SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Blames them for his poll debacle
Tech-savvy Naidu says no to EVMs

Hyderabad, May 31
Several political parties have raised doubts over reliability of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and are planning to approach the Election Commission to seek return to the old ballot system. The main opposition Telugu Desam Party, actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam and BJP have called for a national debate on the desirability of EVMs, saying several complaints were received about their functioning in the recent elections.

MP says no to Muslim MPs
Bhopal, May 31
This time again, no Muslim was elected from Madhya Pradesh in the Parliamentary polls. In fact, Madhya Pradesh has not sent a single Muslim to Parliament for the last four successive elections in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004.

Cabinet Blues
Sulky Rajasthan MPs may get key party posts
Jaipur, May 31
With many ministerial aspirants from the state left dejected after not finding place in the Union Cabinet, the Congress is now trying to pacify these leaders, promising to utilise their services in some other capacity.





EARLIER STORIES



Agatha denies rift between her father and Sonia
Guwahati, May 31
The youngest minister in the Congress-led UPA government, Agatha Sangma, today said there was no longer any issue between her father and NCP leader PA Sangma and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

First LS session today
New Delhi, May 31
The first session of the 15th Lok Sabha begins tomorrow, as a resurgent Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was set to start a new innings and a humbled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it would play the role of a “constructive opposition.”

Aila victims gherao Buddha
Kolkata, May 31
During Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee’s visit to the cyclone-hit areas in south 24-parganas today, several villagers at Sonakhahi block were locked up inside a makeshift godown for over two hours for his safety and security.

Youths take out a rally against racial attacks on Indians in Australia, in Hyderabad
Youths take out a rally against racial attacks on Indians in Australia, in Hyderabad on Sunday. — PTI

READY FOR ACTION: NCC cadets display their skills during a training camp in Patna
READY FOR ACTION: NCC cadets display their skills during a training camp in Patna. — PTI

Jena stays away from ministry
New Delhi, May 31
The newly appointed Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Srikant Jena has not taken over his new assignment. Jena, a former Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the United Front government from 1996 to 1998, both under the then Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral, was a member of the Union Cabinet then.

Contaminated Water
Gehlot to supervise supply in state
Jaipur, May 31
Desperate times need desperate measures. This is what Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot seems to be doing these days. Shocked by the death of two children due to consumption of contaminated water, the Chief Minister has decided that distribution of water in all the districts will now be carried out under his personal supervision.

Fear of abductions haunts Bihar
Patna, May 31
With a rise in incidents of kidnappings and the recovery on Saturday of the bodies of two kidnapped students, including an eight-year-old, the fear of abductions has come to haunt Bihar again.

‘Post 26/11, Pak moved 75 pc of air force to LoC’
New Delhi, May 31
Pakistan had mobilised 75 per cent of its air force resources to the Line of Control (LoC) against India after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, a top IAF commander said here today.

Tobacco products get pictorial warnings
New Delhi, May 31
Now smokers would be forced to think twice before lighting a cigarette, as the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules 2008 are being implemented from today.


Children wear a mask during an awareness rally observing ‘World no Tobacco Day’ in Kolkata on Sunday. — PTI

Children wear a mask during an awareness rally observing ‘World no Tobacco Day’ in Kolkata

C’garh unleashing violence on adivasis: Binayak
Kolkata, May 31
Civil rights activist Binayak Sen, who walked free from the Raipur jail after two years of incarceration on May 26, has accused the Chhattisgarh government of “exercising structured violence” on poor adivasis to transfer their land to industries.

HC judge rebuked for tampering with results
New Delhi, May 31
The Supreme Court has rebuked an Orissa High Court judge for donning the role of an invigilator and increasing the marks of four students, while observing that a judge was not an emperor.

Near miss at Mumbai airport
Mumbai, May 31
More than 220 passengers on board two aircraft had a miraculous escape this morning after two airplanes came close to colliding with each other during take-off.

Air India staff stir delays flights
Amritsar, May 31
Fifty sub-assistants of Air India today went on a strike in protest against non-fulfilment of their demands, including annual increments, due to which two flights reportedly got delayed for a short period.

Bottlenecks at Badarpur create chaos
Planning to visit Taj? Forget it
New Delhi, May 31
Taj Mahal is a key attraction for any tourist coming to India and often the trip is considered incomplete and sometimes wasted if one fails to sneak a look at this poetry in stone. Thousands of foreign players and support staff along with fans that would flock in during the September 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi would be no different in their desire to visit Taj.

Naik takes over as IAF chief
New Delhi, May 31
Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, a veteran fighter pilot, today took over as chief of the Indian Air Force replacing Air Chief Marshal F H Major. With this change of guard, the command of IAF is back in the hands of a fighter pilot after 26 months. Major, who retired today, was a helicopter pilot.

BEST plans buses enabled with bluetooth
Mumbai, May 31
Taking a cue from cities like New York and London, public transport authorities in Mumbai are planing to equip the city’s iconic BEST buses with Bluetooth-enabled services. Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST), the country’s first public bus service provider, said it may soon take up a proposal to install the facility in its 4,027 buses.
An activist holds a model of a cigarette at an awareness rally on World No Tobacco Day in Surat
An activist holds a model of a cigarette at an awareness rally on World No Tobacco Day in Surat on Sunday. — PTI

A rickshaw puller wades through a flooded street in Agartala
A rickshaw puller wades through a flooded street in Agartala on Sunday. — PTI

Suspected ISI agent held in Bikaner
Jaipur, May 31
A suspected ISI agent, who allegedly did printing works for the Indian Army, was arrested from Rajasthan’s Bikaner district today, a senior police official said. Mohammad Sajid (29), a resident of Bilalganj at Lahore in Pakistan, was living in Bikaner, about 360 km from here, as tenant under the assumed name of Lakhan Joshi since 2005, ADG (Intelligence) MK Devrajan said here.

