SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Mithi river threatens Mumbai again
Mumbai, July 8
Heavy rains lashed Mumbai, flooding the roads and causing traffic jams on Wednesday. Heavy rains in the early hours of Wednesday brought back memories of July 26, 2005, to the residents of Mumbai when the Mithi river flowing along the suburbs of Mumbai breached its banks and flooded the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport and the low-lying housing colonies in its vicinity.

Heavy rains lashed Mumbai, flooding the roads and causing traffic jams on Wednesday. — PTI

India seeks Prabhakaran’s death certificate from Lanka
New Delhi, July 8
India has made a formal request to Sri Lanka for an official confirmation on the deaths of LTTE chief V Prabhakaran and his intelligence chief Pottu Omman in connection with the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case.

Abdullah Bukhari, the legend of Jama Masjid, is dead
New Delhi, July 8
Syed Abdullah Bukhari, the grand old Shahi Imam of Delhi's historic Jama Masjid and for long one of India's most outspoken Muslim leaders, died here today after a long illness. He was 87.



EARLIER STORIES

UPA keeps its first 100-day promise
New Delhi, July 8
The Prime Minister’s Office today delivered on its first 100-day promise. As mentioned in the President’s address to the joint session of the Parliament last month, the PMO constituted a Delivery Monitoring Unit mandated to review the progress of a select number of flagship programmes and iconic projects, an official press release said here today.

Jyoti Basu turns 96
Kolkata, July 8 
Flowers in hand, hundreds of schoolchildren greeted ailing former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu as he turned 96 on Wednesday. 

Govt against blanket ban on plastic bags
Says there is nothing wrong with its use
New Delhi, July 8
Government today cautioned the state governments against banning the use of plastic bags per se, maintaining that there was nothing wrong with their use as long as municipal solid waste capabilities were well developed.

Naxals spreading tentacles in North: Govt
New Delhi, July 8
The government today admitted that the “Naxal activity” was noticed in several north Indian states including Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, UP and Uttara Khand. However, there have been no reports of violence in these states

Varun’s security: BJP, govt in war of words
New Delhi, July 8
Issue of enhanced security for BJP MP from Pilibhit Varun Gandhi in view of threats from Chhota Shakeel gang, has turned into a game of political one-upmanship with both the BJP and the Home Ministry playing to the gallery.

Naxals spreading tentacles in North: Govt
New Delhi, July 8 
The government today admitted that the “Naxal activity” was noticed in several north Indian states including Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, UP and Uttara Khand. However, there have been no reports of violence in these states

Ahmedabad hooch tragedy toll reaches 32
2 inspectors suspended, DSP shifted
Ahmedabad, July 8
Two police inspectors were today suspended and a DSP shifted in connection with the hooch tragedy. The step is an apparent damage-control move by the Narendra Modi government that came under fire after spurious liquor claimed 25 lives in Gujarat, a dry state. The BJP government also announced a commission headed by a retired high court judge to probe into the incident.

Simple robberies, not racial attacks: Oz
Mumbai, July 8
Australia today said few attacks on Indian students in some suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney were opportunistic and cases of simple robbery.

Gehlot presents surplus Budget of Rs 39.20 cr
Jaipur, July 8
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot today presented a surplus Budget of Rs 39.20 crore focusing on infrastructure development and internal security, besides throwing open recruitment in health, education, rural development and police departments.

Shiney Ahuja’s bail plea rejected
Mumbai, July 8
Observing that prima facie case had been made out against actor Shiney Ahuja for allegedly raping his domestic help, a sessions court today rejected his bail plea.

UP claims home dept OSD removed Babri Masjid files
Lucknow, July 8
The Uttar Pradesh government has finally assigned the blame for the missing files on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute to a deceased state home department OSD who, it stated, had “taken away” the files and later died in an accident.

IAF to have 230 Sukhoi planes by 2015
New Delhi, July 8
Government plans to have a fleet of 230 Russian-made Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter aircraft in Indian Air Force by 2015, Defence Minister A K Antony informed the Rajya Sabha today. Replying to supplementaries during the Question Hour, Antony said since 1996 IAF has procured 98 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft.

