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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Corruption Crisis
7 defence firms blacklisted
New Delhi, June 5
Cracking down on corruption, Defence Minister AK Antony has ordered to “put on hold” all acquisition processes relating to seven companies, including four foreign ones. The names of these companies figure in a corruption case filed by the CBI, defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said today.

‘Didi’ keeps babus of Rail Bhawan on toes
New Delhi, June 5
Not many at the Rail Bhawan have forgotten the previous stint of Didi (Mamata Banerjee), the indomitable Bengal tigress, as the country’s Railways Minister and are wary of her even more in her second home coming, especially after her stupendous show in the elections.

Apology effect: PM tells Sangma to return to fold
New Delhi, June 5
The Congress appears to be keen to bring one-time Sonia Gandhi confidant and former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma back to the party fold and he also appears favourably disposed towards the proposal.


EARLIER STORIES


A woman walks past a 600 feet mural, with a message for speedy action on global warming, on a wall at the British High Commission in New Delhi on Friday.
EARTHY CONCERNS: A woman walks past a 600 feet mural, with a message for speedy action on global warming, on a wall at the British High Commission in New Delhi on Friday. — AFP

Govt rejects Advani’s demand for commission on 26/11
New Delhi, June 5
Humbled from a second defeat at the hustings, the country’s principal opposition party, the BJP, today wore an amenable look in Parliament with its leader in the lower house, LK Advani, calling for a “new beginning in the government-opposition relationship.”

Hyderabad on high alert
Hyderabad, June 5
Andhra Pradesh has been put on high alert following specific intelligence input that three Pakistani terrorists had sneaked into the country with a mission to target key south Indian cities.

Anna Hazare says no to police protection
Mumbai, June 5
Social activist and Magsaysay award winner Anna Hazare has turned down the Maharashtra government’s offer to provide him with police protection after two alleged ‘hitmen’ confessed to police that a senior politician wanted them to kill the noted social worker.

Race for post of governors hots up
New Delhi, June 5
The race for one of coziest jobs in the country, being a governor of a state, is hotting up. With two posts already vacant, Tripura and Puducherry, the total number of vacancies will swell to 14 in the next six months.

A first: Chopper manufacturing unit in Hyderabad
Hyderabad, June 5
Hyderabad is all set to host country’s first-ever helicopter manufacturing unit. The Andhra Pradesh government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Tata group for manufacturing helicopters at the aerospace special economic zone near the international airport at Shamshabad.

Tezpur air base to host Sukhoi-30
Guwahati, June 5
The Air Force station at Tezpur in north Assam will host Sukhoi-30 elite combat aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) from the middle of this month. This will be the third Sukhoi-30 aircraft hub in the country and the first one in the North East.

Remand of Mohd Sajid extended
Jaipur, June 5
The police remand of Mohd Sajid, alias Lakhan Joshi, a suspected ISI agent, was further extended till June 15 by a local court here today.

Rape case: 4 cops booked
Bhopal, June 5
About four policemen have been booked for raping a woman in Madhya Pradesh’s Betul district, the police said on Friday.

 





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Corruption Crisis
7 defence firms blacklisted
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 5
Cracking down on corruption, Defence Minister AK Antony has ordered to “put on hold” all acquisition processes relating to seven companies, including four foreign ones. The names of these companies figure in a corruption case filed by the CBI, defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said today.

The blacklisted firms are Israeli Military Industries, Singapore Technology, BVT Poland and Media Architects Pvt Ltd of Singapore and three Indian companies - TS Kishan and Co Pvt Ltd, RK Machine Tools and HYT Engineering Co. One of the Indian firms is owned by the extended family of a retired central government secretary, sources close to the ministry said.

The order will have affect the $240 million deal between Israel Military Industries and the Indian Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) reached on March 25. Under the agreement an ammunition factory was to be built at Nalanda in Bihar along the lines of the Israeli firm’s ordnance factory in Tel Aviv.

The CBI had registered a case against former OFB director general Sudipto Ghosh in Kolkata on May 17 under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The seven companies were mentioned in the FIR.

“The defence ministry desires to tackle the issue of corruption in procurements cases head on,” said Kar. All procurements and acquisitions from the blacklisted companies will be suspended “forthwith” and “alternative sources” will be looked at for essential items.

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‘Didi’ keeps babus of Rail Bhawan on toes
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 5
Not many at the Rail Bhawan have forgotten the previous stint of Didi (Mamata Banerjee), the indomitable Bengal tigress, as the country’s Railways Minister and are wary of her even more in her second home coming, especially after her stupendous show in the elections.

Many still vividly recall how Mamata used to come to work in an old Fiat car. By refusing an official conveyance she had even put to shame many of the original socialists who had formed part of the then NDA Government.