Chennai becoming hub of illegal migration
Chennai, May 31
With youths from Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states setting off for overseas destinations in search of greener pastures, Chennai has become one of the most sought after places by illegal migrants, who often use the international airport here as the transit point to overseas destinations, the police has said.

Writer Kamala Das dead
Pune, May 31
Well-known writer Kamala ‘Suraiya’ Das , who courted controversy with her unorthodox views, died here today. She was 75 and is survived by three sons.

Naxal Menace
Govt may rope in more Central forces
New Delhi, May 31
In a signal that Naxalism will be tackled with an iron hand, the Centre may soon rope in the services of two more paramilitary forces to counter Left-wing extremism, along with the CRPF, which is already deployed to deal with the menace.

Maoists blow up police outpost in Orissa
Malkangiri (Orissa), May 31
In a major attack, Maoists blew up a police outpost at Mahupadar in the district adjoining Chhattisgarh, the police said today. A large number of ultras, including women, stormed into the outpost in Mathili area about 70 km from here late last night and drove away the lone constable present there at gun point, SP Satyabrata Bhoi said.





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Blames them for his poll debacle
Tech-savvy Naidu says no to EVMs
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, May 31
Several political parties have raised doubts over reliability of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and are planning to approach the Election Commission to seek return to the old ballot system.

The main opposition Telugu Desam Party, actor-turned-politician Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam and BJP have called for a national debate on the desirability of EVMs, saying several complaints were received about their functioning in the recent elections.

They also pointed out that other regional parties like RJD and AIADMK too have expressed apprehensions over the functioning of EVMs.

The TDP president and former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has blamed imperfections in EVMs as one of the reasons for his party’s debacle in the recent elections in the state.

Naidu, who had earned the sobriquet “hi-tech Chief Minister” while in power, said there were several doubts about the credibility of the EVMs and called for a wider debate on the desirability of their use.

Pointing out that many developed countries, including United States, had stopped using EVMs following large-scale complaints of manipulation, he strongly advocated reverting to the old system of using ballot papers.

“At several places, the EVMs did not work properly and data differed from polling station and counting-hall records. Also, most polling agents were unable to understand the working of the EVMs and even the presiding officers were not able to activate the machines. The technical staff of the Election Commission had also failed in trouble-shooting,” Naidu said.

“While most advanced countries are yet to take the final call on machine voting, what was the need for their use in India?” he wondered.

Senior TDP leaders U Venkateswarulu and N Janardhan Reddy said their party would take the initiative for a national debate on the issue and also approach the poll panel.

The state BJP unit is also contemplating approaching the Election Commission with an appeal to revert to the old ballot paper system in view of several complaints about the performance of EVMs.

Citing AIADMK’s request to the Election Commission to go back to ballot paper system, the TDP chief supported the idea, saying it would help eliminate the scope for manipulation and technical imperfections.

There were also doubts in the minds of public over possible manipulation of EVMs, he said.

Meanwhile, the state Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) I V Subba Rao asserted that the EVMs were foolproof and there was no need for any kind of apprehensions over their functioning. The Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), the manufacturer of the EVMs, had conducted thorough research and validation tests before introducing them.

“If necessary, we will organize a special interaction with ECIL engineers for the benefit of the representatives of political parties to remove any doubts,” the official said.

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MP says no to Muslim MPs
Man Mohan
Our Roving Editor

Bhopal, May 31
This time again, no Muslim was elected from Madhya Pradesh in the Parliamentary polls.

In fact, Madhya Pradesh has not sent a single Muslim to Parliament for the last four successive elections in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004.

In the November 2008 Assembly elections, just one Muslim candidate, Arif Aqueel, was elected in the 230-member House from Bhopal (North). Aqueel has earlier been elected from this constituency four times.

After the victory of former hockey hero, Aslam Sher Khan, as a Congress candidate from Betul in 1991, no Muslim Member of Parliament has been elected from any constituency in the state, which is known as the heart of India. Muslims number nearly 40 lakh in Madhya Pradesh.

This time, Aslam Sher Khan tried his luck after a long gap on the Congress ticket from Sagar but lost to the BJP’s Bhupinder Singh by a margin of 1.31 lakh votes, merely because his party men dubbed him as an outsider.

The state’s politics is dominated by traditional rivals - the BJP and the Congress. But both the parties have been fielding fewer Muslim candidates.

Of the 29 Lok Sabha seats, the saffron party this time won 16 seats (down by nine) and the Congress raised its tally from four to 12. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) won only one Rewa seat.

The Congress this time fielded only one Muslim candidate (Aslam Sher Khan). The Samajwadi Party (SP) fielded several Muslim candidates, including Munawar Khan, from Bhopal. The BSP fielded Muslim candidates in Indore and Jabalpur. But none of them won. The BJP did not field any Muslim candidate.

In Vidisha, the SP candidate, Munawwar Salim, was defeated by a huge margin of over three lakh by senior BJP leader, Sushma Swaraj. She did not have the Congress as the main opposition as the nomination papers of its candidate were rejected at the time of scrutiny.

In the state capital of Bhopal, which has a large population of Muslims, the SP candidate, Munawwar Khan Kausar, could get only 8,500 votes.

Bhopal continues to be a BJP bastion since 1989. Former cricket captain, Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, Arif Beg and Syed Sajid Ali lost from Bhopal in 1991, 1998 and 2004 respectively.

