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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Some assaults were racist: Oz envoy
New Delhi, June 17
The Australian High Commissioner in India has admitted that some assaults on Indian students there have “racist motive” and said the government had taken effective steps to bring those to an end. John McCarthy said majority of attacks against Indians in the past one month have taken place in “poorer”" areas in Melbourne where the crime rate is already high.

Manmohan seeks to establish ‘close ties’ with Advani
Says was compelled to reply to BJP leader’s ‘weak leader’ comment
On Board Air India One, June 17
“Let bygones be bygones.” This idiom clearly reflects the message Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wishes to convey to Leader of the Opposition LK Advani in his second term to put a curtain on the bitterness noticed between them during the Lok Sabha election campaign.

UPA’s food subsidy promise ‘tough task’
New Delhi, June 17
Even as the Agriculture Ministry is working round the clock to bring on table the Food Security Act to fulfil the Congress-led UPA government’s poll promise of making foodgrain available at reasonable rates, the legal right of ‘aam aadmi’, those involved with the framework of this “mother of all schemes” admit it is an uphill task.



EARLIER STORIES



Farmers may get fertiliser subsidy in cash
New Delhi, June 17
In a move that will benefit lakhs of farmers and remove a long-standing problem of the agriculture sector, the UPA government is looking to change the way the fertiliser subsidy is given.

Bengal Violence
Army to set up new unit in Naxal belt
War of words between PC and Left
New Delhi, June 17
In what is an important change in the country’s anti-Naxal policy, the Indian Army will provide logistical support in tackling the menace of Naxalism, which was annually claiming more lives than insurgency in the North-East or J&K.

Bhagat Singh KoshiyariKoshiyari quits as MP, stumps CM
New Delhi, June 17
Emboldened by the dissensions and disarray in the BJP high command, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister BS Koshiyari, lobbying for months to remove Chief Minister BC Khanduri and appoint him, resigned his Rajya Sabha seat here today in a tactical move to build pressure on the party high command.

Rajasthan wants its share of water from Punjab
Jaipur, June 17
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has lodged a complaint with the Centre regarding Punjab’s “reluctance” to release Rajasthan’s share of water. In a missive shot off to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, Gehlot has sought immediate release of the state’s share of water from Punjab.

REACHING OUT: Union Minister of State Agatha Sangma (right) meets Irom Chanu Sharmila, in judicial custody for her hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, in Imphal
REACHING OUT:
Union Minister of State Agatha Sangma (right) meets Irom Chanu Sharmila, in judicial custody for her hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, in Imphal on Wednesday. — PTI

Lashkar plans to set up bases in Jharkhand
New Delhi, June 17
Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba plans to expand its network in Jharkhand and Bihar as sleeper cells of the outfit were already operational in the two states, official sources said.

Sonia’s case shifted to CIC bench
New Delhi, June 17
The case pertaining to disclosure of documents relating to Indian citizenship of Sonia Gandhi under the RTI Act will now be decided by a division bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

Ban on import of milk from China extended
New Delhi, June 17
India has extended the ban on import of dairy products from China for six months to ward off any threat of contaminated whitener which had caused deaths of few infants and made several thousands ill. The ban was to expire on June 24.

Ukraine to modernise AN-32 fleet for India
New Delhi, June 17
India will modernise the 100-odd Anatov-32 transport planes flown by the IAF. A complete overhaul of on-board communications and navigation systems to meet the latest requirements is to be carried out. Crucially, a company of the Ukraine Government will upgrade these IAF cargo aircraft at a cost of US $ 400 million.





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Some assaults were racist: Oz envoy

New Delhi, June 17
The Australian High Commissioner in India has admitted that some assaults on Indian students there have “racist motive” and said the government had taken effective steps to bring those to an end.

John McCarthy said majority of attacks against Indians in the past one month have taken place in “poorer”" areas in Melbourne where the crime rate is already high. “There have been a series of bad crimes, particularly in very poorer areas of Melbourne and not all of them have resulted into serious injuries,. We are seeking to end those attacks as quickly as possible by intensifying police actions," he told Karan Thapar on CNBC-TV 18.

