SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE
TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

Bainsla accepts Gehlot’s offer for talks
Jaipur, July 27

The state government today managed to achieve a breakthrough in the Gujjar reservation issue with Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla accepting Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s offer for talks.

Bahuguna calls on PM, explains her stand
New Delhi, July 27
Uttar Pradesh Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi on Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to apprise him about the situation in the state and also clarify the controversial remarks she had made against Chief Minister Mayawati. The remarks, which Bahuguna says she made in “an emotional moment”, resulted in her arrest and her Lukhnow house being set on fire, allegedly by BSP members.

Entertain complaints on EVMs: SC to EC
New Delhi, July 27
The Supreme Court today directed the Election Commission to look into complaints about the reliability of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the possibility of poll  rigging.



EARLIER STORIES

Walkout in RS over spectrum allotment
Union Minister of State for Education D Purandeswari (right) with Ranjita Ranjan at Parliament House in New Delhi New Delhi, July 27
Dissatisfied over Union Communication Minister A Raja’s reply to the discussion on the functioning of his ministry, the BJP-led Opposition today staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha and demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into the spectrum allotment.




Union Minister of State for Education D Purandeswari (right) with Ranjita Ranjan at Parliament House in New Delhi on Monday. — PTI

Chinese products already banned: Sharma
New Delhi, July 27
Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has said that India was not allowing any import of Chinese chocolates, dairy products, toys and even mobile phones.

Cracks develop on three Metro corridors
New Delhi, July 27
Minor cracks have developed on 18 piers on three corridors of the Delhi Metro and the DMRC has asked a consultant firm to examine the locations to take “corrective measures”, taking no chance after the July 12 mishap that killed six persons.

Teams out to nab rape convict, SC told
New Delhi, July 27
The Rajasthan government today informed the Supreme Court that it has attached the property of Parbat Singh Rana — who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a British tourist at his guesthouse in Udaipur in 2007 — and set up search teams to nab him.

Soldiers won’t be put on menial jobs: Antony 
New Delhi, July 27
Defence Minister AK Antony today told Parliament that he has issued instructions that soldiers who are “sahayaks” - known as batmen - to Army officers will not be put for “demeaning and humiliating” tasks.

Muslim bodies slam NHRC report on Batla encounter
New Delhi, April 27
Rejecting as “biased and one-sided” the NHRC report on Batla House encounter, several prominent Muslim organisations today demanded a high-level judicial enquiry into the case, alleging that the rights body has “betrayed the trust of people by completely denying the other party to be heard.”

Exports dip by more than 30 pc
New Delhi, July 27
Indian exports declined by more than 30 per cent in just last two months and there are no signs of any recovery of Indian exports at least till October 2010, said Commerce Minister Anand Sharma here today.

Army short of 11,387 officers
New Delhi, July 27
The Indian Army is short of over 11,387 officers, Defence Minister AK Antony told the Lok Sabha today.

Teams out to nab rape convict, SC told
New Delhi, July 27  The Rajasthan government today informed the Supreme Court that it has attached the property of Parbat Singh Rana — who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a British tourist at his guesthouse in Udaipur in 2007 — and set up search teams to nab him.

Iqbal Singh sworn in Lt Governor
Union Minister of State V. Narayanasamy (L) presents a bouquet to Lt Governor Iqbal Singh in PuducherryPuducherry, July 27
Veteran Congress leader from Punjab Iqbal Singh was sworn in as the 22nd Lt Governor of Puducherry today at a colourful function at Raj Nivas here. The 64-year-old Iqbal Singh became the first Punjabi to take oath for the most powerful and revered post here. 




Union Minister of State V. Narayanasamy (L) presents a bouquet to Lt Governor Iqbal Singh in Puducherry on Monday. — PTI

Farmers take to organic farming in AP
Hyderabad, July 27
Keen to tap the huge market potential for chemical-free agricultural produce, several farmers in Andhra Pradesh have taken to organic farming.

TMC ministers to visit Lalgarh 
Kolkata, July 27
Railway minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee today said two union ministers of their party, Mukul Roy and Sishir Adhikery and the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly Partha Chatterjee would be visiting Lalgrah in West Midnapore on Tuesday.