After the recent delimitation, the percentage of Muslim voters has gone further up in the Bhopal constituency and they number over four lakh. But no Muslim was given a ticket by the main parties.

During the recent Parliamentary polls, the Muslim community was wondering whether Madhya Pradesh would send a Muslim to the Lok Sabha this time. Such was not the scene earlier. The state has produced many popular Muslim leaders and elected them for the Parliament from many constituencies. From 1951 till 1991, Muslim candidates won from several seats repeatedly.

While Muslim candidates keep winning even in states, which have lesser Muslims in terms of population and percentage, Madhya Pradesh has been witnessing a strange ‘no Muslim winner’ phenomenon.

Senior Congress leader and former MP from Satna, Aziz Qureshi, is of the view that “the present Congress leadership in Madhya Pradesh does not support strong Muslim candidates; rather it wants sycophants who are politically weak. Muslim candidates who raise issues strongly are not liked by the party’s state leadership.”

And former Congress MP, Ghufran Azam, is of opinion that “if at all the election ticket is given to a Muslim candidate, it is just a formality as winnable candidates are not fielded.”

A major factor of Muslim candidates not winning is said to be communal polarization after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. Also, there are very few Muslim leaders who command respect of all the communities, says a local journalist, Shams Ur Rehman Alavi.

After Independence, Muslim candidates used to win from different parts of the State. Before the reorganization of states, Saeedullah Khan Razmi had won from Sehore (Bhopal) in the first general election. After him, Maimoona Sultana won from Bhopal in the next two elections.

Even Syed Ahmad had won from Hoshangabad in 1951. Barrister Gulsher Ahmed and Aziz Qureshi have been elected from Satna in the past. Besides, Arif Beg had been elected from both Bhopal and Betul. Ghufran Azam had also been elected from Betul.

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Cabinet Blues
Sulky Rajasthan MPs may get key party posts
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, May 31
With many ministerial aspirants from the state left dejected after not finding place in the Union Cabinet, the Congress is now trying to pacify these leaders, promising to utilise their services in some other capacity.

According to sources, those unrepresented would be assigned some key posts in the party. Leading the pack of ‘disgruntled MPs’ is National Commission for Women Chairperson Girija Vyas. She was hoping to make it to Cabinet as a senior leader as well as a women representative from the state. However, now there are indications that she may continue in her post as NCW chief as there are still two more years to go before completion of her tenure. Interestingly, none of the three women MPs - Vyas ( Chittorgarh), Chandresh Kumari (Jodhpur) and Jyoti Mirdha (Nagaur)- were able to make a cut.

As far as representation to Rajput community is concerned, Alwar MP Bhanwar Jitendra Singh, who is known for his proximity with Rahul Gandhi, may be accommodated as AICC general secretary. It may be mentioned here that Rajputs were not happy with the Cabinet structure as neither Jitendra Singh nor Chandresh Kumari were inducted in it. Another senior leader who has been cold shouldered by the PM in the Cabinet expansion is Jat stalwart Sis Ram Ola. While a section of his supporters hint that he is in the race for a gubernatorial assignment, he has been denying it ever since his name came up for 
the job.

The imprint of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in selection of candidates for ministerial berths was clearly visible. The exclusion of Ola and induction of new generation Jat leader Khandela, who is known for his proximity with the CM, is a pointer to the fact. Notably, Gehlot and Ola were not in best of terms and the two didn’t see eye to eye.

Their acrimonious relationship dates back to the days when after the Assembly elections Ola made an unsuccessful attempt for the CM’s post.

Meanwhile, the Bhil community is feeling ignored after their two contenders - Banswara MP Tara Chand Bhagora and Udaipur MP Raghuvir Singh Meena- didn’t find a place in the Union Cabinet.

On the other hand, the Congress is officially stating that there was no bickering in the party and that the state has got fair share in the Union Cabinet.

The Congress has inducted Sawai Madhopur MP Namo Narayan Meena, Ajmer MP Sachin Pilot and Sikar MP Mahadev Singh Khandela as Ministers of State in the Manmohan Singh government.

With CP Joshi already in as a Cabinet minister, the state now has four ministers at the Centre. All four belong to different castes.

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Agatha denies rift between her father and Sonia
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Union Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha Sangma walks in to address her maiden media briefing in Guwahati
Union Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha Sangma walks in to address her maiden media briefing in Guwahati on Sunday. — PTI

Guwahati, May 31
The youngest minister in the Congress-led UPA government, Agatha Sangma, today said there was no longer any issue between her father and NCP leader PA Sangma and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Agatha said: “I would say the issue is completely over now. My father had said a person of foreign origin should not become the Prime Minister of the country. But he did not have anything personal against her. He is not against Rahul Gandhi becoming the PM of the country as Rahul was born and brought up in the country. This issue has followed my father too long. Now it no longer matters,” she said.

She was very candid in denying media speculations that her appointment as a minister in the Congress-led UPA government was aimed at bridging the divide between Sangma and Sonia Gandhi. “It shouldn’t be construed like that. The NCP is a national party and a constituent of the UPA. The party leadership wanted to include someone from the North East in the ministry. Since I am the only party MP from the region, I have been accommodated,” Agatha said.

Agatha underlined the need for more accountability, proper monitoring and transparency in implementation of rural development schemes in the country. She said the North Eastern states, which often fail to utilise rural development funds provided by the Centre, needs to pull up their socks to ensure efficient implementation schemes.

She said transparency held key to proper implementation of rural development schemes and advocated pro-active utilisation provisions of the Right to Information Act by the people for the purpose.