Not much has changed since then although the car now is a Maruti Zen which is owned by Ratan Mukherjee, her Man Friday who has also assumed office as her Additional Private Secretary. She has again turned down the use of a bullet-proof white ambassador that her predecessor Lalu Prasad Yadav had used.

Further in her eagerness to outdo the Communists, Mamata has also apparently refused to move to a ministerial bungalow from the modest MP flat on Baba Kharag Singh Marg.

She is out to make a statement not just with her sparse lifestyle but also on how she is determined to outdo her predecessor in lessons of management of the ministry which is the lifeline of the country. She has also asked party MPs and ministers to try and use trains as often as possible.

While her ministerial colleagues and party aides, who have been with her for long, are not overtly concerned with Mamata’s peculiar behaviour, the babus in the Rail Bhawan have been spending sleepless nights.

It is not just her idiosyncrasies that are bothering them. Mamata is known for her scrupulously honest ways. She is known to even pay for the afternoon tea she has in her office.

In her previous ‘avatar’, Ms Mamata systematically clamped down on all forms of wasteful expenditure, by which she hoped to achieve her target of saving Rs 750 crore in 2000-01.

With her simple style of living she believes that every paisa saved would help improve the revenue of the railways. Her predecessor has already said that he was leaving the railways with a surplus of Rs 90,000 crore over the past years.

Incidentally, the growth trend in the earnings of Indian Railways has continued.

According to officials at the Rail Bhawan, Mamata realises that being in charge of the 1.7-million strong behemoth is not going to be a bed of roses and has already starting working towards it.

Her first test would be the Rail Budget which is expected in the second week of July and would bring out her acumen as an expert manager.

For it is no joke that from the nine railway zones she had to deal with in her first stint the number has shot up to 17. Besides the freight target is at 875 million tonnes, almost double of what she had achieved.

In her budget speech of February 2001, Mamata had chosen to not impose burden on the railways by choosing not to announce any new lines, gauge conversion or electrification projects.

However, the officials feel that it might not be the same this time round. With her eyes fixed on the seat in the assembly in Kolkata, the focus could change to adding of new lines in and around West Bengal.

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Apology effect: PM tells Sangma to return to fold
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 5
The Congress appears to be keen to bring one-time Sonia Gandhi confidant and former Lok Sabha Speaker PA Sangma back to the party fold and he also appears favourably disposed towards the proposal.

It is learnt that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday extended an informal invitation to Sangma to come back home. The interaction between the two leaders apparently took place when they were crossing each other in Parliament corridors. Meeting Sangma warmly, the Prime Minister exchanged greetings with him and asked him to join the “main stream ”.

In fact, Sangma’s recent “apology” to the Congress president for raking up her foreign origin issue 10 years back has also started guess work about the possibility of a merger between the Congress and the NCP.

Some senior Congress leaders feel that the basis of existence of the NCP was long over and done with. While the foreign origin of Sonia was no longer an issue, ambitions of NCP chief Sharad Pawar to hold the top post of the country also stand quelled. However, a contradictory point of view is that while the Congress may welcome Sangma, Pawar may not be easy to accept. In fact, Sangma may even be used as a buffer against Pawar, they feel.

The former Lok Sabha Speaker, along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar, was expelled from the Congress in 1999 after they virtually ran a campaign against Sonia Gandhi, saying that her foreign origin made her inappropriate for holding the top job. Later the NCP became an ally of the Congress in Maharashtra but in Meghalaya, Sangma’s home state, the two parties remained on the opposite sides.

Clearly Sangma’s children Agatha and Conrad have had a major role to play in bringing Sonia and her once close confidante back together. Sangma and daughter Agatha visited 10 Janpath earlier this week to invite Sonia to Conrad’s wedding reception, which she agreed to attend. And a decade after raking up her foreign origin issue, Sangma also apologised to the Congress president.

“I told her I am sorry for what had happened 10 years ago. I wanted to apologise for what had happened,” Sangma later said, adding that the Congress president was “very gracious” and remarked “past is past, forget it”.

The NCP co-founder said foreign origin was “no longer an issue” but replied in negative when asked whether his party would merge with the Congress. While his daughter Agatha is a UPA minister, the NCP is giving the government complete support.

However, Sangma’s friendly gesture toward the Congress president comes at a time when there have been suggestions from Maharashtra Congress leaders that the Congress should go separately in state Assembly elections due soon. With elections round-the-corner, statements have been made by senior congress leaders like Vilasrao Deshmukh that the decade-old alliance with NCP be severed.

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Govt rejects Advani’s demand for commission on 26/11
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 5
Humbled from a second defeat at the hustings, the country’s principal opposition party, the BJP, today wore an amenable look in Parliament with its leader in the lower house, LK Advani, calling for a “new beginning in the government-opposition relationship.”

“Let the 15th Lok Sabha be the harbinger of a new beginning in our relationship,” he said as he began his speech on the presidential address after congratulating Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, leader of the house Pranab Mukherjee and UPA chief Sonia Gandhi.