“There is no question that all these are criminal acts. For some of the acts, the motivation might have a racist element. I will not rule out that some of the attacks were racist,” he said while responding to a question on the nature of the assaults on Indian students.

The High Commissioner said both the federal and state governments have taken steps to see that such attacks don’t take place in the future and added that the police presence has been doubled in areas where students were attacked. The High Commissioner said his government had set up a hotline for students, an educational task force under the Education Minister and another task force headed by the Prime Minister himself.

“We are not sitting on the issue. We are moving on it. We intend to deal with it and we will deal with it. We will fix it,” he said. McCharthy said it was “unfortunate” that the media has termed Indian students as soft targets and thought that Indians are targetted because “they work till late in the night and live in areas where the crime rate is high”.

“These neighbourhoods in Melbourne are dangerous anyway and we realise that there should much greater level of counselling to the students and higher level of interference between the police and students,’ he said.

The High Commissioner said he was worried that the image of Australia had taken some beating in the country. “I would stress that Australia has been a safe destination for Indian students and others and will continue to be,” he said.

McCarthy said the goodwill between India and Australia would not be affected due to the recent attacks and appreciated the way India dealt with the situation. On whether he felt that India would issue a travel advisory to students on visiting Australia, he said: “I am obviously conscious of that possibility and I would be very hopeful (it does not happen).” — PTI

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Manmohan seeks to establish ‘close ties’ with Advani
Says was compelled to reply to BJP leader’s ‘weak leader’ comment
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

On Board Air India One, June 17
“Let bygones be bygones.” This idiom clearly reflects the message Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wishes to convey to Leader of the Opposition LK Advani in his second term to put a curtain on the bitterness noticed between them during the Lok Sabha election campaign.

Talking to reporters today while returning from Russia, Manmohan Singh said he had been compelled to reply to Advani after the BJP leader was constantly describing him as a “weak Prime Minister” during the electioneering.

He disclosed that when Advani telephoned him on May 16 to congratulate him on the Congress party’s victory in the elections, the BJP leader also told him that he was hurt by some of the PM’s statements and regretted some of his own remarks too.

“I also apologised to him if I have hurt him,” Manmohan Singh said, adding he looked forward to having close relations with the Leader of the Opposition.

The Prime Minister appeared quite relaxed and confident and did not try to skirt any issue during his nearly 45-minute interaction with the media. Despite his age, he was not looking tired as some of the journalists themselves appeared in spite of attending two back-to-back summits at Yekaterinburg and holding bilateral meetings with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.

Asked for his comment on the bitter infighting going on in the BJP, Manmohan Singh said: “I am not in favour of gloating over the difficulties of other parties…I wish them well.” On whether the coalition era was coming to end now that the Congress was on a comeback trail in some key states, he quipped: “I am not an astrologer.”

When a reporter tried to press him on the issue and asked if he would desire a single party government at the Centre, the PM remarked: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

On the problem of Maoist violence, he said Naxalism posed a danger to the country’s polity. The Home Minister has some ideas to deal with the issue. “We will take effective action…we have plans but I would not like to go public’’ at this stage.

On how he would manage to strike a balance in his relationship with Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee and her bete noire and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, whom he has often described as his personal friend, Manmohan Singh said: “Mamata is an honoured member of my Cabinet and our relationship with the Government of West Bengal would be governed by constitutional norms.”

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UPA’s food subsidy promise ‘tough task’
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 17
Even as the Agriculture Ministry is working round the clock to bring on table the Food Security Act to fulfil the Congress-led UPA government’s poll promise of making foodgrain available at reasonable rates, the legal right of ‘aam aadmi’, those involved with the framework of this “mother of all schemes” admit it is an uphill task.