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First LS session today

New Delhi, May 31
The first session of the 15th Lok Sabha begins tomorrow, as a resurgent Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was set to start a new innings and a humbled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it would play the role of a “constructive opposition.”

The session will begin with the formal swearing-in of the 543 newly elected MPs. Two days have been earmarked for the procedure that will be followed by the election of the Lok Sabha speaker on Wednesday and President Pratibha Patil's address to a joint session of Parliament on Thursday.

The BJP said today it would play the role of a “constructive opposition”.

“We will sit in the opposition and play the role of a constructive opposition,” party vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told IANS, just ahead of an evening meeting of the party's MPs to elect senior leader LK Advani as the opposition leader and chalk out the strategy for the Parliament session.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's full cabinet met on Saturday and finalised the President's address to the Parliament. It is expected to focus on his government's moves to strengthen welfare schemes and boost the economy.

The President's address, extensively worked on by Manmohan Singh himself, will unveil the government's agenda for the year in tune with the policies and programmes of the Congress party and its allies. — IANS

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Aila victims gherao Buddha
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, May 31
During Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee’s visit to the cyclone-hit areas in south 24-parganas today, several villagers at Sonakhahi block were locked up inside a makeshift godown for over two hours for his safety and security. They were freed when the Chief Minister had left the place.

Bhattacharjee received angry and black flag demonstrations at several places where the people were complaining about shortage of foodgrains and other relief material.

Hardly about 24 hours after the visit of the TMC’s ministerial team to the Aila-affected places in the district, the Chief Minister today undertook an extensive tour in the remote areas in Sagar Island and the Sunderbans for making an on-the-spot study of the situation.

He talked to the affected people and inquired about their needs. He also held meetings with district officials at Basanti and directed them for launching massive relief and rehabilitation work in the affected areas at a war footing.

Yesterday, directed by the Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, TMC’s three ministers of the UPA government - Saugata Roy, Sultan Ahmed and Mukul Roy - visited the worst affected areas in south 24-parganas and conducted relief and rehabilitation on behalf of the party. They also talked to the affected people and looked into their problems. Today, two other ministers - CM Jatua and Sisir Adhikery - also visited the affected places in some places in 24-parganas and east Midnapore.

The Railway Minister today reviewed the relief and rehabilitation work at a meeting in her Kalighat residence in the presence of these ministers who had already submitted detailed reports to her about their visits to the affected areas.

Talking to the media, Mamata alleged the state government had failed miserably in tackling the Aila-situation and lakhs of affected people were still stranded at several places who were not getting even the minimum relief for their livelihood.

She said she had already requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for immediately dispatching adequate relief materials directly to district authorities instead of routing them through Writers Buildings so that these materials could reach quickly to the needy people.

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Jena stays away from ministry
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 31
The newly appointed Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Srikant Jena has not taken over his new assignment.

Jena, a former Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the United Front government from 1996 to 1998, both under the then Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral, was a member of the Union Cabinet then.

He was first inducted as a young minister of state by V.P. Singh in the National Front government. It was, therefore, embarrassing for him to accept a junior minister’s position now, that too under a first timer M.K. Azhagiri who holds a Cabinet rank.

Noticing the discrepancy he took up the matter both with Prime Minsiter Manmohan Singh and with the Congress high command. There were profuse apologies from both ends and he was asked to attend the swearing-in after which he was told a proper amendment would be made to maintain his dignity.

But when the portfolios were distributed he was assigned to work as a junior under a Cabinet minister. So unlike most other ministers who rushed to take charge here yesterday Jena kept away from his office.

In fact, even on the day of swearing-in he left Rashtrapati Bhawan immediately after taking oath, without waiting for the high tea.

Sources close to him wondered what was the necessity of swearing in Jena when there was no place for him. A close confidant of Jena said, “He had not lobbied for a ministerial berth, he had not asked for it. He was very happy as a MP. But this is really very humiliating.”

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Contaminated Water
Gehlot to supervise supply in state
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, May 31
Desperate times need desperate measures. This is what Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot seems to be doing these days. Shocked by the death of two children due to consumption of contaminated water, the Chief Minister has decided that distribution of water in all the districts will now be carried out under his personal supervision.

According to sources, the officials of the secretary rank, who are entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining drinking water supply in every district, are reporting directly to the Chief Minister. Gehlot has also sought a monthly report on water management from each and every district from these officials. He has also asked them to ensure public participation in water conservation to deal with the crisis.

The state government has also set up round-the-clock control rooms in every district where the people can lodge a report about water shortage. Around 15,000 water tankers have been pressed into service to deal with the water crisis.

Meanwhile, panicked by the death of two children due to consumption of contaminated water, the residents of Subhash Colony in Sanganer have now started shifting their children out to their kin’s place in other parts of the city or state.

Liaqat Ali, who lost his son, lamented, “I can barely earn enough to eke out two square meals a day. I can’t afford filtered drinking water for my children.” Others in the neighbourhood are watching the goings on in horror. Zahirul Hassan, a resident of Subhash Colony, said he has sent his children to their grandparents house in neighbouring Dausa district. “I’m not alone. Many in our locality have sent their children to their relatives’ homes apprehending any untoward incident with their kids,” he averred.

Ayesha, another resident, said the supply of contaminated water is not new to their locality. “We have been receiving polluted water for the past many months and all our pleas to the authorities have fallen on deaf ears,” she alleged. The residents alleged that they were receiving water contaminated with sewage (black in colour) for the past few days, but the authorities only woke up once the people started falling ill.

Two-year-old Rehan and 18-month-old Sohail of Subhash Colony had died reportedly due to consumption of contaminated water last week.

