SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



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

After N-sub, unmanned undersea vehicle
New Delhi, August 2
A week after India entered the exclusive club of nations having its own nuclear powered submarine, it is now on the verge of taking another technological leap, or rather a strategic plunge. A secretly developed unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) with the capability to stay submerged while snooping around for hours without being detected is almost ready.

Weak monsoon leads to job drought in AP
Hyderabad, August 2
With monsoon playing truant, a spectre of drought looms large over Andhra Pradesh, triggering fears of large scale rural unemployment and fall in agricultural production.

Call all-party meeting: BJP
Crisis in Jharkhand



EARLIER STORIES

Minister of State for Railways E Ahmad breaks down at the funeral of Syed Shihab Thangal, leader of the Indian Union Muslim League, in Malappuram on Sunday.
Minister of State for Railways E Ahmad breaks down at the funeral of Syed Shihab Thangal, leader of the Indian Union Muslim League, in Malappuram on Sunday. — PTI

Ramesh briefs Editors Guild on climate change 
New Delhi, August 2
India is making all-out efforts to mobilise the support of major developing countries, including BRIC (Brazil, Russia and China) members, and of its neighbours such as Pakistan and Bangladesh on the issue of climate change and emission norms, Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh has said.

High Court makes AICTE see reason
New Delhi, August 2
There certainly is some merit in the government’s decision to wind up existing regulators of technical and university education in India. Bolstered by their absolute powers to approve courses and colleges, these bodies have been nurturing several vague notions of what should (and should not) be done.

HC verdict on homosexuality well researched: Moily
New Delhi, August 2
Law Minister M Veerappa Moily has described the Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising homosexual relations between consenting adults as “well-researched, well-documented and well-argued”.

Buta to cooperate with CBI
New Delhi, August 2
Sticking to his decision of not resigning following the arrest of his son by CBI in a bribery case, the NCSC chairman Buta Singh today said he has "briefed" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and that he will cooperate with the probe agency if "proper procedures" were followed.

A school girl carries balloons having the face of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi printed on them at Gandhinagar on Sunday. Modi flagged off ‘Only Cycling on Sunday’, a campaign to conserve fuel launched on the 45th anniversary of the foundation stone laying of Gandhinagar.
A school girl carries balloons having the face of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi printed on them at Gandhinagar on Sunday. Modi flagged off ‘Only Cycling on Sunday’, a campaign to conserve fuel launched on the 45th anniversary of the foundation stone laying of Gandhinagar. – AFP 

India extends relief to Lankan Tamils
New Delhi, August 2
The tenure of the Indian Armed Forces Field Hospital Unit providing succour and relief to the internally displaced Tamil civilians in Manikfarms Camp in Sri Lanka since March 9 has been extended by another two months at the request of the island government. This is the third extension granted to the field hospital unit, an official press note said today.

43 years on, mystery shrouds Shastri’s death 
New Delhi, August 2
Was any post-mortem conducted on the body of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to know the causes of his mysterious death in Tashkent, in the erstwhile USSR, in 1966? The Delhi Police in its reply to an RTI application has said it does not have any record pertaining to the death.

Parties vie to cut into AIADMK vote bank
Chennai, August 2
With the principal opposition party, the AIADMK and its ally MDMK, boycotting the polls to the five Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu, actor Vijaykanth's DMDK, the Left and the BJP are vying with one another to garner the votes of AIADMK supporters.

Mamata wants rail coach unit at Singur
Singur (Hooghly), August 2
Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee today said that her ministry would, if the acquired 1,000 acres of land at Singur was handed over to it, set up a mega rail coach factory in the vacant 600-acre plot there after returning the disputed 400 acres to unwilling farmers.

Pro-Kannada activists protest Karunanidhi’s visit to Bangalore
Bangalore, August 2
The continuing tension between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over the issue of sharing the Kaveri river water has cast a shadow on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s visit to his daughter’s farmhouse on the city’s outskirts as well as his scheduled trip here to unveil Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar’s statue in the city.

A villager uses a handpump to raise water for an elephant at Agaratoli, some 200 km east of Guwahati, in Kaziranga National Park on Sunday.
A villager uses a handpump to raise water for an elephant at Agaratoli, some 200 km east of Guwahati, in Kaziranga National Park on Sunday. — AFP 

Maoists kill 2 CPM leaders
Midnapore (WB), August 2
Maoists shot dead two CPM leaders and issued posters threatening to kill six other Marxists in West Midnapore district as violence continued unabated in strife-torn Lalgrah, in spite of a month-old operation by joint security forces.

Plea to declare Aila national calamity
Kolkata, August 2
Senior CPM leader and MP Sitaram Yechury today demanded that cyclone Aila, which devastated many areas in West Bengal recently, should be declared a “national calamity”.