The gesture was in sharp contrast to past times - in 2004 the BJP had not even allowed the PM to introduce his council of ministers to the house. On the contrary it had approached the President with a list of ‘tainted’ ministers in the Manmohan Singh cabinet.

However this time around, the strident antigovernment tone was missing in the party's utterances in Parliament. Even in the Rajya Sabha BJP leader Arun Jaitley pledged support to the UPA government on national issues like food security, economic growth, internal security and the women’s quota bill

But it was the Lok Sabha that stood as the mirror to changing times, especially from 2004 which showcased the opposition’s urge to run down the government, come what may. While the beginning of the 14th Lok Sabha was marked by BJP’s “right from the start” hostility towards the ruling alliance (they had not taken Sonia’s rise well, with Sushma Swaraj swearing to shave off her head were the former to become the PM, and had further rejected the verdict as "broken"), the 15th Lok Sabha took off on a positive note. The opposition promised full cooperation to the government on all constrictive agendas on social and economic development.

Describing the mandate as one for “stability and bipolarity” (the Left took objection to the latter), Advani pledged support to the UPA on counts of nation building and smooth working of Parliament. “Let’s work together to see that the 21st century belongs to India,” he said, demanding a commission of inquiry into the 26/11 Mumbai attacks and sharing evidence provided in the case to Pakistan with the Lok Sabha. Home Minister P Chidambaram, however, said thre was no possibility of holding such an inquiry, remarking he was amused that the opposition should raise the matter so late in the day.

The BJP did have a point though, with Advani raising questions on the RD Pradhan panel giving a ‘clean chit’ to the state police in the attacks. “The wife of slain officer Ashok Kamte had wanted to testify to the panel but was not allowed to. The house would like to know why this happened and how exactly the attacks took place. It’s telling that the Pradhan panel should put the blame of attacks on the Centre,” the BJP leader said, terming the attacks as “an invasion of India.”

Except this issue on all matters the opposition’s anti-Congress tone was missing, though demands were raised for the recovery of ‘black’ money from foreign banks, a corruption free governance and multipurpose national identity cards.

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Hyderabad on high alert
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, June 5
Andhra Pradesh has been put on high alert following specific intelligence input that three Pakistani terrorists had sneaked into the country with a mission to target key south Indian cities.

Security has been beefed up at all vital installations, places of worship, cinema halls and shopping malls and a thorough checking of vehicles, incoming trains and buses taken up across the state.

“Since Hyderabad is a potential target of terrorists, we are taking all necessary security measures,” the city police commissioner B Prasada Rao said.

The Home Minister P Sabitha Reddy, who reviewed the security arrangements with the police top brass, said the intelligence reports had warned of possible attacks in southern cities. “We have put the police on high alert and taken all possible precautionary measures. We are also appealing to the public to inform the cops about suspicious persons,” she said.

Meanwhile, the city police took into custody two persons moving around the historic Charminar area here under suspicious circumstances and recovered some batteries and wires from them.

Security has been tightened at information technology companies, bus and railway stations and defence establishments here, in the coastal city of Visakhapatnam and at the famous Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirupati.

Stating that there was no need for panic, the Home Minister said “We are fully geared up to meet any situation.”

Meanwhile, the police picked up 13 passengers travelling by the Hyderabad-New Delhi Andhra Pradesh Express at Kazipet railway station in Warangal district. The youth are in the age group of 20-30 years. The suspects were said to be carrying some weapons without valid documents. They were being questioned, the police said.

A specific advisory from Intelligence Bureau mentioned that three terrorists, hailing from Pakistan, had crossed the border in Kashmir on June 1 and “had started from Srinagar in a Tata Sumo”.

The city police commissioner requested people not to provide shelter or let out premises to strangers and to be suspicious of anyone speaking ‘Urdu with a heavy Punjabi accent’.

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Anna Hazare says no to police protection
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, June 5
Social activist and Magsaysay award winner Anna Hazare has turned down the Maharashtra government’s offer to provide him with police protection after two alleged ‘hitmen’ confessed to police that a senior politician wanted them to kill the noted social worker.

Refusing the offer for police protection, Hazare said he would kick off a movement to prevent criminals from entering politics ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly elections later this year.

The plot to kill Hazare was unveiled after the CBI arrested two alleged ‘hitmen’, Parasmal Jain and Mohan Shukla, in connection with the murder of a Congress leader Pawan Raje Nimbalkar in June 2006. Nimbalkar along with his driver Samad Qazi were killed near the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

Jain and Shukla reportedly told investigators that the contract to kill Nimbalkar was given by former Maharashtra Industries Minister Padamsinh Patil. Earlier with the Congress, Patil is now a MP from the Nationalist Congress Party.

