SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

No compromise on NSG cover to Maya
New Delhi, July 23
There will be no compromise on security of political leaders, the government assured today as reports of protection cover of political leaders like BSP chief Mayawati being reduced created an uproar in Parliament with the Opposition disrupting both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha proceedings soon after the two Houses met for the day.

Anti-BSP chief remarks prove costly for student
Lucknow, July 23
A class 12th student of UP board has been barred for life from taking any examination. His crime is that he had scribbled some “derogatory remarks” against Chief Minister Mayawati in the answersheet for the board examination earlier this year.

Budget Allocation Charges
Chidambaram silences Oppn
New Delhi, July 23
Armed with statistics, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today came back to the Lok Sabha to silence the opposition, which had yesterday alleged discrepancies in government documents over allocations for the Home Ministry.



EARLIER STORIES

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, BJP leader LK Advani and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during the birthday celebrations of Bal Gangadhar Tilak at Parliament on Thursday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, BJP leader LK Advani and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee during the birthday celebrations of Bal Gangadhar Tilak at Parliament on Thursday. — PTI

Prez, PM to visit Russia this year
New Delhi, July 23
India and Russia will discuss strategic issues of bilateral cooperation, including defence, nuclear energy, trade and space, during the high-level visits by Indian leaders spread over the next five months starting with President Pratibha Patil.

Proposals for airports at Ludhiana, Jhajjar
New Delhi, July 23
Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel today said the government had received proposals for setting up new greenfield airports at Jhajjar (Haryana) and Ludhiana (Punjab).

Tackling Naxals
Centre to form special force
New Delhi, July 23
Having faced widespread criticism for the rise in Maoist violence in the recent past, especially after the Lalgarh episode, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has now decided to form a special force to tackle the menace.

Govt plans disability cards for HIV+
New Delhi, July 23
The government today informed the Supreme Court that it was considering issue of disability cards to HIV/AIDS patients to mitigate their suffering.

‘Indian Women Power’ activists shout slogans near the Parliament in support of the Women’s Reservation Bill, in New Delhi on Thursday.
‘Indian Women Power’ activists shout slogans near the Parliament in support of the Women’s Reservation Bill, in New Delhi on Thursday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

Govt has no role in PILs, says Moily
New Delhi, July 23
The judiciary need not consult the government on entertaining any litigation, including public interest litigations (PILs), Law Minister M Veerappa Moily clarified in the Lok Sabha today.

Indian Army team to visit Saudi Arabia
New Delhi, July 23
In what is a diplomatic coup of sorts, a small team of the Indian Army will soon depart to Saudi Arabia, a well know ally of Pakistan and where the Chinese have interest in the oil industry.

Nilekani takes charge as UIAI head
New Delhi, July 23
Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani today took charge as the chairman of the Unique Identification Database Authority of India (UIAI) which has been tasked to create a national database of identity details of citizens.

Kalam yet to receive apology
Kochi/New Delhi, July 23
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam is "yet" to receive the apology from America's Continental Airlines for breaching the protocol norms by frisking him at Delhi's international airport.

Grants for all ministries passed through voice vote
New Delhi, July 23
The demands for grants for all the ministries for the financial year 2009-10 were passed by the Lok Sabha through a voice vote as they were put to guillotine by Speaker Meira Kumar here today.

Right to Education Bill
Expert group to draft model rules
New Delhi, July 23
State governments will have to frame and notify their own definitions of neighbourhood schools as envisaged in the landmark Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education Bill, there being no standard definition of such schools. The bill, passed by thee Rajya Sabha on July 20, is yet to be tabled in the Lok Sabha.

Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta talks to Chief of Naval Staff, Bangladesh Navy, Rear Admiral Zahir Uddin Ahmed (left), during the Guard of Honour ceremony in New Delhi on Thursday.
Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta talks to Chief of Naval Staff, Bangladesh Navy, Rear Admiral Zahir Uddin Ahmed (left), during the Guard of Honour ceremony in New Delhi on Thursday. — PTI

Rahul relishes Andhra meal
New Delhi, July 23
The Andhra Bhawan employees were taken by surprise here yesterday when Rahul Gandhi, arrived there unannounced to partake of Andhra lunch. Rahul Gandhi accompanied by the young Congress MP from Alwar Jitendra Singh, climbed up the stairs to the MPs’ dining hall and asked for two thalis, said an official of the Bhawan. Jitendra Singh belongs to the royalty of Alwar.

Defence land under illegal occupation
New Delhi, July 23
A whopping 14,538 acres of defence land in the country is either under encroachment or under illegal occupation.

SC slams fraudulent tactics of pvt colleges
New Delhi, July 23
The Supreme Court today slammed mushrooming private colleges imparting teachers’ education, most of which it said were raking in huge money by even selling certificates to students.

Bihar govt’s SOS to Centre on drought
Seeks financial help of Rs 470 cr
Patna, July 23
Alarmed by the drought-like situation prevailing in the state, the Bihar government has sent a SOS to the Centre seeking immediate financial assistance of Rs 470 crore to tide over the crisis.

BJP wants JPC to probe ‘corruption’ in Air India
New Delhi, July 23
The BJP yesterday fielded its actor MP Shatrughan Sinha to seek the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe rampant corruption in India’s national carrier Air India (AI).

Workers give final touches to the new Metro station in Kolkata on Thursday.
Workers give final touches to the new Metro station in Kolkata on Thursday. — PTI

165 highway projects okayed
New Delhi, July 23
Looking to make infrastructure development as its major plank, the Road Transport Ministry would be undertaking as many as 165 projects under the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) during the year.