M’rashtra govt staff to go on strike from today
Mumbai, August 2
Nearly 22 lakh state government staff, including secondary school teachers, junior college teachers and non-teaching staff, will go on indefinite strike from tomorrow demanding the implementation of 6th Pay Commission.

Elesh wins Rakhi’s hand
Rakhi SawantNew Delhi, August 2
Controversial item girl Rakhi Sawant tonight chose NRI businessman from Canada Elesh Parujanwala as her “life partner”, bringing to end the month-long ‘Swayamwar’ drama that kept millions of viewers hooked to their TV screens. Parujanwala was among the top three finalists who waited anxiously to be 30-year-old Rakhi’s suitor.

Enforcement Directorate roped in
Mumbai, August 2
The Enforcement Directorate has been roped in to help investigations of a bribery case involving National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Chairman Buta Singh's son Sarobjit Singh and trace an alleged hawala dealer and accused in the case, Dhuksingh Chauhan.

Complaint filed against Emraan Hashmi, Mahesh Bhatt
Mumbai, August 2
An activist of the Bharatiya Janata Party has filed a complaint with the police stating that actor Emraan Hashmi and his uncle filmdirector Mahesh Bhatt were fomenting communal tension in the city following their allegation that the former was not allowed to buy a flat in suburban housing society because of his religion.

Quota euphoria may not last long
Jaipur, August 2
The Gujjars and Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) in Rajasthan may have been upbeat over getting reservation in the state government jobs, but their excitement may not last long as legal experts feel that the Act’s provisions will not stand in the eyes of law.

AP govt draws flak over power project
Hyderabad, August 2
The Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to revive a long-forgotten thermal power project by the Hinduja Group at coastal city of Visakhapatnam has come under flak from opposition parties and environmental groups.

Auroville - a model for using solar energy
Puducherry, August 2
Auroville, a spiritual community in the union territory, shows the way in using renewable energyy sources for daily use and live a life of harmony with the nature, instead of polluting the environment with fossil fuels.

23 girls caught impersonating in Bihar nursing exam 
Patna, August 2
The famous Bollywood flick "Munnabhai MBBS" may have inspired many other boys to play Munnabhai in different examinations across the country, but in Bihar the film seems to have to left a deep impression on many ‘behens’ (girls) as well.

Nitish orders probe into Bagmati breach
Patna, August 2
Just when the Bihar government was to declare a majority of its districts as drought hit, a breach in it’s newly made embankment of Bagmati river under Sitamarhi district near the Indo-Nepal border has created a flood-like situation on Saturday. Around 100 villages under Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur districts were marooned by this flash flood affecting a population of around 50,000.

Centre mulls amendment to 6th Schedule
Guwahati, August 2
With diversion and alleged pilferage of Central funds meant for development by the authorities in hill autonomous district councils in the Northeast becoming a major impediment to development of those areas, the Centre has initiated steps to amend the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Another Taj project runs into trouble
Agra, August 2
Yet another mega project in the name of promoting tourism around the Taj Mahal has run into trouble with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) opposing a plan for a ropeway behind the world famous monument.

Manipur steps up security for migrants
Imphal, August 2
With 16 migrant labourers having been killed by unidentified gunmen in four valley districts of Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishenpur this year, the Manipur government has stepped up security at places where they reside, official sources have said.






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After N-sub, unmanned undersea vehicle
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
A week after India entered the exclusive club of nations having its own nuclear powered submarine, it is now on the verge of taking another technological leap, or rather a strategic plunge. A secretly developed unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) with the capability to stay submerged while snooping around for hours without being detected is almost ready.

The vehicle, expected to be floated by the yearend, is designed to assist in locating under sea mines, intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance besides other uses like environmental sensing and mapping the ocean floor. It comes at time when coastal security is high on the government’s agenda. Yesterday Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convened a meeting of the National Security Council at which coastal security dominated the proceedings. The defence and home ministers as well as the three service chiefs were among those present.

The United States has pioneered unmanned undersea vehicles having introduced them a dozen years back. A couple of years ago it sent in UUVs to scour the sea off Iraq before its warships moved in. China is also fast closing in while the British already have such vessels in their fleet.

In India the basics are ready with the UUV being pilot-tested at a secret location, said sources. This is the naval variant of what is called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV that the IAF and the Indian army are using for real time intelligence gathering.

The sources confirmed India’s undersea snooper is about 4 to 6 feet in length, flat in shape and is loaded with sensors while a high resolution object finder is also on board. Undersea photography is difficult to conduct due to paucity of light. Using lights for illumination will give away the vessel’s location besides consume its batteries at a faster pace.

The UUV’s small size will make it impossible for it to be detected by other ships. At present the vessel has been fitted with batteries that can operate for six hours at a stretch. It plummets to a depth between 500 and 600 meters and can then be pulled up on board the mother ship to be recharged, the sources added.