So while the UPA has reaped benefits of the populist move, those working round the clock to give a shape to the Act that is likely to be tabled in the Parliament in the forthcoming Budget session are grappling with challenges that the legal responsibility of making it the right of the people to get fixed quantity of food at a prescribed rate will bring.

The Congress, in its manifesto, had committed 25 kg rice and wheat at the highly subsidised rate of Rs 3 per kg to families in the BPL category.

However, those involved with the exercise are aware of implications that the commitment will bring is more than evident. While Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar recently admitted that giving shape to the Food Security Act would not be an easy task.

Ministry’s officials say the scheme is way more ambitious than any other government schemes launched so far, including the National Employment Guarantee Scheme.

In fact, “the mother of all schemes” is how those involved with its framework term the Act as. Calling it an uphill task, an official says the bottom line is that the government will have to ensure that funds to provide promised food grain is available till almost eternity.

While the government is working on a BPL survey that will give a proper definition to this category and also alter the ambit of those who would finally be covered under the scheme, the families under the category could extend up to more than a couple of crores.

A simple multiplication of the food grain promised with the number of BPL families can explain the magnitude of food grain that the government will need to fulfil its promise year after year.

What is worrying experts is the delay of the monsoon this year. They say at present monsoon is delayed only by a week and already there are problems cropping up in several states. There are fears that monsoon may be delayed further or there are changes in its cycle due to climate change.

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Farmers may get fertiliser subsidy in cash
Bhagyashree Pande
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 17
In a move that will benefit lakhs of farmers and remove a long-standing problem of the agriculture sector, the UPA government is looking to change the way the fertiliser subsidy is given.

The government is looking at targeting the subsidy directly at the farmers by giving them cash to buy fertilisers instead of subsidising the industry that produces these. At its recent meeting, the Committee of Secretaries (COS) headed by Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar has accepted the need to change the manner in which the fertiliser subsidy is given to farmers.

The matter will be placed before the Union Cabinet. The options COS discussed included targeting the subsidy directly at the farmers i.e. making payment directly to the farmers, or giving nutrient-based subsidy to the farmer and de-controlling the retail selling price, sources have confirmed.

The proposal is being prepared for approval by the Prime Minister and comments have been sought from the Ministries of Agriculture, Rural Development, Finance, etc. The existing system of giving subsidy to the industry to manufacture the fertiliser and then further supply it at cheap rates has not worked well. There have been complaints of poor quality and inadequate supply besides pilferage of money.

The COS has accepted that subsidy should be targeted directly at the farmers whereby payments will be made through either smart cards or cash coupons. This will also mean that the fertiliser companies can market the fertiliser directly to the farmers instead of getting a fixed subsidy from the government, said a source.

The mode of paying to the farmers has been discussed at great length and there is a proposal to club the payment along with the payment of the minimum support price (MSP) of the foodgrain produced. The other way of making payment can also be through other schemes of rural development, said a senior official. Linking it to the MSP means the government will subsidise only that foodgrain which it procures and not concern those farmers who are doing contract farming for big companies or exporting grains like Basmati.

Cutting the Budget subsidy and managing finances are important in the 100-day agenda set by the government. Besides it will also be a popular measure that will help the farmer to choose fertilisers according to the need of the land, said the official.

The operationalisation of the scheme was also discussed, land record details, payment methods and delivery mechanism, etc, said the official. The entire working besides the cost structure was discussed in great detail at the meeting.

The subsidy bill of fertiliser has been a major component of the fiscal deficit of the government. Subsidy provision for fertilisers has been doubled from Rs 30,986 crore in 2008-09 to nearly Rs 75,849 crore. Special securities worth Rs 20,000 crore were issued in lieu of the subsidy to fertiliser companies during 2008-09 . Thus the total provision for subsidies to the fertiliser sector alone stands at Rs 95,849 crore.

In the interim budget, announced by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the provision for fertiliser subsidy has been kept at Rs 49,980 crore for 2009-10.