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Fear of abductions haunts Bihar

Patna, May 31
With a rise in incidents of kidnappings and the recovery on Saturday of the bodies of two kidnapped students, including an eight-year-old, the fear of abductions has come to haunt Bihar again.

The families of those whose kin have been abducted are fearing for their lives. A doctor couple in Muzaffarpur district is praying for the safe return of their nine-year-old son, kidnapped on Wednesday, while the family of a kidnapped businessman in Patna has been told that he was killed by the abductors but his body is yet to be recovered.

The decomposed body of eight-year-old Satyam Kumar, kidnapped a few days back, was recovered from a private lodge at Ashok Nagar in Kankarbagh colony early on Saturday, police said. This triggered angry protests from people, who blamed the local police for delaying action to rescue him.

Two teenagers, including a shopkeeper, have been arrested and they confessed that they killed Satyam, police said. Satyam's father Rajesh Kumar, a businessman, received a call on his cellphone late on Thursday night from the abductors, asking for Rs 5 million ransom.

In a separate incident, the mutilated body of 18-year-old Jitendra Kumar, a college student, was recovered in Bettiah on Saturday. A ransom of Rs.15 lakh (Rs.1,500,000) had been demanded for him. Bettiah Superintendent of Police K.S. Anupam said the gang involved in the case had been identified and nine people have been arrested.

The fresh abduction spree is giving sleepless nights to hundreds of parents, teachers and school authorities here as several abducted schoolboys have been killed in the last three years."The news of the killing of Satyam and other abducted people in the last few days has created panic. We are again feeling unsafe," Kanchan Singh, the mother of a 16-year-old school student, said here.

A father, who did not wish to be identified, said that he will not allow his son and daughter to play outside the house. “We have to take precautions in view of the spate of kidnappings,” he said.

“We are worried,” Rashmi Sinha, a mother of a 10-year-old school student, said.“The kidnappings make us worry about the risk involved in sending our children to school,” said Kamdeo Singh, another worried father.

Among the other cases, businessman Satyendra Kumar Singh, 50, who is associated with the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U), was kidnapped from Patna last week. His wife Laxmi Devi has accused former MP and JD-U leader Vijay Krishna and his son of involvement in the kidnapping, and charged the police with inaction against the two.

Rithik, nine, son of a Motipur-based private medical practitioner Sudhir Kumar, was kidnapped from near his house May 26. However, the police have failed to make any breakthrough in the case, though it had arrested the doctor's assistant.

“The police have failed to trace him. There is no information about him,” his distraught father said.

The Indian Medical Association's (IMA) state unit Saturday threatened to paralyse medical services in Bihar if Rithik is not recovered soon.

The association also protested against the “police failure” in recovering Rithik.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar claimed recently that kidnappings had come down drastically during his rule. However, such cases are still reported regularly all over the state.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old Akash Pandey, kidnapped on way to school in Patna on August 10, 2007, and six-year-old Ankit, kidnapped from outside his school on April 12, 2007, still remain untraced. — IANS

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‘Post 26/11, Pak moved 75 pc of air force to LoC’

Air Marshal PK Barbora Western Air Command chief
Air Marshal PK Barbora Western Air Command chief

New Delhi, May 31
Pakistan had mobilised 75 per cent of its air force resources to the Line of Control (LoC) against India after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, a top IAF commander said here today.

“Pakistan had mobilised 75 per cent of its air force against us after 26/11. Maybe, because they were afraid of us,” Western Air Command (WAC) chief Air Marshal PK Barbora told reporters at the WAC headquarters here.

The outgoing commander of the WAC said after the Mumbai attacks, India, too, beefed up its operations in the Jammu and Kashmir region.

“As our response, we had started night operations of transport aircraft from Udhampur (air base in Jammu and Kashmir) and the main thrust was on night operations,” Barbora added.

Barbora today handed over charge as the WAC chief, the largest operational command of the IAF. He will be taking over as the IAF’s vice-chief tomorrow.

“During my stint as the WAC commander we focused on improving the infrastructure in the command. We opened the DBO (Daulat Beg Oldie) air field and Fukche advance landing ground (in Jammu and Kashmir near the Indo-China border). Our friends may be scared due to our rising prowess... our growing power in the sector,” he added.

During his tenure, the IAF for the first time operated its frontline combat jets Sukhoi Su-30MKI from Leh. The move was seen as the IAF’s strategy to counterbalance Chinese infrastructure advancement in the region.

In a bid to increase the synergy with the Army, joint exercises with the Army’s north, western and south western command were also conducted, along with sustained efforts to provide air support to the army units in the Siachen Glacier region.

Another achievement during his tenure is the zero flying accident rate in the WAC for the year 2008-2009. The command contributes 35 per cent of the flying operations in the IAF. — IANS

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Tobacco products get pictorial warnings

New Delhi, May 31
Now smokers would be forced to think twice before lighting a cigarette, as the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Rules 2008 are being implemented from today.

The long-awaited step is aimed at cutting down on the killer habit. All tobacco products will have to carry compulsory pictorial warnings on their packs highlighting its health hazards. The picture should cover at least 40 per cent of the principal display area of the pack.

The rule is being implemented in order to educate people about the ill-effects of smoking and tobacco products. As per the rules every package of cigarette or any other tobacco product shall contain a specified health warning, a pictorial representation of ill-effects of tobacco use and a health message.

The pictorial warning implemented would be of diseased lungs and an x-ray for cigarette packets and a scorpion on others. “Since packaging influences the appeal of the product, we are happy that that despite several delays at least this has been done,” Sutapa Biswas, executive director, Cancer Foundation of India, said.