The sources indicted to The Tribune attempts were being made to procure fuel cell technology to operate this vessel. This would enable the UUV to remain submerged for a longer period of time while carrying more powerful sensors. Though the technology was available in the open market the US was creating hurdles in its procurement. “However, the question being asked is - what do you need it for?” said a source close to the defence ministry.

Fuel cells convert the chemical energy produced by a fuel, which are then oxidized into electricity by electrochemical reactions.

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, using hydrogen and oxygen, are emerging as a likely replacement for batteries as an efficient power source for undersea vehicles. These have a high efficiency at low temperatures and pressures, have no liquid electrolyte and can operate at high power densities. Also, PEM fuel cell technology is sufficiently well developed to provide a viable power source for UUVs, the source added.

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Weak monsoon leads to job drought in AP
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, August 2
With monsoon playing truant, a spectre of drought looms large over Andhra Pradesh, triggering fears of large scale rural unemployment and fall in agricultural production.

For Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy, who never misses an opportunity to claim that the “Rain God” has always been benevolent with his government, the present adverse seasonal conditions have come as a major setback.

While Reddy’s first tenure was marked by copious rains and bountiful crops for five consecutive years, the second innings has started on a disappointing note.

As per official estimates, nearly 80 per cent of the state received deficit rainfall leading to a sharp fall in the area of cultivation. This apart, the failure of monsoon could render several lakhs of agricultural labourers jobless and it is estimated that the demand for wage employment under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) will go up to Rs 600 crore per month involving nearly 35 lakh labourers.

Barring three districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam in north coastal Andhra, the entire state received deficient rainfall.

“Keeping in view the adverse seasonal conditions, we have sanctioned Rs 45.5 crore to take up contingency measures and encourage farmers to in go for alternative crops that are less dependent on water,” Revenue Minister D Prasada Rao said. The state has received an average rainfall of 149.5 mm as on July 30, against normal level of 292.2 mm, leaving a deficit of 40 per cent.

Out of 1,128 mandals (administrative units) in the state, 969 mandals have received deficient rainfall. As against the normal crop sown area of 79.07 lakh hectares, only an extent of 34.38 lakh hectares has been sown.

The Chief Minister, who convened an emergency meeting of top officials yesterday to review the situation, directed the Agriculture department to take up supply of seeds for alternate crops wherever necessary. The disaster management department has been asked to release Rs 35 crore immediately to the Agriculture department. A contingency plan has been prepared to cover two lakh hectares under different crops like maize, jowar, castor, sunflower or red gram.

The Chief Minister told the officials that the Backward Region Growth Fund, provided by the Centre, could be utilised to tackle the drinking water scarcity in 13 out of the total 23 districts. As many as 11 urban local bodies have been identified as problematic due to depletion of groundwater. “We will wait for another two weeks and then review the situation for declaring drought-hit areas,” added the Revenue Minister.

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Call all-party meeting: BJP

Hyderabad, August 2
The BJP today demanded that the Andhra Pradesh government immediately convene an all party meeting to discuss the drought-like situation prevailing in the state due to deficient rainfall.

"Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy should convene an all party meeting immediately to discuss and evolve plans to tackle the grave situation," state party chief and former union minister Bandaru Dattatreya told reporters here.

Referring to a review meeting called by the Chief Minister yesterday, the BJP leader said at least the government has realised the situation and initiated steps to tackle drought-like situation prevailing in most of the districts. He said the state government should release Rs 250 crore for taking up contingency measures in various districts. — PTI

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Crisis in Jharkhand

Ranchi, August 2
Entire Jharkhand has been declared drought-hit following scanty rainfall.

The decision was taken at the meeting of the Advisory Council of the Governor yesterday, a Raj Bhavan release said here. Earlier, the Council had announced 11 of the 24 districts as drought-hit.

In the face of severe drought, it was decided to distribute grains free of cost to BPL families, besides setting up of grain godowns at district and block headquarters. The administration has also decided to allot 12,500 new ration shops to BPL women and self-help groups. The council asked the administration to strengthen the PDS through door-to-door delivery by August 5. — PTI 

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Ramesh briefs Editors Guild on climate change 
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
India is making all-out efforts to mobilise the support of major developing countries, including BRIC (Brazil, Russia and China) members, and of its neighbours such as Pakistan and Bangladesh on the issue of climate change and emission norms, Union Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh has said.

Ramesh said the position of major developing countries would play a crucial role at the Copenhagen Summit, to be held in December. In view of this, he would soon visit several countries, including China, South Africa, Brazil, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Minister made the statement while participating in an interactive session on climate change with members of the Editors Guild of India here yesterday.