BJP faces dearth of speakers on economic issues
New Delhi, July 8
The BJP appears to be having problems in finding members well versed on economic and financial issues to speak in Parliament, with its principal proponents on the economy - Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and even Jaswant Singh - still sulking over what they perceive as being marginalised by the party’s younger members. The ‘pinch’ is being felt more acutely in the very first session of the 15th Lok Sabha, especially so as it happens to be the Budget session and the debate is centred around the economic agenda of the UPA government and its rail and main budgets.

Fire in cracker factory kills 17
Chennai, July 8
The death toll in the fire accident in a cracker manufacturing factory at Vadakkampatti village near Madurai city last night today went up to 17 with the recovery of one more mutilated body from the explosion site.

TN police passes security test
Chennai, July 8
The Tamil Nadu police passed a rehearsal test in preventing terrorist attacks when they caught seven commandos under the guise of terrorists, who tried to enter the city by sea using boats, as part of a mock-drill operation.

Pranab to look into Budget leak
New Delhi, July 8
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today took serious note of the leakage of the Jharkhand budget in the media even before its copy was tabled in the Parliament today.

Chand in hospital with multiple fractures
New Delhi, July 8
Former Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Chand Mohammed was admitted to a hospital here with multiple fractures and hip dislocation, sources close to his family said today.





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Mithi river threatens Mumbai again
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, July 8
Heavy rains in the early hours of Wednesday brought back memories of July 26, 2005, to the residents of Mumbai when the Mithi river flowing along the suburbs of Mumbai breached its banks and flooded the Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport and the low-lying housing colonies in its vicinity. More than 400 persons had died all over the city after 944 mm of rainfall fell over just in a few hours.

Wednesday’s rains saw the Mithi rise 2.38 metres, a shade below the 2.52 metre danger mark. Thankfully for Mumbai, the rains abated and the height of the flooded river began to decline. “We would have pressed for emergency relief measures if the Mithi had begun to overflow,” an official of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said.

Ever since the 2005 disaster, attempts to clean up this river have been going on at a snail’s pace. “The entire clean up project has been delayed by three years as the state and the central governments are passing the buck,” alleged senior BJP leader Kirit Somaiya who has been agitating on the issue for the past four years.

While the government claims that the first phase of the clean up project has been completed with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority and the BMC de-silting the Mithi, the next step is said to be stuck over bureaucratic wrangling.

“The Central government is yet to release more than Rs 1200 crore needed for widening the Mithi,” says Somaiya. The Maharashtra government, which applied for the money under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, has been rebuffed by the Central government on the grounds that Mithi being a river and not a drain was not eligible for funding under programme.

According to sources, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan asked senior officials to apply for a waiver of this condition on the grounds that the Mithi carried nearly 70 per cent of Mumbai’s sewage. “Chavan has asked Maharashtra’s MPs to raise this issue in the Lok Sabha,” a senior party leader said.

Archival data available from various sources indicate that the Mithi used to be a fresh water river flowing into the sea and was used for boating and other leisure activities during British times. However since the 1950s, Mumbai’s rapidly growing suburbs began encroaching on the river’s banks and today scores of industrial units and slums line the former banks of the river.

“Part of the river bed was swallowed by the airport when its runway was being lengthened. Now the river needs to be deepened and widened in some places to absorb the overflowing rainwater,” says Somaiya.

BMC officials admit that encroachments along the riverbanks have prevented officials from constructing a retaining wall to prevent the river from breaching its banks. Only about 8 km of the wall have been built so far as against the 30 km proposed earlier.

Incidentally, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised an allotment of Rs 1200 crore for improving Mumbai’s infrastructure shortly after the 2005 floods. But the money is still stuck with the bureaucracy.

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India seeks Prabhakaran’s death certificate from Lanka
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
India has made a formal request to Sri Lanka for an official confirmation on the deaths of LTTE chief V Prabhakaran and his intelligence chief Pottu Omman in connection with the Rajiv Gandhi Assassination Case.

In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said a formal response from the Sri Lankan government was still awaited.

Official sources said India had asked for scientific confirmation of the death of Prabhakaran, one of the most dreaded terrorists in the world, so that it can close down the case connected with Rajiv Gandhi’s murder at an election rally at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu in May 1991.