However, she felt that the pictures being used were too mild and pictures originally suggested such as the “skull-and-bones” sign and “a dead foetus” would have been far more effective. “Other countries use far more gory pictures,” she said.

Flouting the rules would attract fines up to Rs 5,000 with or without two years of imprisonment for the manufacturer and the dealer or seller can be fined up to Rs 1,000 with or without a year’s imprisonment.

Earlier, the Health Ministry had restricted the tobacco products from carry any message that may directly or indirectly promote a specific tobacco brand or tobacco usage. — ANI

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C’garh unleashing violence on adivasis: Binayak

Kolkata, May 31
Civil rights activist Binayak Sen, who walked free from the Raipur jail after two years of incarceration on May 26, has accused the Chhattisgarh government of “exercising structured violence” on poor adivasis to transfer their land to industries.

“The Chhattisgarh government has become guarantor of the transfer of the state’s mineral and forest resources from the poor to the rich,” he said in during an interaction with the media persons here yesterday.

Citing an example, Sen, who was in jail for allegedly colluding with Maoists, said a company had wanted to acquire land in Chhattisgarh for a steel plant.

“The government, instead of calling a gram sabha to ascertain the views of the land owners about the acquisition, imposed section 144 CrPc and compelled the adivasis to agree at gunpoint to give away their land.” “Most of the government’s claims of encounter deaths were false,” Sen said, adding that “all people have to get together and de-legitimise this military option and influence the government so that political engagement takes place. Human rights organisations will have to take a lead on this.”

Sen said he often faced the question that he was not as contemptuous of Maoist violence as he was of police action on them. “As human rights workers, we condemn all kinds of violence. We have all along condemned violence irrespective of who does it,” he said.

Sen said the mass support he received was a sign that ordinary people were fed up with the manner in which their resources were being transferred. He also alleged that there was a threat to his life from the Chhattisgarh government. “I have some friends in the police department -not in Chhattisgarh, but in other states- who have told me that there is a specific threat to my life from the Chhattisgarh government," he said. — PTI

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HC judge rebuked for tampering with results

New Delhi, May 31
The Supreme Court has rebuked an Orissa High Court judge for donning the role of an invigilator and increasing the marks of four students, while observing that a judge was not an emperor.

A vacation bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Deepak Verma observed that judges should not presume that they know everything about the world.

“A judge is not an emperor. How can he increase marks?” the apex court observed while staying an order of the Orissa High Court judge who had increased the marks of four students in the post-graduate medical entrance examinations.

A single judge bench of the High Court had increased the marks of four candidates in the range of 20 to 60 marks, thus upsetting the entire merit list declared in March this year, counsel for affected candidates Shibhashish Misra said.

The judge had increased the marks after the candidates approached the court claiming that the “key model answers” on the basis of which the papers were evaluated were wrong and their answers were right.

The High Court without referring the answer scripts for evaluation by experts embarked upon the task itself of raising the marks of the candidates, he said.

Misra contended that the act of the Orissa High Court was in violation of the fundamental right of “Right to Equality” guaranteed under the Constitution as similar relief was not granted to the other candidates.

The counsel submitted that if the key to the answers were wrong for the four candidates, then the same logic would appear for the other candidates too.

By granting relief to the four students only the High Court had violated the fundamental right of the remaining students, the counsel argued.

The medical entrance examination was conducted on January 25 this year and the results were declared in February. In March 2009, the merit list of candidates who made it to government colleges was announced. — PTI

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Near miss at Mumbai airport
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, May 31
More than 220 passengers on board two aircraft had a miraculous escape this morning after two airplanes came close to colliding with each other during take-off.

According to airport sources, the incident happened a little before 8 am when Jet Airways Mumbai-Kolkata flight and Air India's Mumbai-New Delhi-Shanghai flight came close to taking off simultaneously from the intersecting runways that could have resulted in them colliding on the ground.

Mumbai airport has two runways that intersect a little after the mid-point. Consequently, the longer one (09/27) is used as the main runway, while the other one (14/32) is used as a backup. The secondary runway, as it is called, is operated when the main runway is closed for repairs.

Preliminary information available indicates a possible miscommunication between the Air Traffic Control and one or both

pilots. A Jet Airways official said later this evening that its pilot had received permission from the ATC to take off from the secondary runway. Simultaneously, the Air India pilot began the procedure to take off from the main runway. Air India, however, said the pilots of both aircraft had received orders to take off from the ATC.

Both aircraft were asked to abort the take-off by ATC officials watching from the control tower who immediately intervened. The pilots of both aircraft immediately applied the brakes and aborted the take-off. Mumbai airport officials said there was no danger of the aircraft colliding as they were quite some distance from each other.

Meanwhile, the Director General of Civil Aviation has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Data from the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) or the Black Box of the Air India and Jet Airways aircraft will be examined to verify the communications between the cockpit crew of the aircraft and the Air Traffic Controllers (ATC).

While the Jet Airways flight had 120 passengers, including four children, on board Air India's Mumbai-New Delhi-Shanghai flight was carrying 104 passengers.

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Air India staff stir delays flights
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, May 31
Fifty sub-assistants of Air India today went on a strike in protest against non-fulfilment of their demands, including annual increments, due to which two flights reportedly got delayed for a short period.

However, Ashok Arora, station manager, Air-India, denied any delay in the flight schedule, saying that all flights departed as per the schedule. He said senior staff at the airport here handled the flight operations very well.

According to the information, the striking employees, were recruited about five years ago by Indian Airlines, which has now been merged with Air-India.