Now, medical scheme benefit for SSC officers
Chandigarh, July 27
There could be good news for thousands of short-service commission officers (SSC) in the armed forces. They will be brought under the ambit of the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS), giving them and their dependents the benefit of medical cover in select hospitals.

Kitchlew returns to Delhi a broken man
Amritsar, July 27
Cutting a frail figure, Tafique Kitchlew, 78, the only surviving son of Dr Saifudin Kitchlew, known as the “hero of Jallianwala Bagh”, who together with his adopted daughter, Baby, had come to spend the twilight years of his life in this city, his birthplace, had to go back to Delhi with a heavy heart. He had arrived here with a mission- to write his memoirs on his family’s inseparable bonds with Amritsar where his father and grandfather were also born.






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Bainsla accepts Gehlot’s offer for talks
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, July 27
The state government today managed to achieve a breakthrough in the Gujjar reservation issue with Gujjar leader Kirori Singh Bainsla accepting Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s offer for talks.

The state government sent a team of top police and civil administration officials to Penchla Mod to initiate talks with Bainsla today morning. The officials held two rounds of talks with Bainsla and other Gujjar leaders that lasted till evening.

Later, talking to the media, Bainsla said a delegation led by him would leave for Jaipur by 8 pm. He had skipped meeting with Gehlot on Friday morning and left the state capital on late Thursday night.

When asked as to what has changed in the last three-four days, he said the CM has agreed in principle to provide 5 per cent reservation to the Gujjars, which is a positive sign.

Meanwhile, Bainsla has extended Mahapadao (sit-in) indefinitely. On what would be the fate of their sit-in in view of the talks with the government, he kept his cards close to his chest and said, “The talks would not last long. There is not much to talk about, as the Bill is ready and it only needs to be signed.”

He also expressed his intent to meet Governor SK Singh, who would be returning to Jaipur late in the evening after undergoing treatment at the US. He denied that there is any political pressure on him over the reservation issue.

It would take the Gujjar delegation at least three hours to traverse the distance between Penchla Mod and Jaipur and if they could make it in time there are chances that the talks between the two sides begin at night.

On the other hand, Chief Minister Gehlot attacked the BJP and dubbed the Gujjar agitation as the “result of the BJP’s false promises”. He alleged that the BJP wants recurrence of bloodshed in the state under the Congress rule. He said the BJP went ahead and included 14 per cent reservation for economically Backward Classes in the same Bill, despite being aware of the fact that it was not possible without an amendment in the constitution. He said he would soon meet the Governor to discuss the issue.

However, defending her previous regime, the Leader of Opposition Vasundhara Raje Scindia said the Bill is okay in its present form and it should be passed without any delay. She said if the Congress had reservations over the Bill, why it did not take any step to rectify it in the last 8 months. She said the state government was also shying away from discussion over the issue in the Assembly and that’s why the Congress MLAs did not allow the House to function today.

Meanwhile, on his return from the US, Governor SK Singh met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apparently to discuss the Gujjar reservation issue in New Delhi today. However, he denied any comment when asked whether the issue figured in their meeting.

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Bahuguna calls on PM, explains her stand
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 27
Uttar Pradesh Congress president Rita Bahuguna Joshi on Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to apprise him about the situation in the state and also clarify the controversial remarks she had made against Chief Minister Mayawati.

The remarks, which Bahuguna says she made in “an emotional moment”, resulted in her arrest and her Lukhnow house being set on fire, allegedly by BSP members.

“I was very agitated by what was happening in the state. It was a very emotive issue and in an emotional moment, I made a wrong statement,” she told mediapersons after meeting Manmohan Singh, adding specifically that she was referring to the Chief Minister of the state and not her caste. “It was not a casteist remark,” she added.

Joshi said she told the PM that burning of her house was “an act of state-sponsored violence”. “I told him that we are demanding an inquiry by the CBI, as we have no faith in the Uttar Pradesh government and how it functions,” she added. She said she also recounted the Prime Minister about the “pathetic conditions” in the Moradabad jail, where she was lodged by the Mayawati government, following her controversial speech.

She said the condition of women inmates in the Moradabad jail in Uttar Pradesh was “quite inhuman” with barracks overflowing with prisoners exceeding their designated capacity. “The barrack meant for 20 inmates was packed with 80 women and infested with cockroaches and rats. Those meant for men were comparatively better,” she said, adding that now her plan was to work for better living conditions of women in jails.