Prabhakaran, Pottu Amman and rebel women's wing leader Akila were wanted for planning Rajiv’s assassination. Akila’s name was dropped after she was killed by the Sri Lankan army in 1995.

The Sri Lankan government announced on May 18 that Prabhakaran had been killed while trying to escape advancing army in the north of the country in the offensive against the LTTE. The next day, his body was shown on Sri Lankan media and a week later LTTE spokesman Selvarasa PathManathan admitted that Prabhakaran had indeed died. Two weeks later, a DNA test confirmed Prabhakaran’s and his son Charles Anthony’s deaths.

Meanwhile, India announced that it would send its experts, including Army personnel, to Sri Lanka to undertake de-mining operations so that the innocent civilians, displaced due to the protracted conflict between the forces and the LTTE, could return to the safety of their homes.

India has provided extensive humanitarian assistance to the island nation for Tamil civilians affected by the conflict. This assistance includes food, medicines and other essential supplies and an emergency field hospital that has been in operation since March this year.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in his Budget proposals, announced Rs 500 crore for the relief and rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka.

Aware of the strong sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka arising from the conflict, India wants to take a lead in the rehabilitation activity in the island nation lest other nations, particularly China, seek to politically exploit the situation to their advantage.

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Abdullah Bukhari, the legend of Jama Masjid, is dead

New Delhi, July 8
Syed Abdullah Bukhari, the grand old Shahi Imam of Delhi's historic Jama Masjid and for long one of India's most outspoken Muslim leaders, died here today after a long illness. He was 87.

The elderly Bukhari, who anointed his son Syed Ahmed Bukhari as the Shahi Imam in 2000 but continued to retain the title, breathed his last at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) where he had been admitted since June 9 following breathing problems.

"He passed away early in the morning," mosque spokesperson Amanullah Khan said.

As news of the legendary Bukhari's death spread, thousands, mainly Muslims, gathered at the sprawling 17th-century Jama Masjid mosque, the country's biggest and located in the heart of Mughal-built Old Delhi.

National leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, joined the Muslim community to mourn the death of Bukhari, who was named the Naib Shahi Imam in 1946.

Belonging to a family originally hailing from Central Asia, the Bukharis were invited to Delhi by Mughal emperors to preside over the Jama Masjid.

Abdullah Bukhari, born in Rajasthan and educated in Delhi, was the 12th Shahi Imam.

The image he earned in later years as an aggressive Muslim leader often clouded the difficult role he played before and during August 1947 when he persuaded scores of Indian Muslims not to migrate to Pakistan.

During those troubled days, thousands of Delhi's Muslims, forced out of their homes by mobs, took shelter in the premises of the red-stone mosque under his care. Bukhari provided them food, clothes and medicines.

In the decades that followed, using his clout as the cleric of the country's best-known mosque, Bukhari took keen interest in the social and economic issues linked to Muslims.

He rose to national prominence in March 1977 when he joined national politicians in mobilising people to vote out the Congress government of Indira Gandhi, accusing it of displacing the poor from their homes and forcing their menfolk to undergo vasectomy. — IANS

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UPA keeps its first 100-day promise
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, July 8
The Prime Minister’s Office today delivered on its first 100-day promise. As mentioned in the President’s address to the joint session of the Parliament last month, the PMO constituted a Delivery Monitoring Unit mandated to review the progress of a select number of flagship programmes and iconic projects, an official press release said here today.

Among the schemes, which are likely to fall within its purview, include the UPA government’s successful National Rural Employment Job Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the National Rural Health Mission, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and Bharat Nirman.

The new National Food Security Act that provides for cheap food grains for those living below poverty line has also been expected to be monitored very closely, as this is the government’s big-ticket programme.

It is not clear if this authority would be headed by a specially-appointed official. Indications are that principal secretary TKA Nair may be entrusted with this responsibility with the other senior PMO officials pitching in. There had been speculation earlier that PM’s former media adviser Sanjaya Baru, who is returning from a teaching assignment abroad to take up a yet-to-be defined position in the PMO, could be a contender for this position.