Hini Influenza
No need to close schools, states told
New Delhi, July 23
Officials of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare today stated that there was no need for states to close down schools fearing spread of the H1N1 pandemic influenza.

Abhaya case:PM urged to look into wording of
New Delhi, July 23
Taking umbrage at the language the CBI reportedly used in its charge sheet filed in a Kochi court against a woman accused in the Sister Abhaya murder case, CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat today sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention to have the matter probed and the “guilty punished”.

Sinha unhappy with PAC membership
New Delhi, July 23
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha is feeling slighted by his party’s decision to nominate him to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), whose chairmanship is almost settled in favour of his party colleague Jaswant Singh.

Human rights activist Medha Patkar with the activists of the National Alliance of People’s Movement demanding immediate scrapping of the Land Acquisition Act, in New Delhi on Thursday.
Human rights activist Medha Patkar with the activists of the National Alliance of People’s Movement demanding immediate scrapping of the Land Acquisition Act, in New Delhi on Thursday. Tribune photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

SC declines hearing on M’rashtra RS poll
New Delhi, July 23
The Supreme Court today refused urgent hearing on a petition that has challenged the Election Commission's decision to hold separate polling for three Rajya Sabha seats that have fallen vacant following the election of Praful Patel, Supriya Sule and Sushil Kumar Shinde to the Lok Sabha.

Minister’s ‘shoe’ remark raises storm in Assam House
Guwahati, July 23
A snide comment by Congress party leader and Assam Health Minister Himanta Bishwa Sharma against the opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has triggered a ‘shoe storm’ in the state’s politics. The minister, while participating in a debate aired by a local TV channel on the issue of central government payscales for state government employees, said: “The Congress-led state government will soon ‘hurl the shoe’ of increased salaries to employees to silence the AGP”.

Indian link? Baloch leader rubbishes  Pak claim
New Delhi, July 23
A senior Baloch leader has said Pakistan is using India’s name to divert attention from real issues in Balochistan, and rubbished Islamabad’s claim of New Delhi playing a leading role in fomenting unrest in Balochistan. He also emphatically stated that this is an “age old tactic” promoted and projected by Islamabad.

WB transporters to go on strike today
Kolkata, July 23
The meeting between the state government and transport operators associations held at Netaji Indoor Stadium today for averting the indefinite transport strike ended in a fiasco and the operators stuck their decision to go on strike from tomorrow.

‘Love Aaj Kal’ invites wrath of Sikhs
Mumbai, July 23
The All-India Punjabi Cultural and Heritage Board has taken strong objection to the depiction of Sikh characters in Saif Ali Khan's debut home production 'Love Aaj Kal' directed by Imitiaz Ali.

PCI sets up panel to probe paid news coverage
Hyderabad, July 23
The Press Council of India (PCI) has voiced concern over the trend of paid news coverage reported during the just-concluded general elections and set up a two-member committee to look into the matter.






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No compromise on NSG cover to Maya
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
There will be no compromise on security of political leaders, the government assured today as reports of protection cover of political leaders like BSP chief Mayawati being reduced created an uproar in Parliament with the Opposition disrupting both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha proceedings soon after the two Houses met for the day.

“On the security of the leaders, there will be no compromise,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, said in the Lok Sabha. Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal also assured members that there would be no reduction in security cover of Mayawati, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. A similar assurance was made in the Rajya Sabha by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan.

The Lok Sabha, meanwhile, witnessed repeated disruptions of proceedings all day, with the SP and the Congress uniting to question the provision of the NSG cover to Mayawati. They said she could use the state security, and recalled how she had withdrawn the security cover of some Uttar Pradesh leaders, especially of the SP.

The BSP members, however, clamoured on their part over the reported move of the government to reduce security cover of their leader. They stormed the well of both the Houses when they assembled for the day.

Reports of scaling down of security cover to Mayawati led to two adjournments in the Rajya Sabha over the issue. The House plunged into turmoil soon after it met for the day with BSP members vociferously registering their protest leading to disruption of question hour. BJP members also joined in forcing Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to adjourn the House till noon. An upset Chairman Hamid Ansari said: “this is an extraordinary example of indiscipline in the House. The rights of members are being violated.”

The Lok Sabha began the day’s proceedings on a chaotic note with BSP MPs noisily protesting against the government’s move to downgrade security of Mayawati. The BSP members took up the issue as soon as the House met at 11 am and rushed toward Speaker Meira Kumar's podium shouting slogans against the government. The Speaker requested them to raise the matter during zero hour but was forced to adjourn the House.

Mulayam and Lalu Prasad had raised the issue in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, warning the government that it would be responsible if anything untoward happened to them.

The Home Ministry is reviewing security provided to VVIPs and had suggested that the security status of politicians like Mayawati, Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi and Joshi be downgraded.

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Anti-BSP chief remarks prove costly for student
Shahira Naim
Tribune News Service

Lucknow, July 23
A class 12th student of UP board has been barred for life from taking any examination. His crime is that he had scribbled some “derogatory remarks” against Chief Minister Mayawati in the answersheet for the board examination earlier this year.

When Kayamuddin Ansari from Deoria appeared for his English exam in the Class XII Uttar Pradesh board a few months ago he was stunned when he got the question paper for Sanskrit.

An angry Ansari probably committed the greatest mistake of his life. In the wrong answersheet he wrote some comments against the UP Chief Minister and even issued a threat.

The UP Board of High School and Intermediate Education, which gave Ansari the wrong question paper, has now retaliated by declaring that he can no longer appear in an exam in the state.

The board has not only cancelled his candidature and barred him from appearing in any future exams conducted by it but has also suspended two principals and five staffers for leaking the incident to the media.