The UPCC chief’s house in Lucknow was set on fire on the night of July 15, allegedly by a group of BSP workers, after she made certain offending remarks against Mayawati. She was arrested on July 15 and charged under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for making derogatory remarks against Mayawati. She was granted bail by a Moradabad court on July 18.

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Entertain complaints on EVMs: SC to EC
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 27
The Supreme Court today directed the Election Commission to look into complaints about the reliability of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and the possibility of poll 
rigging.

A three-member Bench, headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan, issued the order while disposing of a PIL filed by office-bearers of Election Watch, an NGO, and two software professionals.

Senior counsel Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the petitioners, said three high courts, including those at Mumbai and Chennai, had sought the EC's response to similar petitions.

The commission had ignored reports of various expert committees set up by it and the government that had acknowledged the lacunae in the EVMs.

Parikh said there was no mechanism whereby the voter was convinced that his choice made on the ballot unit of the EVM was correctly recorded on the control unit.

The petitioners had suspected that the electronic chips in the EVMs contained the "Trojan" virus that could be activated and deactivated at will to rig the poll.

Further, several shipment agents handled these chips as these were being sent to Japan for fusing the codes into them.

"There is no certainty as to the origin, reliability, security and integrity" of these agents.

Also, it was not known who all had access to the processing of the code at various stages.

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Walkout in RS over spectrum allotment
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 27
Dissatisfied over Union Communication Minister A Raja’s reply to the discussion on the functioning of his ministry, the BJP-led Opposition today staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha and demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into the spectrum allotment.

As Raja invited the ire of Opposition leaders, he threw the ball in the court of regulator TRAI to revisit the entry fee structure for telecom licenses.

In his nearly two-hour reply during the debate, the Minister took shelter in TRAI guidelines for the entry fee for telecom licenses costing Rs 1,651 crore along with spectrum in 2007.

Raja who skirted the demand for JPC probe, said TRAI is a statutory body and it was for it to revisit the entry fee. He defended the policy of giving licenses without auctioning spectrum and said the rules had resulted in higher tele-density and huge revenue for the government. He said the spectrum allotment had been done on first-come-first-serve basis.

So far, said the Minister, the government had collected Rs 68,000 crore and in 2007-08 alone the government got Rs 23,000 crore.

However, Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley accused him of skirting the core issue whether the Rs 1,651 crore license fee was a fair value. He described the episode as a “monumental scam” before leading a walkout.

The issue of the scam came up after the two start-up firms, Unitech and Swan (which had bagged the licenses for Rs 1,651 crore each), sold off their stakes to foreign partners at a huge premium. Unitech sold 67 per cent of the share for Rs 6,120 crore to Norway's Telenor, leading to an outcry over alleged under-valuation of radio frequency.

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Chinese products already banned: Sharma
Faraz Ahmad

New Delhi, July 27
Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has said that India was not allowing any import of Chinese chocolates, dairy products, toys and even mobile phones.

Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha today on reports of contamination and adulteration in Chinese products, Sharma said India had banned the import of dairy products from China last September following reports of presence of melomine and fertilizers. The ban, said he, was also extended to chocolates later.

The Minister said a similar ban existed on the import of Chinese toys as well, following reports of presence of lead, arsenic and mercury in them.

Sharma said that China had even approached the WTO against the ban on its products, following which it (China) was asked to strictly adhere to international standards on export of items like toys. India, too, is observing the same standards while allowing imports. Besides, it has also to adhere to the standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards, he said.

The Minister also claimed that India was equally severe in enforcing international food standards while importing food products from various countries, including China. He said China approached the WTO Technical Barriers in Trade Committee in March and June this year against Indian ban. India, in turn, clarified that it had imposed the ban on Chinese products to protect the health and safety of its children, he said.

And as for Chinese mobile phones flooding Indian markets, the Commerce Minister said a ban on these handsets had been imposed on the grounds that they did not carry international mobile equipment identification (IMEI) number. 

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Cracks develop on three Metro corridors

New Delhi, July 27
Minor cracks have developed on 18 piers on three corridors of the Delhi Metro and the DMRC has asked a consultant firm to examine the locations to take “corrective measures”, taking no chance after the July 12 mishap that killed six persons.