With its “aam admi” agenda proving to be vote-catcher, the UPA II government has drawn up a plethora of “pro-poor” schemes that has raised the expectations of the people. The ruling combine is well aware that its inability to fulfill its promise and inability to deliver on its ambitious programmes would do incalculable harm to the government. It is also acknowledged that some of the best programmes fail because of their poor implementation.

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Jyoti Basu turns 96

Kolkata, July 8 
Flowers in hand, hundreds of schoolchildren greeted ailing former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu as he turned 96 on Wednesday. 

A large number of people from various walks of life assembled outside his home, and the Marxist patriarch reciprocated by spending time with them despite being unwell.The day was celebrated with songs, dances and speeches by eminent people at Indira Bhavan, the Salt Lake residence of the CPM leader.

The ailing nonagenarian extended his wishes for the well-being of the people of the state. "All of you who have come over here are well wishers of the state. You want the state to prosper. I am with you," he said.

Basu said he was infirm and bed ridden. "I can't even walk properly but as so many people have come over here, I decided to spend some time with you all.” — PTI

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Govt against blanket ban on plastic bags
Says there is nothing wrong with its use
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
Government today cautioned the state governments against banning the use of plastic bags per se, maintaining that there was nothing wrong with their use as long as municipal solid waste capabilities were well developed.

“We need to rethink our attitude of banning plastic bags altogether. There is nothing wrong in using them. The problem is the absence of solid-waste management technologies that make collection of plastics difficult and the use of recycled plastic bags and coloured materials,” Minister of Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh told the Lok Sabha today during the Question Hour, advising states to strengthen their solid-waste management programmes for waste collection instead of imposing blanket ban on plastics.

The government’s advice comes at a time when Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and New Delhi have already announced their intent of banning plastic bags from August 15 this year.

Ramesh, however, cited the example of the developed world, which was still using plastic bags that met health specifications. “India and Bangladesh are the only countries that are thinking in terms of banning the product altogether. That would not be wise, as the paper bags would require more cutting down of trees, which would pose environmental hazards in the future. The plastic bags, if we may recall, came in as a replacement for the paper bags,” the minister said, indicating that the government policy did not favour continued projection of the paper bags as an alternative to the plastic bags.

There is a clear policy shift towards the thicker bags and biodegradable plastics, which the government plans to promote in a big way.

“Biodegradable plastics are still in the nascent stage, but we hope their volume goes up so that the costs come down.

They are an expensive proposition, but are good and the government would promote them along with jute bags,” Ramesh said.

The government would soon specify conditions under which plastic bags could be used. These would include minimum thickness, preventing the use of coloured materials and recycled plastic bags.

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Naxals spreading tentacles in North: Govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
The government today admitted that the “Naxal activity” was noticed in several north Indian states including Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, UP and Uttara Khand. However, there have been no reports of violence in these states

As per available inputs, certain Maoists activities have come to notice in these states, Union minister of state for Home Affairs Ajay Maken said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha here today.

This was in response to a question posed by Brij Bhushan Tiwari. The Tribune had first reported on June 22, titled ‘Maoists’ Aim: Seize power in Delhi’. In the report it was mentioned India’s 231 districts in 13 states, including three in the NCR region, are now being targeted by the Maoists to achieve its ultimate aim - seize power in Delhi by 2050.

In his reply in the Rajya Sabha, Maken said the government had adopted an integrated approach in dealing with the left wing extremism activities in the arenas of security, development and public perception. 

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Varun’s security: BJP, govt in war of words
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
Issue of enhanced security for BJP MP from Pilibhit Varun Gandhi in view of threats from Chhota Shakeel gang, has turned into a game of political one-upmanship with both the BJP and the Home Ministry playing to the gallery.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had stated yesterday that Varun is under threat of murder from Chhota Shakeel gang and therefore, the government has been asked to provide him enhanced security. She also regretted that, although both Varun and his mother Maneka Gandhi had written to Home Minister P Chidambram, his request has been rejected. She had also raised this matter in the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour yesterday.