Ansari’s note were first noticed when his answersheet was being evaluated in Muzaffarnagar in April. When the board authorities came to know about it, they ordered a probe. According to the board the suspended include deputy controller and principal of DAV Inter-College Evaluation Center Shivkumar Yadav, assistant controller Arun Jain and two teachers of the college — Dharampal and Satya Deo Sharma. 

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Budget Allocation Charges
Chidambaram silences Oppn
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
Armed with statistics, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today came back to the Lok Sabha to silence the opposition, which had yesterday alleged discrepancies in government documents over allocations for the Home Ministry.

Taking on Sushma Swaraj, BJP’s deputy leader in the House, who had led the charge against the UPA during discussions on demands for grants for the Home Ministry yesterday, Chidambaram today showed that the principal opposition party had not done its homework well.

“I have examined the detailed Demand for Grants of the Home Ministry as well as the expenditure budget. I would like to state categorically that there are no discrepancies,” the Home Minister said, listing at length the allocations for police, at Rs 33,809.86 crore; for NSG, at Rs 313.80 crore, and for the modernisation of police forces, at Rs 1,413.6 crore. Sushma had specifically questioned the allocations for these three sectors - a reason why the Home Minister made a separate statement in the House today to put the record straight.

He also left a thank-you note for Sushma. “I thank you for drawing my attention to the alleged discrepancies. It gave me an opportunity to satisfy myself once again that the Budget documents are carefully prepared ...I take this opportunity to record my appreciation of the work of the Budget division,” Chidambaram said.

Even yesterday, he had defended with great eloquence the UPA’s resolve to ensure internal security, stating how UPA’s allocations towards the sector were much more than NDA’s. Just one of the several examples he mentioned was the jump (between the two regimes) of Rs 10,000 crore in security-related allocations.

“There is no question of low allocations for the ministry. I know how to give money and how to get it,” a well-assured Chidambaram told the House in his reply yesterday. He also brought the opposition on the mat by saying how the Congress had not been in power in most of the states where naxalism had been on the rise.

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Prez, PM to visit Russia this year

New Delhi, July 23
India and Russia will discuss strategic issues of bilateral cooperation, including defence, nuclear energy, trade and space, during the high-level visits by Indian leaders spread over the next five months starting with President Pratibha Patil.

Patil will pay a state visit in September followed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trip to Moscow for the India-Russia Annual Summit in December, the Rajya Sabha was told today.

The summit will be attended by the Russian President, Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said while replying to a question.

"During these visits, discussions will take place with the Russian leadership on all strategic areas of bilateral cooperation," she said. — PTI

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Proposals for airports at Ludhiana, Jhajjar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel today said the government had received proposals for setting up new greenfield airports at Jhajjar (Haryana) and Ludhiana (Punjab).

Besides these two sites, Patel said, the Centre had also received proposals for airports at Greater Noida, Kushinagar (UP); Chakan, Shirdi, Solapur (Maharashtra); Palladi (Rajasthan); Ankleshwar (Gujarat); Karaikal (Puducherry) and Ramnad (TN). The matter as of now was at early stage, he added.

The government is also examining the proposals sent by the Punjab government for renaming the Amritsar International Airport as “Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport” and the new airport coming up at Mohali as “Shaheed-E-Azam Sardar Bhagar Singh International Airport”.

In reply to a question raised by Rajya Sabha MP Tarlochan Singh on Tuesday, Patel said the proposals were being examined.

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Tackling Naxals
Centre to form special force
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
Having faced widespread criticism for the rise in Maoist violence in the recent past, especially after the Lalgarh episode, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has now decided to form a special force to tackle the menace.

Likely to be put in place by September, the new force would have its personnel drawn from the paramilitary forces and police. The anti-Naxal force would work under one command and cover the entire ‘Red Corridor’ — the Maoist-dominated areas in Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and parts of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal.

And training to the personnel would be provided by the Army. Sources said the Army had so far not been asked to provide any personnel for the force. However, the Indian Air Force may be asked to pitch with movement of these forces, though presently there was no plan to use the firing power of the (IAF) choppers.

The Centre had formed such units (like the Cobra) in the past as well but at a smaller scale. Then, some states formed their own special units such as Grey Hounds run by Andhra Pradesh police.

The new force, too, may carry the name Cobras and would have strength of around 25,000. The personnel would be equipped with the latest gadgetry and trained to carry out clearing operations in Naxal-affected areas. The men who would be inducted into the special force will be placed under a single officer, like a unified command pattern that is followed in J&K by the Army.

Notably, the Centre’s move follows Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s recent admission that the country had “underestimated the prowess of the Naxals”. 

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Govt plans disability cards for HIV+
R Sedhuraman
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 23
The government today informed the Supreme Court that it was considering issue of disability cards to HIV/AIDS patients to mitigate their suffering.

There was also a proposal to cover them under the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme and the Antyodya Anna Yojna Programme, Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam told a Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan.

Further, the government had “moved forward” on the expensive second line of treatment to such patients by widening its ambit to benefit widows and those who were below 25.

The SG made the remarks during the hearing of PILs filed by several NGOs, including the Voluntary Health Association (VHA) of Punjab, Common Cause, Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust and Sahara House.

The VHA had cited the case of an HIV patient from Patna who had been affected by resident-specific policies of the states. It contended that government hospitals in Bihar did not have second line anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs required by patients suffering from advanced stage of HIV.

Identifying the patient only as ABC, aged 34, the petition said his wife and their elder child had also tested positive for HIV but they did not need second line ARV at present. ABC, whose problem was detected in 2005, went all the way to JJ Hospital in Mumbai but was turned away as he was not a resident of Maharashtra. He had sold his property to buy medicines and was now left with no money for second line ARV drugs.