Briefing the Guild members on the current status of the negotiations with other countries on climate change and India's position on the proposed caps for emission of gases as well as that of developed nations, Ramesh said his ministry had also taken new research initiatives to measure global warming and other climate change parameters and the threat to environment and forests by industrialisation and other growth activities.

He said he would meet the members again and editors of regional language newspapers just before the Copenhagen Summit.

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High Court makes AICTE see reason
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
There certainly is some merit in the government’s decision to wind up existing regulators of technical and university education in India. Bolstered by their absolute powers to approve courses and colleges, these bodies have been nurturing several vague notions of what should (and should not) be done.

Picture this: The already-tainted All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) does not, at any cost, want a women’s technical college in the country to be converted into a co-education.

Its logic: A college, once created with the exclusive purpose of imparting technical education to girls, if opened to boys later, would defeat its own purpose. Never mind the persisting vacancies in such institutions given the dearth of girls attending technical colleges.

With misplaced ideas at hand, the AICTE opposed, for almost a year, a Haryana-based private education provider’s plea to convert his women’s engineering and management colleges into integrated campuses so that the created facilities could be well utilised.

Least concerned about empty classrooms that only put the existing infrastructures to disuse besides disregarding the government’s goal of achieving 15 per cent gross enrollment ratio by 2015, the AICTE stuck to its rigid stand until a week back when the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed it to see reason and allow conversion.

To M.K. Sahgal, the petitioner from Yamunanagar, who had been knocking at the doors of the council for approval since November 26 last, the court order comes as a breather. Even in the larger context, it is a landmark judgment insofar as it will now become a reference point for all other education providers who want to convert their failed women’s technical colleges into co-eds as and when needed.

The judgment for its part bares the hypocrisy of the council, which kept rejecting Sahgal’s request on grounds that he had availed of the special concessions the government had offered to promote technical education among women.

Even after the petitioner surrendered all such concessions and fulfilled all AICTE norms required for converting the existing college into an integrated one, the council refused to budge until the court stepped in, exposing also in its judgment the shocking fact that AICTE does not have any policy governing the conversion of girls’ institutions into co-educational.

Rejecting council’s contention of relaxed norms for women’s colleges as a reason behind disallowing their conversion into an integrated campus, the court said such relaxation, in no manner, created an embargo for a girls’ institution’s conversion into a co-ed.

“Even though the AICTE has rejected the petitioner’s plea, it has not brought to our notice any rule, regulation, norm or policy regarding the conversion of girls institutions into co-ed. Moreover, relaxation of norms to set up girl institutions cannot be an embargo for their conversion into co-educational if the institution concerned is ready to meet all AICTE norms,” states the judgment, ordering the council to allow the two girls’ colleges in question, being run in Yamunanagar under Shree Sidhivinayak Education Trust, to be thrown open to boys. 

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HC verdict on homosexuality well researched: Moily
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, August 2
Law Minister M Veerappa Moily has described the Delhi High Court judgement decriminalising homosexual relations between consenting adults as “well-researched, well-documented and well-argued”.

“One thing must go to the credit of the Delhi HC judgement. It is well-documented, well-researched. I must tell the judges: the subject may be difficult, but at the same time this is one judgement which has really stood out in the judicial annals of this country," Moily told Karan Thapar in an interview for the Devil's Advocate programme, aired on CNN-IBN news channel tonight.

This is the first time any senior minister has commented on the quality of the judgement and gone on to praise and compliment HC, the producers of the programme said in a press note.

The Law Minister explained the reason why Attorney General GE Vahanvati did not ask the Supreme Court to stay the HC judgement. The Minister said that to ask for a stay would have been “preposterous”. He also went on to suggest that if the SC upheld the verdict, the government might not seek to reverse the judgement.

"It is an important question of law, particularly relating to the Constitutional provision of liberty, privacy. They have given a judgement. As against that obtaining a stay may be sometimes preposterous, unless we have a final verdict from the Supreme Court," the minister said, responding to a query on how the people should interpret the AG's stand.

This was followed by a pointed question: "So in other words you are also saying that if the Supreme Court decides that the Delhi High Court judgement is correct, you won't take any steps to change the law and reverse the judgement?"

In reply, the Minister said, "There are occasions and occasions where the Govt will not seek to reverse a judgement. We allow the things because you know even the Supreme Court or the Judiciary will have a right to lay down the law.”

Moily accepted that Section 377 has been misused in the past and could be misused in future as well. He added that laws should not be “an instrument of exploitation, harassment or allow the authority to misuse it”.

"This is one such provision (Section 377) that has a tendency of misuse and exploitation, and it has been misused." Asked about the possibility of its misuse in future as well, he said, "Possible, possible. If it has been misused earlier, it is capable of being misused in future as well.”