Rajinder Singh, one of the sub-assistants on strike, said they had not been given any benefits as per the norms, including provident fund, medical, annual increments. He said around 250 sub-assistants with security personnel were also on strike in New Delhi. They had talked to the authorities concerned in New Delhi, who had asked sought one-week time for redressal of their grievances. But, even after the passage of one week, there was no positive response from the authorities, he added.

Rajinder said these sub-assistants looked after airport checking, loading, baggage, cargo operations, etc. The flights scheduled for tomorrow, including Dubai and Toronto flights, are likely to be delayed.

Meanwhile, Arora said talks with the senior authorities were going on. Additional staff from New Delhi had arrived and flights would depart as per schedule.

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Bottlenecks at Badarpur create chaos
Planning to visit Taj? Forget it
Sandeep Yadav
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 31
Taj Mahal is a key attraction for any tourist coming to India and often the trip is considered incomplete and sometimes wasted if one fails to sneak a look at this poetry in stone. Thousands of foreign players and support staff along with fans that would flock in during the September 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi would be no different in their desire to visit Taj.

So, in anticipation of this surge, what do the officials do? Find a way to make their journey agonising and longer.

With things as they stand today, the planned 4.4 km long, six-lane Badarpur flyover - construction for which began this year with an aim to decongest NH 2 (Mathura Road), an important gateway to Faridabad-Mathura-Agra-Benaras-Kolkata - would not be functional before the Games. About six months into the construction, the project has stuck into a roadblock or rather police block this time. According to officials at the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), the Badarpur Police Station needs to be relocated since it falls in the way of a clover leaf that needs to build for the six-lane elevated corridor.

“The Delhi government had allocated an alternative site for the police station but somebody has put a claim to the land and taken a stay from the high court. As a result, the police station is yet to be shifted and our work has stalled,” said RK Chawal, Project Director (NHAI), Badarpur Flyover.

According to NHAI, the state government failed to anticipate the hurdle in spite of their notifying the need for eviction of the police station when the detailed project report of the Badarpur-Faridabad corridor was completed in 2004. As per Chawla, only about 10 per cent to 12 per cent of the work has been done so far and completion of project before the games would not be possible.

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Naik takes over as IAF chief

New Delhi, May 31
Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik, a veteran fighter pilot, today took over as chief of the Indian Air Force replacing Air Chief Marshal F H Major.

With this change of guard, the command of IAF is back in the hands of a fighter pilot after 26 months. Major, who retired today, was a helicopter pilot.

Naik has assumed the charge at a time when the IAF is undergoing rapid modernisation and is in the process of acquiring 126 Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft, 22 combat helicopters, 15 heavy lift and 197 Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) for its fleet in its efforts to deal with the problem of decreasing number of fighter aircraft squadrons.

Born in Nagpur, Naik was commissioned into the IAF on June 21, 1969 as a fighter pilot. With over 3,000 hours of combat aircraft flying hours under his belt, the 59-year-old alumnus of the National Defence Academy, had also participated in 1971 Indo-Pak war and held various command and instructional appointments in his career spanning over 40 years.

Prior to taking over as the air chief, he was the Vice Chief of the Air Staff and commanded the Allahabad-based central Air Command as well. — PTI

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BEST plans buses enabled with bluetooth

Mumbai, May 31
Taking a cue from cities like New York and London, public transport authorities in Mumbai are planing to equip the city’s iconic BEST buses with Bluetooth-enabled services. Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport Undertaking (BEST), the country’s first public bus service provider, said it may soon take up a proposal to install the facility in its 4,027 buses.

“The Bluetooth-enabled services would be of much help to our nearly 50 lakh commuters. The proposal is likely to come within a month and once it is passed the services will be introduced,” said BEST Chairman Dilip Patel.

The system will help the commuters in getting information about routes, stoppages and bus schedule in their cellphones. Patel said initially the system would be introduced in long route buses like that in the Bus Rapid Transit System and then on the smaller routes. — PTI

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Suspected ISI agent held in Bikaner

Jaipur, May 31
A suspected ISI agent, who allegedly did printing works for the Indian Army, was arrested from Rajasthan’s Bikaner district today, a senior police official said. Mohammad Sajid (29), a resident of Bilalganj at Lahore in Pakistan, was living in Bikaner, about 360 km from here, as tenant under the assumed name of Lakhan Joshi since 2005, ADG (Intelligence) MK Devrajan said here.

Sajid, arrested by the State Special Branch, was running a printing press and had got some works from army units located there, the officer said.

According to preliminary investigations, the ISI had recruited him in 2005. He was given a three-month training in military intelligence and Hindi.

The police raided his residence and press, and recovered a membership card of Shiv Sena for 2008-2010.

Devrajan said Sajid had been in contact with his handlers through e-mails and voice-on-internet protocol telephony, and had received over Rs two lakhs in his account. — PTI

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Chennai becoming hub of illegal migration

Chennai, May 31
With youths from Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states setting off for overseas destinations in search of greener pastures, Chennai has become one of the most sought after places by illegal migrants, who often use the international airport here as the transit point to overseas destinations, the police has said.

A total of 103 and 92 cases of immigration offences were registered in 2008 and 2007 respectively, City Crime Bureau (CCB) sources said.

Apart from Tamil Nadu, migrants from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, some northern states and even those from Sri Lanka used Chennai as the transit point to travel abroad illegally, they said.

The illegal immigration came to fore last November when Managing Director of Saravana Bhavan group of hotels, a popular chain, PR Shivakumar was arrested for allegedly preparing fake documents for four of his employees with an ulterior motive of getting US visas under the pretext of visiting a expo and get them employed in America.