Naming the Centre and others as respondents, the petition had said refusal of treatment “amounts to a breach of the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution”.

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Govt has no role in PILs, says Moily
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 23
The judiciary need not consult the government on entertaining any litigation, including public interest litigations (PILs), Law Minister M Veerappa Moily clarified in the Lok Sabha today.

“Entertaining of any litigation, including a PIL, being a matter entirely within the domain of the judiciary, it is not incumbent on the Supreme Court to consult the government while framing guidelines,” he said in a written reply.

According to the information provided by the SC Registry, the guidelines for entertaining PILs have been laid down by the apex court in various judgments, an official press note said.

At the same time, the registry has also defined matters of public interest, specifying seven subjects. These, among others, relate to bonded labour, neglected children, exploitation of casual labourers and non-payment of wages to them, except in individual cases.

The other such matters include harassment or torture of persons belonging to the SCs, STs and economically backward classes, either by co-villagers or by police.

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Indian Army team to visit Saudi Arabia
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
In what is a diplomatic coup of sorts, a small team of the Indian Army will soon depart to Saudi Arabia, a well know ally of Pakistan and where the Chinese have interest in the oil industry.

It is hush-hush affair and is kept under wraps, said sources. The Indian military team will be from the fighting units and comprise officers who have experience in counter-terrorism. The team will explain the finer points of counter-terrorism to Saudi Arabians. Several ports in the oil-rich Kingdom are under threat from the Al-Qaida, which perceives the gulf emirates as being close to Americans. Sources said the team will explain the measures.

For India, it will be the second important military toe-hold in the Emirate region. In May two Indian Naval warships paid a three-day visit, while in August 2007 two other ships had visited the kingdom.

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Nilekani takes charge as UIAI head
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani today took charge as the chairman of the Unique Identification Database Authority of India (UIAI) which has been tasked to create a national database of identity details of citizens.

Taking charge of the government's ambitious project to provide a single identity number and card to each of the country's 1.17 billion people, Nilekani said the first set of database will be ready in 12 to 18 months time as announced by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in his budget speech.

"We will be issuing the first set of identification numbers in 12 to 18 months," he told reporters here.

Nilekani, who met with reporters briefly after assuming office at Yojana Bhavan, the headquarters of the Planning Commission here, said it will take few weeks for them to "get the team together". Nilekani said Ram Sevak Sharma, a 1978 batch Jharkhand cadre IAS officer, will take over as Secretary and CEO of the organisation.

"We will use biometrics....but we still have not decided what that set will be," he said. "It will take us few weeks to stabilise and figure out the team size. It will take us few weeks to get our thoughts together," he added.

"This will be a nationwide system of authentication," said Nilekani, who was personally selected by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to head the project with the rank of a cabinet minister.

"Identity is important for everyone, especially for the poor. Getting an identity is a tough job. We will provide a database of residents. We will have a very simple database in biometrics. We will only have very basic information," he said. 

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Kalam yet to receive apology

Kochi/New Delhi, July 23
Former President APJ Abdul Kalam is "yet" to receive the apology from America's Continental Airlines for breaching the protocol norms by frisking him at Delhi's international airport.

"I have not yet received it," said Kalam when asked about the apology sent by the airline.Yesterday, Continental Airlines had apologised to Kalam following a political uproar in the country over the frisking of the former President at Delhi's international airport before he was to board a Newark-bound flight on April 21.

Asked whether he had felt insulted when he was subjected to the security check, Kalam, who is in Kochi, declined to comment, saying the issue has been discussed in Parliament.

When contacted, the airline today said it had sent the apology letter to Kalam's Delhi office as directed by his official staff and since the former President was travelling, his staff may not have been able to communicate to him about the letter. — PTI

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Grants for all ministries passed through voice vote
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
The demands for grants for all the ministries for the financial year 2009-10 were passed by the Lok Sabha through a voice vote as they were put to guillotine by Speaker Meira Kumar here today.

The guillotine move was initiated by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the presence of almost the entire contingent of Congress MPs, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and almost all Congress ministers.

The Lok Sabha has passed the demands for grants of Agriculture, HRD, Power, Home Affairs and Women and Child Development ministries.

Immediately after Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath ended her reply to the day-long debate on her ministry, the Speaker permitted Home Minister P Chidambram to read out a prepared statement where he set at rest the anxieties of Deputy leader of BJP in the Lok Sabha over discrepancies in the promises made in the President’s speech on augmenting security forces and the commitments made in the budget.

He said, “A careful reading of the annexure will show that the final number in the two columns exactly match each other. There are, therefore, no discrepanices whatsoever.”

This concluded, Meira Kumar started listing out the ministries whose demands were being taken together for being passed by the Lower House. The term is called putting to guillotine. Curiously while the Congress benches were full, and members of the other parties, notably the Left were present in good numbers too, the main opposition benches were almost deserted with less than a score present on the BJP benches and even fewer of its allies the JD-U and Akali Dal. 

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Right to Education Bill
Expert group to draft model rules
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
State governments will have to frame and notify their own definitions of neighbourhood schools as envisaged in the landmark Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education Bill, there being no standard definition of such schools. The bill, passed by thee Rajya Sabha on July 20, is yet to be tabled in the Lok Sabha.

Speaking to The Tribune today on modalities of the proposed law, sources close to the human resource development ministry said each state government would have to evolve its own concept of a neighbourhood school, keeping in consideration the local terrain, geographical conditions and prevailing school infrastructure. An expert group has been set up to draft model rules on the law, which will be circulated to the states that can then adapt them according to local conditions.