Dr. Moily admitted that there were many laws in India that contradicted the Constitution and added that this dichotomy could not continue. He said this was the case because the Constitution only came into being in 1950 but several of the laws dated back almost a hundred years before that.

For example, Section 377 dated back to 1860. The Law Minister argued that either the Constitution would have to be amended to synchronise with these laws or the laws would have to be repealed so they "no longer contradict the Constitution."

“We have a Constitution - many a times the Constitution runs parallel to many many laws which were enacted earlier to the Constitution coming into force. This includes many of those provisions including some of the sections under the IPC or the evidence act. Many of these things if they are put to acid test of the constitution they may not stand up to the scrutiny of the Constitution. This is the apprehension."

Moily went on to elaborate: "Maybe, either the Constitution makers (should have seen this) or, thereafter, there should have been a proper review, so that either the laws are changed or the Constitution would have been changed, so that there would have been a proper synchronisation of the laws of the land and also the Constitution.”

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Buta to cooperate with CBI

New Delhi, August 2
Sticking to his decision of not resigning following the arrest of his son by CBI in a bribery case, the NCSC chairman Buta Singh today said he has "briefed" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and that he will cooperate with the probe agency if "proper procedures" were followed.

"I have briefed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding the facts. He has responded positively and sought more details," he said without divulging on how the matter was communicated to the Prime Minister.

"I am also seeking an appointment to meet him and explain my position," Singh, the Chairman of National Commission for Scheduled Castes, told reporters here. Accusing the CBI of "framing" him, Singh said he will not resign from his post.

"I will not resign. The CBI is not working as an investigating agency and targeting me at the behest of some people. The CBI is framing me. Arresting my son in a false case is in fact aimed at targeting me politically. CBI used my son to target me," he alleged, claiming, "I am being victimised".

Asked whether he is ready to face questioning by the CBI, he said, "I am ready to answer to all charges. I will fully cooperate if proper procedures are followed."

"I am competent to defend myself. Why should I trouble others," he said when asked whether he would meet Congress President Sonia Gandhi on the issue.

The CBI arrested Singh's son Sarobjit on Friday in Mumbai on charges of demanding a bribe of Rs one crore from a Nashik- based contractor to close a case pending before the Commission against him.

Asked about the seizure of pistols from Sarbjot's house by CBI, Buta Singh said, "My son was national shooting champion in the 1980s. These seized weapons are his licenced weapons and he was using them for practising shooting. "The licences of these weapons are with him and he would produce them." — PTI

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India extends relief to Lankan Tamils
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
The tenure of the Indian Armed Forces Field Hospital Unit providing succour and relief to the internally displaced Tamil civilians in Manikfarms Camp in Sri Lanka since March 9 has been extended by another two months at the request of the island government. This is the third extension granted to the field hospital unit, an official press note said today.

The hospital unit has a 60-member medical team comprising surgeons, pediatrician, medical specialist and lady medical officer. The team so far has treated over 21,000 internally displaced Tamil civilians, including cases of gunshot wounds, trauma, head injuries and those related to general surgery and orthopeadics at the Manikfarms camp at Vavuniya. The camp was first set up at Pulmodai.

A 30-member armed forces medical team has been sent on July 23, from Delhi to relieve the medical personnel already there since March, this year. The Indian field hospital unit is carrying out yeomen service by providing urgent medical aid to the war-ravaged Tamil civilians.

The tales of some of the treated casualties at the hospital unit give a gripping account of the extent of the treatment provided by the team that has made a difference to those affected.

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43 years on, mystery shrouds Shastri’s death 

New Delhi, August 2
Was any post-mortem conducted on the body of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to know the causes of his mysterious death in Tashkent, in the erstwhile USSR, in 1966? The Delhi Police in its reply to an RTI application has said it does not have any record pertaining to the death.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has already said no post-mortem was conducted in USSR.

The Central Public Information Officer of the Delhi Police in his reply dated July 29, 2009 said: “No such record related to the death of former Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri is available in this district... Hence the requisite information pertaining to New Delhi District may please be treated as nil.”

Author of the book ‘CIA’s Eye on South Asia’, Anuj Dhar had filed an RTI application, carrying eight questions, with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

In one of his questions, Dhar asked if any post-mortem was conducted on the former Prime Minister’s body in India to ascertain causes of his death and if not, the reasons thereof.

After the 1965 war with Pakistan, Shastri went to Tashkent to meet Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan. On January 11, 1966, a day after signing Tashkent declaration, he died under mysterious circumstances. His wife Lalita Shastri had alleged foul play and demanded a post-mortem to know the causes of his death.

The PMO answered only two questions of the RTI application saying it had only one classified document pertaining to the death of Shastri, which is exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act. It sent rest of the questions to the MEA and Home Ministry to answer.