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Bengal Violence
Army to set up new unit in Naxal belt
War of words between PC and Left
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 17
In what is an important change in the country’s anti-Naxal policy, the Indian Army will provide logistical support in tackling the menace of Naxalism, which was annually claiming more lives than insurgency in the North-East or J&K. The latest is the fresh bout of violence that has rocked Lalgarh in West Bengal where the writ of the state has ceased to run.

First, the Army has been asked to make an on-the-spot assessment of the affected areas in the Naxal belt to suggest measures like inducting men and the tactics that need to be deployed. The assessment will be carried out in Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Secondly, the Army will set up its “sub-area” unit at Raipur in Chhattisgarh. This will be for a logistical purpose for stationing men and equipment that can be used at short notice.

The anti-Naxal “war” will continue to be fought by the para-military forces. However, the Army will provide its acumen, a top source confirmed, while clarifying that the area was not being “handed over” to the Army.

Sources in the government said this would be in addition to the existing duties of the Army under which it provided specialised training to the paramilitary forces. A senior retired officer has been given the task to lead a team. So far some 18,000 of the paramilitary men have been trained in neutralising Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), in handling casualties in an encounter besides training in Armoury. The Army teams are also training a specialised group within the paramilitary forces

Such is the Naxal violence that in the past five years, 4,405 persons — civilians, security men and terrorists —have been killed in the belt. In comparison 4,324 and 4,136 is the figure for the North-East and J&K, respectively. In these figures, the number of civilians and security men killed in the Naxal belt are also the highest when compared with NE or J&K.

Meanwhile, today a war of words ensued between the Congress-led UPA regime at the Centre and the Left parties that rule in the eastern state. Union Home Minister P Chidambaram lashed out at the Left Front government in the state for not acting in a timely manner, saying, “We are getting an impression that a section of the government wants to act while the rest doesn’t, fearing the consequences.”

The law and order situation in West Bengal is deteriorating fast because of the Maoist violence. He said the Central Government had despatched enough central forces. He said the state police should also commit its police force. “I do not know how many men have been sent, what is their mandate and what are the instructions for them,” he said. The West Bengal CM has been asked to give clear instructions to the state police.

Member of the CPM Politburo Brinda Karat claimed violence had been stepped up against the CPM cadres with ruthlessness as the perpetrators have the confidence that they will be protected by the representatives of WB in the central government (the obvious reference is to the Trinamool Congress and the Congress). The Maoists are said to be coming in from Jharkhand where the President’s rule is in force. The state government has sought cooperation from the Centre, Karat added.

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Koshiyari quits as MP, stumps CM
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 17
Emboldened by the dissensions and disarray in the BJP high command, former Uttarakhand Chief Minister BS Koshiyari, lobbying for months to remove Chief Minister BC Khanduri and appoint him, resigned his Rajya Sabha seat here today in a tactical move to build pressure on the party high command.

Koshiyari’s move is expected to cause further embarassment to the BJP leadership, reeling under the onslaught of resignations and expecting fireworks at its national executive meeting, scheduled later this week.

Koshiyari and his men have been pressing the party high command since October last year to replace Khanduri. Instead to curb dissidence the high command removed Koshiyari from the state and brought him into the Rajya Sabha November last. But that did not help much and it lost all the five Lok Sabha seats from Uttarakhand in the last general election.

Soon after the elections, Khanduri came here and owning moral responsibility for the defeat, offered to resign. He was asked to hold on till the party could think of an alternative.The BJP sent two observers, namely Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Thawar Chand Gehlot to Dehradun to elicit the opinion of the MLAs there. They returned saying Khanduri enjoyed confidence of a majority of the 35 party legislators.

In the meantime, the high command asked dissidents in Dehradun to ensure the BJP’s victory in byelections to Kapkot assembly seat vacated by Koshiyari when he became an MP. On May 28, BJP won Kapkot seat too. But by now the party was convinced that Khanduri enjoyed a majority and, therefore, it could not succumb to the dissidents’ pressure.