“The idea is to facilitate state governments in the implementation of the law and prevent any further loss of time. Although the right to education will be a central act, a lot of things are yet to be covered under the legislation for which the states can consult the model draft rules that will be in place shortly,” the sources said. The group has been asked to submit its report within a month.

In another major development the government has also asked the National University for Education Planning & Administration (NEUPA) to work out revised estimates of expenditure that the state governments would have to incur on the implementation of the right to education law.

The earlier estimate of Rs 2.28 lakh crore for five years was based on old indices, the sources said, adding there was a need to consider the prevailing conditions, including population of the target group comprising children aged 6 to 14 years. There are reports that the population of this group has declined primarily due to family planning initiatives.

“We also need to look at the existing pupil-teacher ratio and the fact that several years of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan scheme would have ensured some amount of infrastructure in several areas. Details on the revised expenditure would be available in a month,” said senior ministry officials who did not rule out enhanced funding to states if the revised estimates so suggested.

There is, however, clarity on the fact that compensation to be paid to privately-run unaided schools for reserving 25 per cent of seats for poor students would equal the annual per student expenditure incurred in the government setup. “The law is clear on this front. Also, every school would have to reserve 25 per cent of seats for poor students. This requirement is part of the country’s efforts to move towards a system of common, inclusive schools,” the sources said.

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Rahul relishes Andhra meal
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
The Andhra Bhawan employees were taken by surprise here yesterday when Rahul Gandhi, arrived there unannounced to partake of Andhra lunch. Rahul Gandhi accompanied by the young Congress MP from Alwar Jitendra Singh, climbed up the stairs to the MPs’ dining hall and asked for two thalis, said an official of the Bhawan. Jitendra Singh belongs to the royalty of Alwar.

Andhra food, particularly the non-vegetarain variety, is popular with the food connoisseurs of the capital.

There are two sections in this canteen. The ground floor is for commoners. The first floor is reserved for MPs, bureaucrats and journalists. He walked in around 2.20 pm, by which time the peak lunch hour crowd starts melting. But seeing Rahul Gandhi, naturally, all present started running up to him to ingratiate themselves to him. He pleaded that he had come for some private conference and sought privacy. He asked to be excused by TV cameras and journalists.

The Thali contains puris, plain rice, two or three vegetable items, Andhra dal, dahi, papad and a small helping of sweet dish. There is no restriction on the number of servings one can ask for.

Rahul Gandhi asked for chapatis, which are not available for lunch. But till they arranged for chapatis, he started off with puris. Chapatis too came but a little later. He also ordered mutton fry, chicken fry and fish fry. Rahul only had a second helping of the dal and asked for a Diet Pepsi to wash down the hot Andhra preparations.He avoided eating rice.

At the end of the meal he shelled out a Rs 500 note to pay the Bill. And when the Bhawan staff tried to persuade him to enjoy free hospitality he told them he relished the food but would not come again if they forced free food on him. Then they tried to charge him the MPs’ rate of Rs 13 per thali.

But he seemed to be aware of the rates and eventually the staff did charge him Rs 300 the normal price commoners pay in the ground floor dining hall.

This was the first visit of Rahul Gandhi to the canteen, though he had once come to the Bhawan once earlier to the Bhawan to attend an NSUI conference sometime back.

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Defence land under illegal occupation
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
A whopping 14,538 acres of defence land in the country is either under encroachment or under illegal occupation.

Defence Minister AK Antony yesterday submitted a written reply on the matter saying 10,441 acres spread across 25 states/UT’s has been encroached upon, while another 4,097 acres spread across 10 states is under illegal occupation. The state of UP usually notorious for its lawlessness, leads the figures. A total of 2,786 acres are encroached and 788 acres are illegally occupied.

Maharashtra is second with 2,215 acres of encroached and 162 acres of illegally occupied land. In Haryana, 678 acres and 319 acres of defence land have been encroached and occupied, respectively. In Punjab, 364 acres and 147 acres of land falls under these two categories.

In Himachal Pradesh, 87 acres and 76 acres of land falls under these two categories, while 781 acres of defence land in J&K is encroached. Among other defaulting states are Bihar, West Bengal, MP, Gujarat, Rajasthan, AP and Assam.

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SC slams fraudulent tactics of pvt colleges

New Delhi, July 23
The Supreme Court today slammed mushrooming private colleges imparting teachers’ education, most of which it said were raking in huge money by even selling certificates to students.

"It is not education but pure commercial activities. It is unfortunate that there are students who do not even know where the college is located. Yet, they get certificates making them teachers," a three-judge Bench of Justices BN Aggrawal, GS Singhvi and HL Dattu said.

The Bench made the remarks while dismissing the appeal of private colleges offering diploma in education (D.Ed) in Bhopal, which had sought a direction to Madhya Pradesh government to grant it recognition and affiliation.

The apex court said the colleges could not seek recognition and affiliation if they did not fulfil the basic criteria like infrastructural facilities. — PTI

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Bihar govt’s SOS to Centre on drought
Seeks financial help of Rs 470 cr
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, July 23
Alarmed by the drought-like situation prevailing in the state, the Bihar government has sent a SOS to the Centre seeking immediate financial assistance of Rs 470 crore to tide over the crisis.

The state has also sought an additional 300 MW of power from the Union Energy Minister to ensure at least seven hours of uninterrupted power supply to the farmers for irrigation purpose.

It has further urged the Centre to immediately send a high-level team of officers to Bihar to take stock of the situation and suggest remedial measures.

