was incumbent on the LTTE to release all civilians and displaced persons under their control, the Sri Lankan government could not be oblivious to the evolving human tragedy and the fate of the Tamil civilian population caught up in the so-called no-fire zone.

“There is no reason not to continue with the pause in military actions in the no-fire zone. India is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka. The continuing conflict has taken a heavy toll on Tamil civilians and internally displaced persons caught in the crossfire. India expects the government of Sri Lanka and others concerned to respond positively to this appeal in the interest of the Tamils who are citizens of Sri Lanka,” the minister said.

Sri Lanka announced a 48-hour temporary ceasefire to mark the Tamil and Sinhala New Year this week to enable civilians to leave the conflict zone. It resumed its offensive against the LTTE yesterday.

Mukherjee also announced India’s decision to send another consignment of 40,000 family packs-containing commodities needed by families-to the civilians hit by the conflict in northern Sri Lanka. 

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IAF to propose Arjan’s name for Bharat Ratna
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to propose the name of Marshall of the IAF Arjan Singh for the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian honour.

Seniors officials said they would be pitching in to seek the award for the venerable former fighter pilot.

After Field Marshall Sam Maneckshaw died last year, Arjan Singh is the most respected of the living soldiers. 

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Net to protect Modi from possible shoe attack 

Anand, April 17
In an attempt to save Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi from a possible shoe attack, a net was put up on the stage from where Modi addressed a public meeting here today.

About two feet plastic net was put up in front of the stage of the minister where he addressed a rally tonight. This follows various shoe throwing incidents in the country recently. A sikh journalist had flunged a shoe at Union Home Minister P Chidambaram during a press conference in New Delhi.

Followed by, a retire school principal hurling a shoe at Congress candidate from Kurukshetra Navin Jindal. While, yesterday, a disgruntled BJP worker had hurled his slipper at party leader LK Advani. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

IMD predicts normal monsoon
NEW DELHI:
The India Meteorological Department on Friday forecast near normal monsoon this year, a news that is expected to bring cheer to the farming community across the country. The monsoon rains this season would be 96 per cent of the long period averag, the weather office said. — PTI 

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