Hazare has revealed that he has obtained copies of letters written by Nimbalkar to former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and top police officials wherein he had alleged that Patil had threatened to kill him.

With the heat getting to him, Padamsinh Patil has accused Hazare of being misled by some people. "False documents have been given to Hazare by my enemies to malign my reputation," Patil said.

An inquiry into the operations of the Terna Sugar Co-operative and Distillery was conducted by retired judge PB Sawant in 2006 following allegations made by Hazare. The commission had passed several strictures against the Co-operative society. It was found guilty of selling sugar meant for export in the open market. It was also found guilty of fudging accounts and other irregularities.

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Race for post of governors hots up
Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 5
The race for one of coziest jobs in the country, being a governor of a state, is hotting up. With two posts already vacant, Tripura and Puducherry, the total number of vacancies will swell to 14 in the next six months.

Various caste combinations, community numbers, track record and loyalty will be at play to choose the incumbents. Already the party loyalists have started paying visits to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi to grab these coveted posts.

An important criteria that the Congress has set for itself is that it will not pick up Rajya Sabha members from states where it cannot win back the seat. So Arjun Singh from Madhya Pradesh may not get a chance.

Others in the race include Shivraj Patil, Margaret Alva and CK Jaffer Sharief. Besides them, the government will balance out a few posts for retired officers from the civil services and the armed forces. As per past practice, retired officers are posted as governors in sensitive border states in the Northeast and also states like Punjab.

Apart from already two existent vacancies, two more Governors - RL Bhatia in Bihar and Balram Jakhar in MP - will end their tenures this month. And till December this year, 10 more governors will complete their tenures.

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A first: Chopper manufacturing unit in Hyderabad
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, June 5
Hyderabad is all set to host country’s first-ever helicopter manufacturing unit. The Andhra Pradesh government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Tata group for manufacturing helicopters at the aerospace special economic zone near the international airport at Shamshabad.

US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation is shifting its Japan unit to Hyderabad, through a tie up with Tata Motors. The project involves an investment of Rs 1,000 crore and the operations will commence by 2010, Major Industries Minister K Lakshminarayana said.

The first 20-seater helicopter is expected to be out by June 2010.

The state government has allotted 50 acres to Tata Group at Adibhatla Special Economic Zone being developed by AP Industrial Investment Corporation (APIIC).

The land is priced at Rs 30 lakh per acre. APIIC chairman and managing director BP Acharya said the project would manufacture transport helicopters. This will be the second largest plant after the one in Connecticut in the US.

Tata Advanced System Group spokesman Devender said the helicopter manufacturing would commence next year and the first copter is expected to role out in June next.

The project envisages employment to 1,000 people in all categories. The Tata group has already committed to establish an aerospace and defence products manufacturing facility with an investment of $2 billion.

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Tezpur air base to host Sukhoi-30
Bijay Sankar Bora

Tribune News Service

Guwahati, June 5
The Air Force station at Tezpur in north Assam will host Sukhoi-30 elite combat aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) from the middle of this month. This will be the third Sukhoi-30 aircraft hub in the country and the first one in the North East.

According to defence sources, Air Marshal SK Bhan, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command, would be the chief guest in the Sukhoi induction ceremony at Tezpur Air Force Station.

The airfield in Tezpur was constructed by the British Royal Indian Air Force during the Second World War in 1942 and subsequently developed into a full fledged air force base in 1959. It was upgraded recently to make it suitable to host new generation combat aircraft.

Tezpur air base is very important from the strategic point of view as it lies surrounded by China, Bhutan, Tibet, Myanmar and Bangladesh on different directions. It is about 150 km away (aerial distance) from the frontier with China in Arunachal Pradesh.

Ever since its inception during the British era, Tezpur has been one of the most active air force bases in the North East with a variety of fixed and rotary wing aircraft operating from here. It was the hub for the MiG 21 fleet for the past 25 years.

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Remand of Mohd Sajid extended
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, June 5
The police remand of Mohd Sajid, alias Lakhan Joshi, a suspected ISI agent, was further extended till June 15 by a local court here today.

Sajid, a resident of Bilalganj in Lahore, was arrested by the special branch of the state Intelligence on May 31 from Bikaner where he was residing as a tenant by the name of Lakhan Joshi for the past three years. Not only that, he was also running a printing press and had managed to get some printing work from Army units.

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Rape case: 4 cops booked

Bhopal, June 5
About four policemen have been booked for raping a woman in Madhya Pradesh’s Betul district, the police said on Friday. The woman, a resident of Jambara village, was arrested for involvement in a dowry harassment case and presented in a local court on Tuesday. The court ordered that she be sent to jail but she was kept at the Amla police station for the night, as prisoners were not allowed entry into the jail after 6 pm. On Wednesday, she alleged that the policemen had raped her. This was confirmed after a medical examination on Thursday. — IANS

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