The state government wants to spend the central assistance of Rs 470 crore on providing diesel subsidy to farmers (Rs 350 crore) purely for irrigation purpose at Rs 15 per litre. Rs 100 is to be spent on providing potable water supply in the most rain deficient areas of south Bihar and it wants to spend Rs 50 crore on providing seed subsidy to the farmers hit by shortfall of rains.

On its part, the state government claims to be doing everything possible to minimise people’s agony. To put it in the words of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar “we are already in a war mode. All the departments concerned have been unified and the Crisis Management Group formed under the Chief Secretary has been meeting every day to review the situation. We have already introduced diesel subsidy scheme for the farmers to save the paddy seedlings and sanctioned Rs 26 crore to the districts for this purpose.

The District Magistrates have been directed to form a task force that meets every day to review the situation and provide remedial measures. The Ministers in charge of respective districts have been asked to hold a meeting with the district officials every fortnight to assess the situation.”

The state intelligence machinery (special branch) has also been pressed into service to keep the Chief Minister updated about the activities of the district administrative machinery to meet the crisis.

But the situation now warrants immediate central intervention to meet the crisis, said the Chief Minister.

As per the official statistics, only 17 per cent sowing of paddy had been reported across the state so far. Out of 35 lakh hectares of the paddy area, only six lakh hectare had been sown till the third week of July. If the rain deficiency continues till August 15, the state government is all prepared to declare drought in Bihar. 

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BJP wants JPC to probe ‘corruption’ in Air India
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
The BJP yesterday fielded its actor MP Shatrughan Sinha to seek the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe rampant corruption in India’s national carrier Air India (AI).

Raising the matter in zero hour in Lok Sabha yesterday, Sinha, in his trademark Bollywood fashion, peppered his anti-Air India script with too many frills and froth. So AI became “Sankat (Troubled) Airlines”, which, the Bihar MP said, had been asked by the Frankfurt airport authorities to submit a guarantee, if they wanted to utilise the airplane landing services.

“It is a matter of national shame that our maharaja has become a beggar,” Sinha said, mocking at AI mascot, the king. He then sought that a JPC be constituted to probe Civil Aviation Ministry’s role in allowing private airlines to prosper at the cost of the national airlines in certain circuits.

The former actor also did not mind using the symbolism of a full solar eclipse to harp on the gravity of the AI crisis.

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165 highway projects okayed
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
Looking to make infrastructure development as its major plank, the Road Transport Ministry would be undertaking as many as 165 projects under the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) during the year.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is expected to award the contract for the development of the highways, of which at least six are in Jammu and Kashmir and another eight in Haryana, in the coming few months.

The construction work on these projects is likely to commence within eight months from the date of award. This would include 10 projects in Andhra Pradesh, 12 in Bihar, seven in Gujarat, 11in Madhya Pradesh, 14 in Maharashtra and another six in Uttar Pradesh, besides those in J&K and Haryana.

The projects are at various stages of bidding, feasibility study, awarding and implementation and belong to NHDP phases III, IV and V.

The prominent projects include Hyderabad-Vijayawada highway, Ahmedabad-Vadodara highway, besides the Delhi-Agra, Eastern Peripheral Expressway, Jammu-Udhampur Section, Jhansi-Khajuraho, Bhubaneswar-Puri, Pune-Sholapur, Amritsar-Jallandhar, Amritsar-Pathankot, Udaipur-Ahmedabad, Agra-Aligarh, Hardwar-Dehradun and Muzzafarnagar-Haridwar highway.

Incidentally, to expedite the implementation, steps have already been taken to put land acquisition on fast track, shifting of utilities, obtaining clearances from Railways for Road Over Bridges (ROBs) and taking action against non-performing contractors.

The Road Transport Ministry has already chalked out an ambitious plan of the biggest public, private partnership whereby 15,000 km of roads and highways would be developed over the next three years.

Earlier this month, Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath had said that the government had plans to invest Rs 1,00,000 crore to build 12,000 km of roads during the current financial year itself and the funds for the road building project would be raised via equity as well as debt, he said.

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Hini Influenza
No need to close schools, states told
Chitleen K Sethi
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
Officials of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare today stated that there was no need for states to close down schools fearing spread of the H1N1 pandemic influenza.

During a workshop for mediapersons organised by the ministry in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO here today, joint secretary, health, Vineet Chawdhry said, “As of today, there are no indications to show that schools need to close down to control the spread of the influenza.”

He added that in India the H1N1 influenza was still “mild” and needed only individual contact control. “The stage has not come where we begin controlling mass contact unlike some other nations where the number of cases was very high,” he said. Chawdhry, however, admitted that the entry screening at airports was not a foolproof method of detecting all possible cases of the infection being brought from outside India. “It is effective to a large extent in detection, but it was of invaluable help in tracing back contacts of the patients,” he said.

Director-general (special) health services Shiv Lal added that the Ministry of Health had asked the Ministry of External Affairs to insist on H1N1 affected nations to start exit screening of travellers at airports, but a reply was awaited from these nations.

Regarding the availability of a vaccine for H1N1 influenza, Chawdhry said the indigenously prepared vaccines should be in the markets in six months from now. “Three companies have been granted licenses by the government of India to import the seed strains through the WHO,” added Shiv.

The possibility of vaccines developed in other countries, which are likely to be available in October is also being looked at. He said the virus was unpredictable being a novel virus and its behaviour and virulence during winters, when otherwise cases of flue increase cannot be ascertained right now.

He said medicine Tamiflu was being used to treat the virus. “The drug is available only through the government nodal hospitals, which are treating these patients. It is not available off the shelf in order to ensure that the virus does not develop resistance to it,” he said.

He added that in case of the H1N1 virus mutating and becoming resistant to Tamiflu, the government was finalising an alternative line of treatment for which the drugs had been identified.