The MEA said the only document from the erstwhile Soviet government was “the report of the Joint Medical Investigation conducted by a team comprising Dr RN Chugh, doctor in-attendance to the PM and some Russian doctors” and added no post-mortem was conducted in the USSR.

The Home Ministry referred the matter to the Delhi Police and National Archives for response pertaining to any post-mortem conducted on the body of Shastri in India.

Sunil Shastri, son of the former Prime Minister, called the transferring of application as “absurd” and a “silly joke”.

“He (Lal Bahadur Shastri) died as sitting Prime Minister. It sounds very silly that the Ministry of Home Affairs is referring the matter of death of the second Prime Minister of India to district-level police. It should be looked into by the highest authorities, like President, Prime Minister and Home Minister.”

Dhar said, “The government of India seems to have the knack for fermenting unwarranted mysteries. Nearly 44 years after Shastri passed away in the erstwhile USSR, the PMO has refused to declassify a report throwing light on how its former boss died.” — PTI 

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Parties vie to cut into AIADMK vote bank
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Chennai, August 2
With the principal opposition party, the AIADMK and its ally MDMK, boycotting the polls to the five Assembly constituencies in Tamil Nadu, actor Vijaykanth's DMDK, the Left and the BJP are vying with one another to garner the votes of AIADMK supporters.

The attempts of other parties to cut into AIADMK vote bank is causing anxiety to party leadership. It wants to ensure that its boycott decision has a major impact on the voting percentage in the five constituencies.

Clearly aware of the possibility of the AIADMK votes going to other parties, party supremo J Jayalalithaa has instructed her party supporters not to vote or work for any other party in the elections. The party leadership has given guidelines to the local functionaries at the five constituencies to ensure that its supporters does not turn up at the polling booths.

Both the AIADMK and MDMK are also exploring avenues to make people aware of their decision, to avert confusion among their supporters.

DMDK leader Vijaykanth has already made inroads into the AIADMK vote share by his continuous claims of following in the footsteps of AIADMK founder MGR, which was revealed in the voting pattern in the last Parliamentary as well as Assembly elections. The Communist parties, who are contesting alone, after many decades, are working hard to show its strength. The comrades hope that educated and politically conscious voters will prefer them over the actor's party.

The BJP, which had not done well in the general elections, will strive hard to match the Left parties performance. It is hoping to surprise observers with a strong showing.

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Mamata wants rail coach unit at Singur
Subhrangshu Gupta
Tribune News Service

Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee consoles Jharna Bhadra (R), the wife of Trinamool Congress member Shyamal Bhadra, who was allegedly murdered by CPM activists, in North 24 Pargana, West Bengal, on Sunday.
Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee consoles Jharna Bhadra (R), the wife of Trinamool Congress member Shyamal Bhadra, who was allegedly murdered by CPM activists, in North 24 Pargana, West Bengal, on Sunday. — PTI

Singur (Hooghly), August 2
Union Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee today said that her ministry would, if the acquired 1,000 acres of land at Singur was handed over to it, set up a mega rail coach factory in the vacant 600-acre plot there after returning the disputed 400 acres to unwilling farmers.

Mamata said she would persuade the Centre for sanctioning the proposed plant as a national project, which not only would employ a large number of jobless youth but also enrich the state’s industrial climate to a large extent.

The Trinamool Congress chief declared this while flagging off a new train, named ‘Andolan Local’ in memory of farmers who laid down their lives in the struggle against state government’s “forcible acquisition” of land for Tata Motors’ Nano project, at Singur station.

The train would run daily from Singur to Howrah and cater to office-goers, students and other general public during peak hours. Also, the Minister today opened a computerised reservation counter in the station premises.

On the occasion, Mamata also announced several other railways industrial projects at Singur and elsewhere for the benefit of farmers, unemployed youth and other working classes depending on cultivation and various other small-scale and cottage industries. She said the Railways would also set up a special marketing complex in the six bighas of railway land near Singur station for facilitating the farmers for selling their agricultural produce.

The TMC leader said she had no enmity with the industrialists and she sincerely wanted more industries to come up in the industrially backward West Bengal. But the industrial expansion, she stressed, should not be at the cost of poor farmers.

Meanwhile, there was a festive mood among the locals at Singur village and adjoining areas on the occasion of the inauguration of “Andolan Local” as it was taken as their victory celebration against forcible acquisition of farm land for industries.

Incidentally, the TMC supremo was, on August 24 last, herself participating in a dharna in front of Nano plant in Singur demanding return of the “forcibly-acquired” land.

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Pro-Kannada activists protest Karunanidhi’s visit to Bangalore
Shubhadeep Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, August 2
The continuing tension between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over the issue of sharing the Kaveri river water has cast a shadow on Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s visit to his daughter’s farmhouse on the city’s outskirts as well as his scheduled trip here to unveil Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar’s statue in the city. 