Describing the cracks as “hairline” ones, the DMRC said these were noticed by DMRC engineers and Shirish Patel and Associates, who conducted a structural audit on all the Metro corridors, which are under-construction now.

“They found hairline cracks on eight piers of the Central Secretariat-Gurgaon corridor, two piers of the NOIDA corridor and eight piers of the Central Secretariat-Badarpur corridor. All appear to be minor in nature,” DMRC Chief Public Relations Officer Anuj Dayal said. — PTI

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Teams out to nab rape convict, SC told
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 27
The Rajasthan government today informed the Supreme Court that it has attached the property of Parbat Singh Rana — who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a British tourist at his guesthouse in Udaipur in 2007 — and set up search teams to nab him.

The government has also suspended two DSPs, Brijinder and Gopal Singh Rathore, for dereliction of duty as they failed to arrest Rana, whose bail was cancelled on January 16 this year by the apex court.

Attorney General GE Vahanvati handed over the action taken report (ATR) to a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and AK Ganguly in a sealed cover stating that disclosure of its details could hamper the search for Rana.

Appearing for the victim, counsel Nikhil Jain, expressed doubts over the commitment of the police in nabbing the convict. Principal Secretary (Home) SN Thanvi was also present in the court. The Bench, however, exempted him from appearance during subsequent hearings and directed the state government to provide a progress report after three weeks.

According to the state government, search teams have been sent to various places, including Surat, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh.

A fast track court had tried Rana and awarded him the sentence. Subsequently, Rana approached the HC and obtained bail and stay on conviction. 

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Soldiers won’t be put on menial jobs: Antony 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 27
Defence Minister AK Antony today told Parliament that he has issued instructions that soldiers who are “sahayaks” - known as batmen - to Army officers will not be put for “demeaning and humiliating” tasks.

He further said the sahayaks would not be employed in menial house-hold work and issued elaborate instructions to ensure “strict checks” to prevent their misuse. Sahayaks would be attached to regular Army units and provided proper living accommodation and messing facilities.

“The officer to whom Sahayaks are provided will ensure such facilities are arranged,” Antony said.

“It is the duty of all officers and junior commissioned officers (JCOs) and commanders in the chain to ensure that strict checks are instituted to prevent misuse of Sahayaks and that any violation of existing instructions and guidelines should be dealt with immediately,” Defence Minister AK Antony told the House in a statement.

He was replying on the status of implementing the recommendations made by the parliamentary standing committee. Antony said the Army was told that under no circumstances should the dignity and self-respect of a soldier be lowered.

Any practice that lowers the self-esteem of a soldier is to be abhorred. Formation and Unit Commanders uphold the honour and dignity of job of the individual soldiers. In this context, it is always ensured and shall continue to be ensured that soldiers are not employed on a demeaning and humiliating tasks, Antony said in his reply.

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Muslim bodies slam NHRC report on Batla encounter

New Delhi, April 27
Rejecting as “biased and one-sided” the NHRC report on Batla House encounter, several prominent Muslim organisations today demanded a high-level judicial enquiry into the case, alleging that the rights body has “betrayed the trust of people by completely denying the other party to be heard.”

Coordination Committee of Indian Muslims (CCIM), an organisation comprising eight prominent Muslim organization, including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, announced that it would stage a protest demonstration in the national capital tomorrow to press their demand and further continue its “struggle” till judicial enquiry into the case was ordered. The NHRC in its report, submitted to Delhi High Court on July 22, gave a clean chit to Delhi Police in the Batla House encounter case in which two suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists and a police officer were killed last year, saying there was no rights violation and action taken by police was fully protected by law — PTI

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Exports dip by more than 30 pc
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 27
Indian exports declined by more than 30 per cent in just last two months and there are no signs of any recovery of Indian exports at least till October 2010, said Commerce Minister Anand Sharma here today.

Replying to starred question in the Lok Sabha Sharma blamed it all on “no signs of recovery in the global economic scenario,” but claimed that manufacturing industry in India has started showing signs of recovery.

Listing out the products or sectors, whose export was most affected by global economic recession, the minister mentioned the gems and jewellery industry, labour intensive sectors like textiles, handicrafts, handlooms, leather and marine products.

He listed several stimuli packages the government has effected in the budget to improve the marketability of this sector and make these more competitive in the international market.

The minister said, “We do hope that steps taken by the government will have stabilising impact on the domestic exports sector.”