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Rajasthan wants its share of water from Punjab
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, June 17
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has lodged a complaint with the Centre regarding Punjab’s “reluctance” to release Rajasthan’s share of water.

In a missive shot off to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, Gehlot has sought immediate release of the state’s share of water from Punjab. He has also written a letter to Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal seeking his cooperation on the issue. The state government has demanded its total share of 9,770 cusecs of water from the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB).

In his letter to the PM, Gehlot said, “Punjab is only delivering 7,100 cusecs of water at the Harike Barrage which feeds the Indira Gandhi feeder and the Gang Canal even as our share was fixed at 9,770 cusecs of water. Punjab, therefore, is withholding 2,670 cusecs of our share of water.”

The CM further stated that Punjab’s move has spelt doom for the farmers along the Indira Gandhi Canal as they have suffered huge crop losses in the absence of water to irrigate their fields.

He told the PM that the BBMB has failed to ensure due share of water to Rajasthan as the flow of water is controlled by the Punjab government at the Harike Barrage.

Gehlot has asked the Centre to initiate urgent measures to resolve the issue so that the state’s farmers get their due share of water. He has also asked the Punjab government to honour the pact between the two states so that Rajasthan’s farmers could irrigate their land.

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Lashkar plans to set up bases in Jharkhand

New Delhi, June 17
Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba plans to expand its network in Jharkhand and Bihar as sleeper cells of the outfit were already operational in the two states, official sources said.

The sources quoting the interrogation report of Mohammad Omar Madni claimed that he planned to set up bases in the two eastern states, which are already battling with the menace of Left-wing extremism.

The alleged terrorist told the police that establishing bases in these two states was part of the Lashkar’s plans to gain foothold in eastern part of the country. The LeT’s talent-spotter, who was arrested earlier this month, told interrogators that some of the sleeper cells were already functioning in these two states and the national capital, the sources said.

These cells provided logistical and monetary support to its men, who managed to sneak either through Line of Control in Kashmir or via porous border of India and Nepal.

About choosing Jharkhand, Madni said the state was chosen as a base for Lashkar as the administration there was already battling with Naxals and this could provide them cover. — PTI

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Sonia’s case shifted to CIC bench

New Delhi, June 17
The case pertaining to disclosure of documents relating to Indian citizenship of Sonia Gandhi under the RTI Act will now be decided by a division bench of the Central Information Commission (CIC).

The move follows a decision of the Chief Information Commissioner to withdraw himself from the case because of his proximity to Sonia.

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah who was hearing the case decided to transfer it to a division bench because of his association with Sonia Gandhi - he worked as secretary of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation under her chairmanship.

"The case is therefore transferred to a Division Bench comprising Information Commissioner S N Mishra and M L Sharma for hearing and disposal," Habibullah said.

Exercising his Right to Information, an applicant Milap Choraria sought copy of all documents and file noting from the respective files relating to the application for Indian citizenship submitted by Sonia Gandhi and the approval by Government of India, from Home Ministry.

His application was turned down by the ministry citing a clause of RTI Act, prohibiting disclosure of personal information of a third party which serves no public interest.

But the Ministry provided sketchy information to him saying that Gandhi had applied for citizenship on April 2, 1983 for Indian citizenship and was granted the same on April 30, 1983.

Unsatisfied with the response, Choraria appealed before the CIC to facilitate him in getting the information. — PTI

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Ban on import of milk from China extended

New Delhi, June 17
India has extended the ban on import of dairy products from China for six months to ward off any threat of contaminated whitener which had caused deaths of few infants and made several thousands ill. The ban was to expire on June 24.

“...the Central government extends the prohibition on import of milk and milk products including chocolates and chocolate products and candies/confectionery/food preparations with milk or milk solids as an ingredient from China...for a period of six months from 24th June 2009,” Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) said.

Melamine, used for making plastics and fertiliser, was found in infant milk and other dairy products of several Chinese firms. The dangerous chemical can cause kidney stones as well as failure of the organ. India, in September 2008, had imposed the ban on Chinese milk and its products for three months which was later extended in December last year for six months.