She told reporters today, “I received a hand-delivered confidential letter from Chidambarm today asking me to go and meet him to discuss the issue”. He stated that he could not disclose all the details in the House that is why he wanted the meeting to be strictly confidential. “I mentioned this only to my leader LK Advani. But within minutes, I saw the whole thing including the copy of that letter on TV news channels,” she said accusing Chidambram of deliberately leaking the letter to the media to score political points.

The BJP leader insisted that the leak could not have taken place from her side, since only she and Advani were privy to the fact that Chidambram had written to her. She of course added that she had sought an appointment with him for tomorrow and is likely to meet him then. Varun Gandhi had shot into fame when videotapes of his purported speeches, threatening Muslims and using abusive and very provocative language against them became public during the general elections. He is currently facing trial on those charges. Incidentally for all Sushma’s protestations all the correspondence pertaining to this issue has been systematically e-mailed to the Home Ministry correspondents by Varun’s maternal aunt (Maneka’s sister) Ambika Shukla. The Home Ministry sources indicated that Shukla might also have leaked this letter.

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Naxals spreading tentacles in North: Govt
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8 
The government today admitted that the “Naxal activity” was noticed in several north Indian states including Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, UP and Uttara Khand. However, there have been no reports of violence in these states

As per available inputs, certain Maoists activities have come to notice in these states, Union minister of state for Home Affairs Ajay Maken said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha here today. 

This was in response to a question posed by Brij Bhushan Tiwari. The Tribune had first reported on June 22, titled ‘Maoists’ Aim: Seize power in Delhi’. In the report it was mentioned India’s 231 districts in 13 states, including three in the NCR region, are now being targeted by the Maoists to achieve its ultimate aim - seize power in Delhi by 2050.

In his reply in the Rajya Sabha, Maken said the government had adopted an integrated approach in dealing with the left wing extremism activities in the arenas of security, development and public perception. 

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Ahmedabad hooch tragedy toll reaches 32
2 inspectors suspended, DSP shifted

Ahmedabad, July 8
Two police inspectors were today suspended and a DSP shifted in connection with the hooch tragedy. The step is an apparent damage-control move by the Narendra Modi government that came under fire after spurious liquor claimed 25 lives in Gujarat, a dry state. The BJP government also announced a commission headed by a retired high court judge to probe into the incident.

No arrest has been made in connection with the case so far.

The tragedy also had its echo in the state Assembly where a determined Opposition pilloried the BJP government and raised slogans amid uproarious scenes that saw 14 Congress MLAs being suspended for the day. Demands were also made for the resignation of Minister of State for Home Amit Shah.

“Two police inspectors of the Kagdapith police station have been suspended and the process of suspension of a DSP is on,” Amit Shah informed the state Assembly making a statement on the issue after nine more persons died and the death toll reached 25. A senior police officer identified the police inspectors as RG Patel and AA Pathan. The DSP concerned was GL Khunti.

Ahmedabad also witnessed protests by people in the Majoor Gam area where some people fell ill after consuming spurious liquor during a party on Sunday night. An effigy of the Chief Minister was also burnt.

The police conducted raids in various areas of the state capital. A huge quantity of raw material used for manufacturing illicit liquor, along with containers and bottles, was also seized during the raids. — PTI

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Simple robberies, not racial attacks: Oz

Mumbai, July 8
Australia today said few attacks on Indian students in some suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney were opportunistic and cases of simple robbery.

“After investigations, we have confirmed that these attacks were not racial and mere opportunistic and petty robbery and most of the accused were teenagers, who took to petty crimes,” senior official from the Australian Department of Education Colin Walters, who led a high-level delegation touring Indian cities, told media here.

The accused were between the age group of 14 and 18 and attacked the victims for money and other costly equipments they were carrying.

“We want to inform the parents and relatives of the students that Australia is a safe place for the students. As the international student population is increasing every year and there are 1,00,000 Indian students alone currently studying in the universities of Australia. Our government has taken a lot of steps to prevent any attacks on students by strengthening the legislation”. Without giving the statistics, the officials said the accused have been arrested, chargesheeted and cases are going on in the court.

Unfortunately, the victims were at wrong places at wrong time and emphasised that they were not racial attacks as portrayed by some sections of media in India, Walter said.