He said the downfall in export of jewellery, textiles, leather, marine products and handicrafts started since October 2008.

“In March/April exports were down by 33 per cent but in the last two months the decline is less than 30 per cent,” Sharma said.

“I can say that due to various steps taken by the government, the sharp fall has been arrested,” he said, adding “Government and the RBI are closely monitoring the economic developments in the country and global situation and have been taking appropriate steps to arrest the decline in exports. The government announced a number of measures in the stimulus packages and in the budget 2009-10,” he said.

He mentioned how the government has eased credit terms, increased forex liquidity and reduced excise duty across the board by 4 per cent for all export products except petroleum products.

The minister, however, mentioned improvement of growth in manufacturing and core sector like steel, cement, automobiles and other capital goods industry, which Sharma said touched double digit this June.

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Army short of 11,387 officers

New Delhi, July 27
The Indian Army is short of over 11,387 officers, Defence Minister AK Antony told the Lok Sabha today.

While the Navy was short of 1,512 officers, the shortage in the Air Force was 1,400, he said in a written reply. However, there is no significant shortage of personnel below officer ranks (PBORs) in the Armed Forces and nearly a lakh joined the army in that category in the last three years.

As many as 5,033 officers and 96,453 PBORs joined the Army in the last three years, while 1,209 officers and 6,792 PBORs were enrolled by the Navy during the same period. As many as 1,451 officers and 21,311 PBORs joined the Air Force in the last three years, Antony said.

During the last three years and in the current year, 3,764 officers and 27,477 PBORs of Army, 842 officers and 126 PBORs of Navy and 893 officers and 3961 PBORs of Air Force have sought discharge/voluntary retirement.

Listing the steps taken to motivate the service personnel to continue in service and attract youth to join armed forces, Antony said all officers, including those in Short Service Commission (SSC) were now eligible to hold substantive rank of Captain, Major and Lieutenant Colonel after two, six and 13 years of reckonable service respectively. — PTI

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Teams out to nab rape convict, SC told
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, July 27 
The Rajasthan government today informed the Supreme Court that it has attached the property of Parbat Singh Rana — who has been sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a British tourist at his guesthouse in Udaipur in 2007 — and set up search teams to nab him.

The government has also suspended two DSPs, Brijinder and Gopal Singh Rathore, for dereliction of duty as they failed to arrest Rana, whose bail was cancelled on January 16 this year by the apex court. 

Attorney General GE Vahanvati handed over the action taken report (ATR) to a Bench comprising Justices Markandey Katju and AK Ganguly in a sealed cover stating that disclosure of its details could hamper the search for Rana.

Appearing for the victim, counsel Nikhil Jain, expressed doubts over the commitment of the police in nabbing the convict. Principal Secretary (Home) SN Thanvi was also present in the court. The Bench, however, exempted him from appearance during subsequent hearings and directed the state government to provide a progress report after three weeks.

According to the state government, search teams have been sent to various places, including Surat, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh.

A fast track court had tried Rana and awarded him the sentence. Subsequently, Rana approached the HC and obtained bail and stay on conviction. 

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Iqbal Singh sworn in Lt Governor
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Puducherry, July 27
Veteran Congress leader from Punjab Iqbal Singh was sworn in as the 22nd Lt Governor of Puducherry today at a colourful function at Raj Nivas here.

The 64-year-old Iqbal Singh became the first Punjabi to take oath for the most powerful and revered post here. Besides, he had the rare honour of being sworn-in by the Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Hemant Laxman Gokhale, instead of the Puducherry Sessions Court's Chief Justice.

Prominent personalities, including Union Minister V Narayanasamy, Puducherry Chief Minister V Vaithilingam, former Lok Sabha Speaker and senior Akali leader Charanjit Singh Atwal, Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee president Anit Kumar Sharma greeted the new Lt Governor with garlands and bouquets. Leading politicians, ministers and MLAs of the Union Territory also met Iqbal Singh and exchanged greetings.

Speaking to reporters after the swearing-in ceremony, Iqbal Singh invited businessmen from Punjab to invest in Puducherry. Punjab has seen good progress in agro-based industries and agriculture, he pointed out and welcomed agro-based industrialists from the state to bring their investments, experience and technology to the Union Territory, which would pave the way for its development.