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Abhaya case:PM urged to look into wording of
chargesheet
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
Taking umbrage at the language the CBI reportedly used in its charge sheet filed in a Kochi court against a woman accused in the Sister Abhaya murder case, CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat today sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention to have the matter probed and the “guilty punished”.

In a letter to the PM, she said she was “shocked and outraged to read the use of obscene, vulgar and unscientific language” against Sister Sephy, a co-accused in the death of the Kerala nun.

Karat said that in several cases involving women, including rape victims, the language employed by investigating agencies was often highly offensive. "I request you to get the matter inquired into and ensure disciplinary action and prosecution under the relevant section of the laws against the officers concerned," she added.

The “objectionable” portions of the charge sheet were reproduced in a section of the media today.

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Sinha unhappy with PAC membership
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
BJP leader Yashwant Sinha is feeling slighted by his party’s decision to nominate him to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), whose chairmanship is almost settled in favour of his party colleague Jaswant Singh.

BJP deputy leader in the Lok Sabha had disclosed yesterday that her party had sent in three names for the membership of the PAC and mentioned the three as Jaswant Singh, Yahswant Sinha and Gopinath Munde.

Sinha reacted today with a tinge of sarcasm to his nomination to PAC, saying “This is what my party found me worthy of though I have held the post of a union minister for five years.”

He said, “I am grateful that the party has bestowed this stupendous honour of nominating me to the prestigious PAC. After serving as union minister for five years and presenting several Budgets, this is what the party found me worthy of,” Sinha observed sarcastically, clearly expressing his disappointment with the party decision.

He also hinted that the BJP could have offered him chairmanship of one of the several house and standing committees of Parliament that would be offered to the party. Earlier, Swaraj explained that going by its numerical strength the BJP is entitled this time to chairmanship of four committees of the Lok Sabha and two from the Rajya Sabha.

Dripping with sarcasm the MP from Hazaribagh said, “In BJP talent waxes and wanes like the moon. It does not improve with time.”

Of the four standing committees Sushma Swaraj herself is likely to head the standing committee on External Affairs and Murli Manohar Joshi the committee on Finance.

As for the PAC, even though the decision on its chairmanship is yet to be announced this is likely to go to Jaswant Singh leaving Sinha as an also ran member of the PAC, notiwthstanding the fact that Yashwant Sinha had been both External Affairs and Finance Minister of the country in the NDA regime.

The PAC chairman enjoys the status of a cabinet minister and has his office in the main building of Parliament House on the first floor.

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SC declines hearing on M’rashtra RS poll
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 23
The Supreme Court today refused urgent hearing on a petition that has challenged the Election Commission's decision to hold separate polling for three Rajya Sabha seats that have fallen vacant following the election of Praful Patel, Supriya Sule and Sushil Kumar Shinde to the Lok Sabha.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said it was not inclined to issue notice to the EC and would rather hear the matter on August 3 when it came up in the normal course. "We are not issuing any notice. 

It is coming for hearing on August 3," the Bench said when senior advocate M N Krishnamani, appearing for Rahul S Narwekar, a Shiv Sena aspirant for one of the seats, challenged the holding of elections three times by way of separate notifications. The EC's decision would benefit the Congress-NCP combine in Maharashtra.

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Minister’s ‘shoe’ remark raises storm in Assam House
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, July 23
A snide comment by Congress party leader and Assam Health Minister Himanta Bishwa Sharma against the opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has triggered a ‘shoe storm’ in the state’s politics. The minister, while participating in a debate aired by a local TV channel on the issue of central government payscales for state government employees, said: “The Congress-led state government will soon ‘hurl the shoe’ of increased salaries to employees to silence the AGP”.

The remark prompted AGP legislator and former minister Pradip Hazarika to walk out in the middle of the debate on Monday night. The next morning the AGP raised the issue in the state assembly and later staged a walkout, demanding an unconditional apology from the minister. The opposition BJP and the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) too joined the AGP in the protest, much to the discomfort of the ruling Congress.

Accusing Hazarika of “provoking” him to make the comment, Sharma said he had withdrawn the remark. However, the row is still raging with the AGP giving three days to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to arrest Sharma for his “provocative and instigating remark against the party”.

Sharma admitted he had tripped, saying: “I’ve made an unpardonable mistake by making the remark that I shouldn’t have. It was an emotional outburst after I was provoked. Since most of my formative days were spent in the AGP camp, I sometimes get influenced by the party’s traits”.

Meanwhile, the AGP has decided to take the minister’s “unsavory remark to the people’s court to put the Congress in the dock,” and is planning protests over the issue.

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Indian link? Baloch leader rubbishes Pak claim

New Delhi, July 23
A senior Baloch leader has said Pakistan is using India’s name to divert attention from real issues in Balochistan, and rubbished Islamabad’s claim of New Delhi playing a leading role in fomenting unrest in Balochistan. He also emphatically stated that this is an “age old tactic” promoted and projected by Islamabad.

“Balochistan is in Pakistan, not in India, It is not a border area and, blaming India, is Pakistan’s old tactic,” Samad Baloch, general secretary of the Baloch Human Rights Council, said.

He also said Islamabad’s claim of a diplomatic victory in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, by securing the mention of Balochistan in a joint India-Pakistan statement for the first time, would be neutralised in due course by leaders of the Baloch nationalist movement.

He said the situation in Balochistan is of Pakistan’s own making, and added that the country’s armed forces were using every weapon at their disposal, including chemical weapons and helicopter gun ships, to kill and maim innocent Baloch civilians.

“These are the same weapons which are provided by the allied (NATO) forces to fight against terrorism in Afghanistan,” Samad said.