A heavy security cordon to fend off potential trouble mongers has been thrown around the sprawling country house in Vaderahalli in Ramanagara district, where the DMK chief is presently staying.

“We’re not allowing anyone to stray into the area”, Ramanagara district SP SB Bissnalli told The Tribune. He said besides the local police personnel of the Karnataka State Reserve Police had also been deployed in the area to provide foolproof security to the visiting dignitary.

Pro-Kannada activists had yesterday staged a protest at Sadahalli on Devanahalli Road to prevent Karunanidhi from entering the city. They blocked roads in protest against the Tamil Nadu government’s stand on the Kaveri water dispute and the Hongenakkal water project. The demonstrators were chased away by the police and Karunanidhi was able to drive to his daughter’s farmhouse without any further trouble.

The octogenarian Tamil leader is supposed to wind up his Karnataka sojourn by unveiling the statue of Thiruvalluvar, an ancient Tamil poet, in Bangalore. Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa, while on a visit to Chennai last month, invited his Tamil Nadu counterpart for the ceremony. In a reciprocal gesture the Tamil Nadu government agreed to install the statue of Kannada poet Sarvajna in Chennai.

The state government here had earlier announced Karunanidhi would unveil Thiruvalluvar’s poet on August 9. However, opposition by Kannada chauvinist groups against the statue’s installation in Bangalore has apparently forced the government to have second thoughts on the matter.

Yeddyurappa has convened an all party meeting here on the issue on Monday, after which a decision would be taken.

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Maoists kill 2 CPM leaders

Midnapore (WB), August 2
Maoists shot dead two CPM leaders and issued posters threatening to kill six other Marxists in West Midnapore district as violence continued unabated in strife-torn Lalgrah, in spite of a month-old operation by joint security forces.

Nirmal Mahato, the CPM branch committee Secretary of Amdanga, was shot dead by Maoists, who claimed he was killed for exploiting poor villagers, the police said. The Maoists then blocked the Amdanga-Lalgarh road felling boulders preventing security forces from raiding the area.

The attack came barely 10 hours after the Maoists gunned down of CPM local leader Kalipada Singh (50), at Chirugora village last night.

A gang of 15 Maoist cadre stormed into Singh’s house and killed him on the spot for alleged corrupt practices.

The Maoists had declared that Singh, convenor of CPM-backed Police Santras Pratirodh Committee, was ‘given death sentence’ in their Kangaroo court recently, the police said.

In another development, panic spread as posters (supposedly put by Maoist rebels) came up in Goaltore, Midnapore Sadar, Salboni and Jhargram warning six CPM leaders, including CPM Zonal Committee secretary of Jhargram Rabi Sarkar, of ‘justice’ at the Kangaroo court ‘very soon’.

The gunning down of the two CPM leaders was preceded by a gun-battle between the Maoists and joint police-paramilitary forces at Bhulagedia in Lalgarh two days back.

Denying the administration’s claims that three persons, including Maoists, were hit during Friday’s firing, CPM spokesman Bikash said over the telephone that a villager, Lakshmikanto Soren, was hit by the bullets while he was tilling field. — PTI

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Plea to declare Aila national calamity

Kolkata, August 2
Senior CPM leader and MP Sitaram Yechury today demanded that cyclone Aila, which devastated many areas in West Bengal recently, should be declared a “national calamity”.

Yechury, who was here to attend the two-day CPM state committee meeting ending today, told reporters that if the Kosi river flood in Bihar could be declared a national calamity by the Centre, then why not Aila in West Bengal.

Concerned over the gravity of the situation in Aila-hit West Bengal, all 31 MPs of Left parties have contributed their one-month salary to Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for relief, restoration and reconstruction work in the devastated areas, Yechury said.

He and another CPM MP Bacudeb Acharia today handed over cheques worth Rs 4.5 lakh raised by the Left Front MPs from their one-month salary to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

Yechury also said they had been allowed by the Speaker in Lok Sabha to contribute Rs 50 lakh each from MPLAD fund towards the cause, which would amount to Rs 15.5 crore.

With some more collections, total contribution by Left MPs would reach nearly Rs 20 crore, Yechury said.

Welcoming the gesture, the Chief Minister urged the people to contribute to CM’s Relief Fund for the reconstruction work in the Aila-hit areas.

Yechury also criticised Union Home Minister P Chidambaram for his comments on killings in West Bengal and alleged that everyone knew who were responsible for the killings.

“The Union Home Minister’s comment is sweeping and uncalled for. We shall ask him in Parliament tomorrow about the basis of his remark. He must have supporting documents.

Chidambaram had made the observation during a meeting with Trinamool Congress chief and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee that many districts in West Bengal had turned into “killing fields”.