“Australia is not a racist country, as we were one of the first countries to have legislation against racism 40 years back,” Walters said.— PTI

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Gehlot presents surplus Budget of Rs 39.20 cr
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, July 8
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot today presented a surplus Budget of Rs 39.20 crore focusing on infrastructure development and internal security, besides throwing open recruitment in health, education, rural development and police departments.

Dedicating the Budget to ‘Aam aadmi, garib aur gaon’ (common man, poor and villages), the CM announced various sops for farmers, women, youth, and traders. To provide succour to the middle class, Gehlot decreased the stamp duty from the existing 8 per cent to 5 per cent. It will be 4 per cent for women. In a similar move, EWS and LIG houses will be registered at nominal stamp duty of Rs 10 and Rs 25, respectively. Also all building stones in the state will be cheaper now, as tax rate has been reduced from 12.5 per cent to 4 per cent.

To boost airline and tourism sector, the government has reduced the tax rate on aviation turbine fuel from 28 per cent to 4 per cent. Also rooms in hotels costing over Rs 3,000 a day will now be free from luxury tax.

While exempting farmers and domestic consumers, Gehlot imposed a new water conservation levy at the rate of 10 paisa per unit of electricity consumed. Probably the only move that would hit the state's people is increase in VAT from 12.5 per cent to 14 per cent, besides increase in tax rate on tobacco products from 12.5 per cent to 20 per cent.

In a move aimed at beefing up internal security, Gehlot said the ATS at Jaipur will be strengthened, besides setting up a new ATS unit in Jodhpur. He said the security would be beefed up at religious places like Dargah Sharif, Ajmer, which would cost Rs 2.5 crore. Besides, emergency response teams will also be set up in Jaipur and Jodhpur.

The Chief Minister also announced a slew of sops for the business community. The date for filing of declaration forms for assessment completed up to March 31, 2009 has been extended up to March 31, 2010. Also equipment and chemicals used in central effluent treatment plants have been exempted from tax. Similarly, newsprint has also been exempted from tax.

Gehlot also expressed his intention to develop Jaipur into a world class city by 2025. He said a new master plan has been prepared for the purpose of maintaining a balance in the city’s heritage character and modern infrastructure. The plan proposes satellite towns, ring road, flyovers, ROBs and parking lots to keep it decongested.

As far as infrastructure is concerned, Gehlot allocated Rs 780.93 crore for constructions of roads and bridges in the state. In power sector, the Chief Minister said the state’s power generation will increase by 945 MW with the commissioning of new power projects in 2009-10. He said the government would formulate a new ‘Water Policy’ while allocating Rs 2,316 crore for ‘water resources and irrigation area development’. He has also increased the budget allocation for drinking water projects by 23 per cent to Rs 4,126 crore. He also announced setting up of 537 new health centres in rural areas, besides strengthening ‘108 Ambulance Service’.

For tiger conservation, the Chief Minister announced setting up of the Tiger Protection Force in Ranthambore and Sariska tiger reserves.

In a move to raise the state’s revenue, the Chief Minister proposed a surface rent on land leases to petroleum companies.

For monitoring of implementation of women-oriented schemes the government has decided to come out with ‘gender responsive budget’ which will enable it to analyse each department’s budget on the basis of gender.

In another pro-women move, the government has decided to keep sarees with all kinds of embroidery and decoration outside tax net. Gehlot said the government would impart training to one lakh youth annually to facilitate employment under the Rajasthan Skill and Livelihood Mission. 

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Shiney Ahuja’s bail plea rejected

Mumbai, July 8
Observing that prima facie case had been made out against actor Shiney Ahuja for allegedly raping his domestic help, a sessions court today rejected his bail plea.

Additional Sessions Judge D Shirsao remarked that the offence was serious and refused to accept actor’s argument that the victim’s story was “doubtful and concocted”.

The 36-year-old actor, who is currently lodged in the Arthur road jail in central Mumbai, was arrested on June 15 for allegedly raping his 18-year-old domestic maid. — PTI

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UP claims home dept OSD removed Babri Masjid files
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, July 8
The Uttar Pradesh government has finally assigned the blame for the missing files on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute to a deceased state home department OSD who, it stated, had “taken away” the files and later died in an accident.