Stating that there is widespread resentment in Pakistan’s largest province over the huge large influx of Punjabis, Samad said locals often call Balochistan a colony of Pakistan Punjab.

He also said that there is a widespread disappointment over the disappearance of Baloch nationals.

According to Samad, a majority in Balochistan feels that countries like India and Iran should come forward and rescue them from Pakistan’s clutches.

On Pakistan’s accusation that Indian consulates in Afghanistan are being used to funnel money and weapons into volatile Balochistan, Samad said: “Pakistan is hiding its own sins. These consulates have been in Afghanistan since 1950. Countries will keep their consulates”. — ANI

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WB transporters to go on strike today
Subhransgshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 23
The meeting between the state government and transport operators associations held at Netaji Indoor Stadium today for averting the indefinite transport strike ended in a fiasco and the operators stuck their decision to go on strike from tomorrow.

However, some associations want to observe one-day token strike tomorrow and then decide their future course of actions after reviewing the entire situation.

The Trinamool Congress and Congress requested Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi to intervene and resolve the crisis for the larger interests of the people and transport workers.

Worried at the outcome of the meeting, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today wrote to Union Urban Transport Minister Jaipal Reddy seeking an assistance of ad hoc of Rs 70 crore for purchasing of 1,000 new buses, which the government planned to ply in the city streets.

The transport department already decided to buy 1,300 new buses. The minister said large number of government buses and other vehicles would be in the streets from tomorrow if the strike decision was not withdrawn. The Chief Minister made a last time appeal to the operators for calling off the strike decision.

During the meeting, Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty had been mobbed and heckled by the aggrieved transport owners and workers and additional police force had to rush to the indoor stadium for rescuing the minister. But before the police could reach the venue, CITU workers present at the meeting rescued the minister and escorted him to the stadium’s much protected room in the backyard. Later, under the heavy police protection, the minister drove away from the stadium to Writers Buildings.

The meeting, which all operators owning the private buses, mini-buses, taxis, trucks and other public transports attended, ended abruptly soon after the beginning when the Transport Minister announced that the government was now firm to execute the Calcutta High Court’s banning the plying of the old vehicles ( bought before 1993) from August 1 on the pollution grounds. The government already delayed for over one year in implementing the court’s order and now there was no scope for them for making any further delay. He advised the operators to go to the higher court and seek the legal protection.

But the minister assured that the government would help the owners for obtaining bank loans for buying new buses and taxis and he requested them to withdraw their strike decision for the interests of the general public and themselves. But he warned if the operators were still sticking their strike decision, the government would take necessary legal measures in acquiring all buses, mini-buses, taxis, etc, and run them with the CSTC drivers and conductors.

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‘Love Aaj Kal’ invites wrath of Sikhs

Mumbai, July 23
The All-India Punjabi Cultural and Heritage Board has taken strong objection to the depiction of Sikh characters in Saif Ali Khan's debut home production 'Love Aaj Kal' directed by Imitiaz Ali.

Charan Singh Sapra, president of the board and Congress member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council said he had pointed out to Saif and his production team about the three scenes which were allegedly against the tenets of Sikhism.

He said both Saif's and Rishi Kapoor's Sikh characters have been shown with trimmed beard. "Young Sikhs have been wrongly inspired by Bollywood movies to trim their beards and the trend was a cause of concern to the community", he said.

Similarly, Saif's Sikh character woos a girl in a gurdwara, Sapra said adding a place of worship should not be meant for such acts. "This is against Sikhism and should not be allowed," he said. Sapra said there is a scene where 'langar' (community kitchen food) is served on plates made of leaves whereas in Sikhism it should be served in a steel utensil or a bowl.

He said before Saif held a special screening for the community members, they were objecting only to the look of the Sikh characters. "After the screening, we gave Saif and the production team other details which we found objectionable and against Sikhism," Sapra said. — PTI 

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PCI sets up panel to probe paid news coverage

Hyderabad, July 23
The Press Council of India (PCI) has voiced concern over the trend of paid news coverage reported during the just-concluded general elections and set up a two-member committee to look into the matter.

The council warned that promoting candidates in the media for a payment could deal a double jeopardy to the Indian democracy by influencing the functioning of the press and free and fair elections.

The committee consists of well known journalists Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K Sreenivas Reddy, a PCI release said today.

The committee based on inputs received from members of the council and others will co-opt members from the media if necessary.

The PCI felt that in pursuance of the mandate given to the council by Parliament it was incumbent upon the statutory authority to examine the matter in all its dimension through studies and debates to maintain the faith of public in the media and make appropriate recommendations.

"As a public utility service, the press exercises its right to inform because the public has the right to know. The press thus functions as a depository of the public trust to convey to it correct and true information when such information is being presented as a news content," it said.

"There was thus an urgent need to protect the public's right to information so that it is not mislead in deciding the selection quotient of the candidates in the fray," the release added. The issue had also figured in Parliament.

The council had received representation from a group of senior journalists, including Kuldip Nayar, BG Verghese, Ajit Bhattacharjee and Achyutanand Mishra, Vice-Chancellor Makhanlal Chaturvedi Patrakarika Viswa Vidyalaya, Bhopal. — PTI 

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BRIEFLY

Jan Morcha merges with Congress
NEW DELHI:
Jan Morcha led by Ajay Singh, son of late PM VP Singh, on Thursday merged with the Congress. “We are happy to announce that Jan Morcha national president Ajay Singh has decided to merge the party with the Congress,” AICC general-secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh Digvijay Singh told reporters here. He said party chief Sonia Gandhi and Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had accepted the merger. — PTI

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