According to a recent UN study, agents in Tamil Nadu, who promise youngsters of good jobs abroad, adopt different methods of operation, including forgery of passports and photo substitution in passports.

The study said the cases of “irregular” migration were particularly large in certain areas of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. — PTI

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Writer Kamala Das dead

Pune, May 31
Well-known writer Kamala ‘Suraiya’ Das , who courted controversy with her unorthodox views, died here today.

She was 75 and is survived by three sons.

The Malayalam writer and poetess, who earned fame for her works in English, breathed her last in a city hospital where she had been admitted on April 18 following a complaint of respiratory distress.

Kamala, winner of many national and international literary awards, had settled down in the city a few years ago, leading a secluded life.

Known for her frank and explicit expression on matters of sexuality, Kamala focused on love, betrayal and the resultant agony in her writings that unsettled the orthodox readers.

Kamala hit the headlines when, though born in a conservative Hindu Nair family in Kerala with a royal lineage, she embraced Islam in 1999 at the age of 65, assuming the name Kamala Suraiya.

The conversion, just as the themes of her stories, generated much heat and dust in social and literary circles.

The writer who loved to tread the unorthodox path, had also made a foray into politics and floated the Lok Seva Party aiming at social and humanitarian work, providing asylum to orphaned mothers and to promote secularism. She unsuccessfully contested a Lok Sabha election in 1984.

A prolific author who was widely acclaimed for her short stories and novels in Malayalam, Kamala also became famous for her poetry in English that won her many international awards. — PTI

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Naxal Menace
Govt may rope in more Central forces

New Delhi, May 31
In a signal that Naxalism will be tackled with an iron hand, the Centre may soon rope in the services of two more paramilitary forces to counter Left-wing extremism, along with the CRPF, which is already deployed to deal with the menace.

Sources in the Home Ministry said a combined team of CRPF, BSF and ITBP was likely to be set up to undertake special operations in Naxal-infested areas.

The proposal which had been pending for some time received a push in the wake of widespread Naxal violence during the Lok Sabha polls, when left-wing extremists used rocket launchers for the first time.

The sources said a meeting was recently held in the ministry to chalk out a new strategy which also included possibility of increasing more personnel on the ground.

The CRPF, which has been fighting the Naxals along with state police forces, did not have any more men to offer till its newly created 10,000 personnel strong special force - Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) - completed recruitment and training.

The Home Ministry had then approached other paramilitary forces to know whether they could give additional personnel to take on the Naxals and the BSF and ITBP gave an affirmative reply. — PTI

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Maoists blow up police outpost in Orissa

Malkangiri (Orissa), May 31
In a major attack, Maoists blew up a police outpost at Mahupadar in the district adjoining Chhattisgarh, the police said today. A large number of ultras, including women, stormed into the outpost in Mathili area about 70 km from here late last night and drove away the lone constable present there at gun point, SP Satyabrata Bhoi said.

The Maoists blew up the outpost and set afire three motorcycles parked near the building before disappearing in the nearby forest, he said.

According to locals, the ultras raised slogans in favour of CPI-Maoist, the police said. The attack came barely two days after Maoists gunned down a contractor in Chitrakonda area. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

Australian tourist found dead
Patna:
An Australian tourist Michel David was found dead ‘in mysterious circumstance’ inside a room at a private guest house at Khagaul in the outskirts of Patna today. Michel David Osborne’s (57) body was found when police broke open the door of his room after being called in by the guest house manager, deputy superintendent of police Dilnawaz Khan said. The tourist had checked in to the guest house on Friday after visiting some important places of tourist interest in the state. The police was alerted when the waiter’s knocks on his door went unanswered in the afternoon. — PTI

Skill development plan
BANGALORE:
The UPA government has drawn up a Rs 30,000 crore skill development programme for youths which would be implemented in the next five years, Union Minister for Labour and Employment M Mallikarjun Kharge said here on Sunday. “Under the programme, three to six months training would be given to youths in various employment skills,” he told reporters here. “The Centre is planning to start certificate courses in ITIs. A target has been set to train at least 50 crore youths by 2022,” he said. — PTI

CRPF personnel withdrawn
BHUBANESWAR:
At least five companies of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), comprising about 500 personnel, were withdrawn on Sunday from Orissa’s Kandhamal district that had witnessed communal violence last year, an official said. An official of the state home department said the paramilitary troops would be replaced by an equal number of state police personnel. At least 4,000 central security personnel were deployed in Kandhamal in the aftermath of the communal violence that erupted following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides on Aug 23 last year. — IANS

Threat email hoax: Teen held
MUMBAI:
A 15-year-old boy from Bangalore was arrested and later released on bail for allegedly sending an email, threatening to carry out serial blasts in Mumbai, to a news channel here, the police said on Sunday. “The email was received by the channel on May 25,” it said. “The sender was traced to Vijay Nagar in Bangalore, later found to be a 15-year-old. The boy was brought to Mumbai on Thursday and booked for criminal intimidation a day later,” the police said. The youth was subsequently sent to a juvenile observation home in Dongri and was later granted bail on Saturday, they added. — PTI

Bhutia wins ‘Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa’
Mumbai:
After showing his legwork on the field, football star Bhaichung Bhutia has proved he can dance well too as he walked away with the winner’s trophy after the grand finale of third season of Sony TV’s reality show “Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa” here Sunday night. Bhutia, who was one of the weaker contenders when the show began over three months back, beat model Gauhar Khan and actor Karan Grover to win the Rs.4 million prize money as well as the audience’s adulation. His victory has not only been backed by improved performance, but also by the SMS frenzy in his home state of Sikkim. — IANS

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