Meanwhile, India has banned imports of toys that do not meet international safety standards and norms till January, 2010.

In January this year, India had prohibited import of toys from China on health grounds. The restriction was, however, eased on Chinese toys, which met international safety norms.

The import restrictions assume significance as Beijing had questioned India for not implementing safety standard norms on toys being imported from other countries. — PTI

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Ukraine to modernise AN-32 fleet for India
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 17
India will modernise the 100-odd Anatov-32 transport planes flown by the IAF. A complete overhaul of on-board communications and navigation systems to meet the latest requirements is to be carried out. Crucially, a company of the Ukraine Government will upgrade these IAF cargo aircraft at a cost of US $ 400 million.

The decision comes within days after The Tribune first reported that Russia, India’s oldest defence ally, was seeing red over India and Ukraine --- a former part of Soviet Union --- getting close to each other and forging defence ties.

Anatov (AN-32) is a twin-engine turboprop plane operated by the IAF in the rugged Himalayas to send supplies and ferry troops and equipment in the far-flung areas in J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. The existing lot provides for very basic electronics and cannot be linked to various ground-based radars or sensors to have real-time data.

After the break of the Soviet Union, the Anatov factory, located in Kiev, became part of Ukriane’s military industry.

The upgrade is to be done at Ukraine and the planes will be sent in bathces. Just five days ago, an AN-32 plane crashed in northern Arunachal Pradesh, killing all 13 persons on board. Possible causes of the accident included a technical failure, or poor weather. About 360 AN-32 planes were manufactured by Antonov during the latter years of the Soviet Union. The only country operating more AN-32s than India is the Ukrainian air force with some 150 such planes.

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BRIEFLY


Former state-level swimming champion Gopal Prasad Yadav earns his livelihood by running a tea stall in Patna
Former state-level swimming champion Gopal Prasad Yadav earns his livelihood by running a tea stall in Patna. — PTI

Curfew imposed
MEERUT:
Curfew was imposed in the city in the wee hours on Wednesday after two groups of people clashed over parking of vehicles and pelted the police with stones. About six persons were injured in the clash, the police said. Paramilitary forces, including 200 personnel from the Rapid Action Force (RAF), have been deployed in the city. The clash erupted after shopkeepers took objection to the parking of a tractor near the railway station and allegedly beat up the driver. The police said a high alert was sounded in Jallikoti, Railway road, Ghantaghar, Khairnagar gate, Shabbir gate, Kotwali, Bhuniya Ka Pul, Nishari gate and Jamnagar areas. — PTI

Two cops killed
LUCKNOW:
About two policemen were killed on Wednesday in an ongoing gunbattle with bandits in Uttar Pradesh’s Chitrakoot district taking the toll to three, the police said. A commander of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and a police constable were killed on Wednesday morning, a police officer said. A constable of the Special Operations Group was killed on Tuesday night. The gunfight started after the Commando team of the Special Task Force reached Suruwal Rajapur village in Chitrakoot, 280 km from here, on a tip-off that bandits, including wanted criminal Ghanshyam Kewat, were hiding there. — IANS

Rice at Re 1 a kg
RAIPUR:
The least priviledged people in Chhattisgarh will be provided rice at Re.1 a kg while salt will be given to them free by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government, a circular said here on Wednesday. The circular issued by the Food and Civil Supplies Department has asked the district authorities of all 18 districts to distribute rice at Re.1 per kg to over 7,00,000 families having Antyodaya cards from July 1. Iodised salt packets will also be provided free of cost to over 3.7 million families under the Amrit Namak Yojna. — IANS

‘France to look into harassment of Indians at Paris airport’
New Delhi:
The Civil Aviation Ministry today said France will look into the recent discriminatory treatment of Indian citizens in transit at the Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. The assurance was given to Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel by his French counterpart Dominique Brussereau in Paris, ministry officials said. — TNS

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