In a 250-page affidavit submitted to the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, state chief secretary Atul Gupta made it clear not seven but 23 important files on the case were “missing”.

An annexure attached to the affidavit includes a letter dispatched by Gupta to the principal secretary, general administration on June 6, 2009 in which it is mentioned all the 23 files kept at the home department’s ‘communalism control cell’ had been missing.

The letter says according to official records the officer on special duty, Subhash Bhan Sadh, who subsequently died in an accident, had “taken away” the missing files and register pertaining to the Babri Masjid dispute.

A full bench of the court consisting of justices Rafat Alam, Sudhir Agarwal and DV Sharma directed the state to explain by July 10 the circumstances under which these files had gone missing and what action had been taken on the matter.

The high court had initially asked the state government in 2004 to produce seven of the documents in the court on an application submitted by the Sunni Waqf Board, a party to the dispute.

However, the government failed to do so despite repeated directions of the court, forcing the chief secretary to make a personal appearance in the court on May 27 and 28 that year.

Gupta again appeared in the court yesterday and asked for some time to find out what action the government had taken in the case of the missing files.

Counsel for the UP government Devendra Upadhyay moved an application requesting the court to ask the Sunni Waqf Board to furnish information regarding the source through which it had come to know about the missing files. 

Missing documents include:

  • A telegram sent by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Uttar Pradesh CM GB Pant on Jan 15,1950
  • Documents pertaining to action taken for attachment of the Babri Masjid in Dec 1949
  • A letter from Faizabad DC KK Nayyar to chief secretary Bhagwan Sahai on July 20, 1949
  • Sahai’s letter to Nayyar dated Sept 30, 1940
  • Two letters from the Faizabad DC to the chief secretary dated July 20 and Sept 3, 1949
  • Two letters from the DC to the chief secretary dated Dec 26 & 27, 1949

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IAF to have 230 Sukhoi planes by 2015

New Delhi, July 8
Government plans to have a fleet of 230 Russian-made Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter aircraft in Indian Air Force by 2015, Defence Minister A K Antony informed the Rajya Sabha today. Replying to supplementaries during the Question Hour, Antony said since 1996 IAF has procured 98 Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft.

"By 2015, we plan to have a fleet of 230 Sukhoi fighter aircraft," he said.

IAF, he said, feels Sukhoi - one of the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world - is best suited to Indian conditions. "IAF is very happy with these aircraft," he said.

He said a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into a Sukhoi crash near Jaisalmer on April 30 during a routine training flight. Both pilots ejected but the Flying Inspector, who was also a qualified pilot and was occupying the rear seat, succumbed to injuries.

"Following the incident, the IAF has undertaken a detailed inspection of all Sukhoi 30 MKI fighter aircraft," he said.

Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju said the blackbox of the crashed Sukhoi was badly damaged and has been sent to the UK for retrieving information.

The Court of Inquiry would look into the possible reasons for the crash, including probability of malfunctioning of some equipment. — PTI

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BJP faces dearth of speakers on economic issues
Faraz Ahmad/Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
The BJP appears to be having problems in finding members well versed on economic and financial issues to speak in Parliament, with its principal proponents on the economy - Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and even Jaswant Singh - still sulking over what they perceive as being marginalised by the party’s younger members. The ‘pinch’ is being felt more acutely in the very first session of the 15th Lok Sabha, especially so as it happens to be the Budget session and the debate is centred around the economic agenda of the UPA government and its rail and main budgets.

The government initiated the discussion on the rail budget in both Houses. In the Lok Sabha, the BJP fielded Ananth Kumar to put the government on the mat. He virtually glossed over the proposals of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and kept harping on the “mismanagement” of Indian Railways under her predecessor Lalu Prasad Yadav. Towards the end of his speech he called the budget “Bengal centric”.

In the Rajya Sabha, the BJP charge was led by leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley. He too mentioned “contradictions between Mamata’s perspective and Lalu Prasad’s claims”, but at least he raised some issues about the Railway Minister’s proposals.