When asked about his plans to promote tourism in Puducherry, the Lt Governor said the union territory has a lot of potential for tourism as it had one of the beautiful beaches in the world and a peaceful environment. He would like to promote medical tourism in Puducherry as it had lot of quality hospitals and health care facilities. He would explore the possibilities of developing health facilities, besides utilising the beautiful beaches by developing and improving the facilities near them.

Outlining his priorities, he said construction of an airport, which would be helpful for the easy access of tourists, beach beautification and uplifting the poor people would be his main agenda and discuss the schemes and ways with the state government. He would also like to develop health care for the poor, besides improving the livelihood of senior citizens with old-age pension.

Greeting the people of the union territory, he said the people of Punjab showered love and affection for him and the cultured people of Puducherry were showing similar affection to him. He would serve the people and work with the state government for their development and welfare, he added. 

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Farmers take to organic farming in AP
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, July 27
Keen to tap the huge market potential for chemical-free agricultural produce, several farmers in Andhra Pradesh have taken to organic farming.

Their efforts are bearing fruits now. About 6,000 farmers from 138 villages across the state stand to gain as organic farming they are practicing will fetch a premium price for their produce.

Efforts are on to get Group Certification for them from National Centre for Organic Farming in Ghaziabad. Once they obtain certification, their produce will fetch better returns in the market and also open up export avenues.

Helping the farmers in this unique endeavour is the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP), under the state’s rural development ministry.

SERP, which has been promoting Non-Pesticidal Management (NPM) programme in the state, has initiated the certification process.

“We are going for group certification under the Participatory Guarantee Scheme so that it is cost effective for the farmers and they get a better price for their produce,” T Vijay Kumar, the Chief Executive Officer of SERP, said.

The farmers, selected for certification, were first convinced about the environmental hazards of synthetic pesticides. Under NPM programme, they were encouraged to switch over to organic farming which does not use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. They have been practising organic farming for the past three years.

The National Centre for Organic Farming, along with the Organic Farmers’ Association of India, will train these farmers to become field inspectors and conduct random checks for soil and crop quality and maintain field records.

There is a huge, untapped potential in the domestic market for chemical-free produce, the officials said.

The certification will fetch the farmer an additional Rs four to five per Kg for each crop. The certified produce will carry a unique number indicating its origin.

The NPM had originally started as a campaign to get farmers to give up pesticides to earn better. The state rural development ministry took it forward through SERP which is currently implementing NPM in 3,000 villages across 18 of the total 23 districts in the state.

The farmers are now discovering that growing pesticide-free vegetables, grains and pulses is profitable. They have been able to cut the cost of cultivation by saying no to chemical pesticides.

The NPM farming has also benefited from National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) after the state government integrated the two programmes. The labourers are paid from funds for rural employment scheme to dig farm ponds, making compost pits, land development and removing silt from dried water tanks and ponds that can be used for improving soil nutrients.

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TMC ministers to visit Lalgarh 
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Kolkata, July 27
Railway minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee today said two union ministers of their party, Mukul Roy and Sishir Adhikery and the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly Partha Chatterjee would be visiting Lalgrah in West Midnapore on Tuesday.

She said it would be the duty of the state government to ensure proper protection to the ministers who would assess the ground situation at Lalgarh and also distribute relief materials to the tribals there.

Earlier in the morning, Home Minister P Chidambaram asked Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to provide adequate security to the TMC leaders, Notably, on the instruction of Chief Secretary AM Chakraborty, the district magistrate, NS Nigam had requested the TMC leaders to not visit Lalgarh since the situation there was yet to be normal. Section 144 of the CrPC still prevails at Lalgarh and it might not be possible for the district administration to ensure property security for ministers, the DM said in his letter.

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Now, medical scheme benefit for SSC officers
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 27
There could be good news for thousands of short-service commission officers (SSC) in the armed forces. They will be brought under the ambit of the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS), giving them and their dependents the benefit of medical cover in select hospitals.

Though the Defence Minister has approved of the move a few months ago, the Army Headquarters and the medical directorate are still working out the details. Provision of medical cover under the ECHS has been a major demand of SSC officers.

“The Raksha Mantri in principle has agreed to grant ECHS membership to SSC officers, but the details are yet to be finalised,” the Adjutant General’s Branch stated in response to a query under the Right to Information Act. A draft proposal was sent to the Adjutant General and a fresh proposal was to be sent after carrying out necessary amendments, the reply added.

The ECHS provides its members free treatment in empanelled government and private hospitals. A one-time lump sum payment is required at the time of obtaining membership. Though SSC officers were not covered under the ECHS, they were entitled to treatment in military hospitals till it was stopped some time ago. The matter was raised with service headquarters and the Defence Ministry and as an interim measure, they are being entertained in military hospitals.

A detailed representation was also sent to the Adjutant General and the armed forces medical directorate last week by the Directorate of Sainik Welfare Punjab, stating that the regulations have been misinterpreted by the authorities concerned to deny SSXC officers medical treatment in military hospitals.

Drawing support of various documents and relevant orders issued from time to time, the Directorate of Sainik Welfare maintained that earlier, medical facilities were only available to ex-service pensioners and their dependents and families of deceased personnel drawing pension of some kind. Then in 1996, the MoD directed that the term “ex-service pensioners” be replaced by the term “ex-servicemen”. Consequently, entitled categories became ex-servicemen covered under the definition of “Ex--serviceman” issued by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), their dependents and families of deceased personnel drawing pension.

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Kitchlew returns to Delhi a broken man
Varinder Walia
Tribune News Service

Amritsar, July 27
Cutting a frail figure, Tafique Kitchlew, 78, the only surviving son of Dr Saifudin Kitchlew, known as the “hero of Jallianwala Bagh”, who together with his adopted daughter, Baby, had come to spend the twilight years of his life in this city, his birthplace, had to go back to Delhi with a heavy heart. He had arrived here with a mission- to write his memoirs on his family’s inseparable bonds with Amritsar where his father and grandfather were also born.

“I had spent my entire savings to bring my modest belongings from my home in Delhi. However, after staying with my childhood friend, Harpal Singh Sufi, for a few months I had to go back immensely disappointed after no one offered to give me accommodation on rent just because I was a Muslim,” he lamented.

Talking to The Tribune, Tafique said he as well as his four brothers opted not to marry. “I decided to return to Delhi since most of my childhood friends here had refused to meet me,” he added.

“I wanted to have a feel of Amritsar after decades of staying away. I enjoyed speaking Punjabi during my brief stay here,” he remarked.

Though both the central and Delhi governments are paying Tafique a pension sanctioned for freedom fighters the entire amount is spent on his medical treatment and the ‘adopted’ daughter. The free dingy accommodation provided by the social welfare department is located in a distant Delhi suburb and hardly anyone visits him. He has been suffering from malaria as the accommodation does not have doors with wire mesh.

“Though I’m entitled to get free medicines doctors refuse to acknowledge me as a freedom fighter,” Tafique said in a choked voice. However, he has been receiving some financial help from his relatives in the Pakistani capital Islamabad. He lamented his dream to settle in the city with which his childhood memories were associated remained unfulfilled.

Earlier, partition of the Indian subcontinent and the bloody riots that ensued in the city forced Tafique’s family to leave for Delhi. Of his five sisters two married in Pakistan. After doing his MA (history) from Delhi University, he went to Poland for doing research on the Polish labour movement and later to West Germany for learning German. Subsequently, he taught in various educational institutions in Ethiopia. Eventually he returned to India and devoted himself to research on the life of his father.

He wrote “Dialectics of Peace,” a political biography of Saifuddin Kitchlew (1947-1963). In the course of narrating the events he also provides a glimpse life into events in the city during the turbulent days of Partition.

A great son of the city, Saifuddin Kitchlew, whose ancestral roots lay in Kashmir, was credited as the hero of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. He was hailed as one of the most prominent freedom fighters during the freedom struggle of the country and was a strong votary of Hindu-Muslim unity. He fiercely opposed the country’s division along religious lines and refused to migrate to the newly created Pakistan unlike hundreds of thousands of Muslim families settled here.

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BRIEFLY

Razi enters Assam Raj Bhavan
GUWAHATI:
Syed Sibtey Razi was sworn in as Governor of Assam on Monday. Guwahati High Court Chief Justice J Chelameswar administered the oath to Razi at a simple ceremony at the Raj Bhavan here. Razi, who earlier was Governor of Jharkhand, succeeded Shiv Charan Mathur who passed away in New Delhi on June 25. — PTI 

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