However, the BJP may face the real crunch when the two Houses take up discussion on the Union Budget. Sources indicated Murli Manohar Joshi had been asked to initiate the discussion on behalf of the opposition in the Lok Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha, M Venkaiah Naidu may make an attempt to put the government in the dock.

This is despite the fact that the BJP has two former finance ministers of the NDA regime in the Lok Sabha — Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh. In the Rajya Sabha, the party has former disinvestment minister in the NDA government, Arun Shourie, who is also an economist and is articulate to address economic issues.

However, all three and perhaps even Joshi seem to be sulking. As a result, on the first day of Parliament when the government came out with the Economic Survey there was no reaction from the party and Swaraj merely sufficed to say, “We’ll read it and send a detailed response later,” which never came. The response to the rail budget the next day was also tame.

Hence, after the Finance Minister presented his Budget, opposition leader LK Advani convened a meeting in his Parliament chamber to discuss his party’s response.

Neither Joshi, who was seen taking copious notes when Mukherjee was delivering his speech, nor Jaswant Singh nor Yashwant Sinha and not even Arun Shourie turned up for the meeting.

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Fire in cracker factory kills 17
Tribune News Service

Chennai, July 8
The death toll in the fire accident in a cracker manufacturing factory at Vadakkampatti village near Madurai city last night today went up to 17 with the recovery of one more mutilated body from the explosion site.

The dead included the wife of the factory owner, women and a few children, revealing that children were employed in the factory. As many as 21 persons who suffered serious burn injuries are being treated at the nearby government hospital and the condition of four of them are stated to be critical.

A part of the building collapsed as the crackers began exploding after they caught fire and many people were trapped inside, leading to deaths and serious injuries, residents near the factory said. The cause of fire is not known yet.

The police has arrested B Duraipandy (48), owner of the factory under sections 304 A (II) (causing death by negligence), 286 (negligent conduct with respect to explosive substance), 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of IPC and section 5 of the Indian Explosive Act.

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TN police passes security test
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, July 8
The Tamil Nadu police passed a rehearsal test in preventing terrorist attacks when they caught seven commandos under the guise of terrorists, who tried to enter the city by sea using boats, as part of a mock-drill operation.

Top police officials were informed about the mock-drill who took it very seriously and intensified their vigil. The entire city came under a security blanket from yesterday afternoon to today morning. Although the officials were informed about the test, policemen at the lower levels were told that a group of terrorists, carrying arms and explosives, has infiltrated the state and could enter the city anytime after midnight.

The police force launched ‘operation barricade’ and intensified vehicle checks and to erect additional barricades in city limits. Five-star hotels resembled fortresses and additional policemen were deployed at all nerve centres.

Only later, the policemen in the lower ranks knew that all this was a part of a national-level mock drill being carried out by marcos (marine commandos) to check the level of preparedness of the police force and various security agencies. The joint operation by the police and coastal security group was to check the readiness of the forces in case of emergencies, since militants used the sea route to reach Mumbai on 26 November and unleashed terror.

Similar operations were carried out in coastal district. The combing operation led by SPs had been conducting door-to-door checks in villages. Police teams were also seen making announcements through the public address system to immediately report to them if they come across suspicious persons. 

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Pranab to look into Budget leak
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 8
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today took serious note of the leakage of the Jharkhand budget in the media even before its copy was tabled in the Parliament today.

Admitting as “serious”, former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha pointed out in the Lok Sabha today that the authorities in Ranchi had leaked the state budget copy to the press persons, thereby committing the breach of the parliamentary ethics. Sinha also said the matter seriously reflected upon the manner of governance in the state during the President's Rule.

FM took seriously Sinha's advice to look into the lapses and punish the gulity. “I will look into the matter and keep the House informed,” Pranab said.

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Chand in hospital with multiple fractures

New Delhi, July 8
Former Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Chand Mohammed was admitted to a hospital here with multiple fractures and hip dislocation, sources close to his family said today.

Chand was admitted to the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital last evening. The sources said he had a fall and had sustained injuries. “An X-ray was done yesterday and a CT scan was carried out today,” the source said. The CT scan revealed that Mohammed had multiple fractures and hip dislocation. — IANS

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