During his recent meeting with Mamata, Chidambaram expressed concern over the spate of killings in West Bengal and said there should be an end to it. Claiming that all political parties have full protection in West Bengal, Yechury said, “Chidambaram should explain who turned the state into a “killing field” as he has observed”. — PTI

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M’rashtra govt staff to go on strike from today

Mumbai, August 2
Nearly 22 lakh state government staff, including secondary school teachers, junior college teachers and non-teaching staff, will go on indefinite strike from tomorrow demanding the implementation of 6th Pay Commission.

Already the University and college teachers are on indefinite ‘cease work’ strike from July 14 asking for the implementation of 6th Pay Commission and solution for other demands in writing.

The state government employees and secondary school and junior college teachers would be on strike under the banner of Maharashtriya Rajya Sarkari Madhyavarghi Sangatna, the convenor RG Karnik said.

The Coordination committee of teachers organisations, Bombay (CCTOB), said the government attacked teachers and government employees by its GR of May 13,2009.

“Although new scales have been announced, all of us stand to lose heavily because HRA (house rent allowance), CLA and transport allowance will now be calculated on the basis of old scales and each teacher/staff will be losing up to tens of thousands of rupees on this account every year,” the CCTOB said.

The two main demands of the striking staff are -all kinds of allowances which are linked to central 6th Pay Commission scales and other benefits should be extended to state government employees and all primary, secondary and junior college teachers should get the same scales as are prescribed for teachers in central institutions without any cut.— PTI

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Elesh wins Rakhi’s hand

New Delhi, August 2
Controversial item girl Rakhi Sawant tonight chose NRI businessman from Canada Elesh Parujanwala as her “life partner”, bringing to end the month-long ‘Swayamwar’ drama that kept millions of viewers hooked to their TV screens.

Parujanwala was among the top three finalists who waited anxiously to be 30-year-old Rakhi’s suitor.

He finally won Rakhi’s hand pipping Manas Katyal, 22-year-old event manager from Delhi, and Chittiz Jain, a businessman from Delhi.

Rakhi and Parujanwala exchanged rings and vows during the glittering ceremony attended by the boy’s family members, besides noted choreographer Saroj Khan and celebrities from the TV world.

Underlining that she needed more time to know him better, heavily bejewelled Rakhi said, “Today, we are getting engaged because both of us need some time together before we get married.” Giving reasons why she selected Parujanwala, Rakhi said, “He is honest.” The audiences waited with bated breath for her final decision which was announced in a song and dance extravaganza that was telecast live. — PTI

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Enforcement Directorate roped in

Mumbai, August 2
The Enforcement Directorate has been roped in to help investigations of a bribery case involving National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Chairman Buta Singh's son Sarobjit Singh and trace an alleged hawala dealer and accused in the case, Dhuksingh Chauhan.

"We have sought help from ED to throw more light on this as Chauhan is an old hawala operator and further probe from our side is on," CBI Joint Director Rishiraj Singh told PTI.

Chauhan was arrested under the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities (COFEPOSA) Act and spent over a year in jail between 1995 and 2000, he said. Singh said a team of CBI is in Bangalore searching for the third alleged hawala operator Shamalal Chaudhari who was to receive the money from Chuahan and transfer it to Delhi to Sarobjit alias Sweety Singh.

CBI arrested 40-year-old Sarobjit on July 31 for allegedly demanding a Rs 1 crore bribe from a Nasik-based contractor Ramarao Patil to close a case against him. Three others including Anu Begi, the middleman and two hawala operators, who were said to be working for Sarobjit, were also arrested. — PTI

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Complaint filed against Emraan Hashmi, Mahesh Bhatt
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, August 2
An activist of the Bharatiya Janata Party has filed a complaint with the police stating that actor Emraan Hashmi and his uncle filmdirector Mahesh Bhatt were fomenting communal tension in the city following their allegation that the former was not allowed to buy a flat in suburban housing society because of his religion.

In his police complaint filed today, Sanjay Bedia who claims to be on the national executive committee of the youth wing of the BJP, demanded an apology from Hashmi and Bhatt.

Police officials at the Bandra police station acknowledged receiving the complaint and said it would be investigated.

The Maharashtra government had earlier asked Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Rakesh Maria to probe into Hashmi’s allegation that office bearers of the Nibbana Co-operative Housing Society at Pali Hill Bandra did not allow him to buy a flat in the premises because he was a Muslim.

Hashmi and Bhatt told reporters that a token sum of Rs 1 lakh was paid to MD Suvarna, owner of a flat in the building. However office-bearers of the society did not issue a no-objection certificate for the sale to take place.

After the controversy broke, Suvarna has decided not to sell the flat to anyone. “My son who lives in Canada called to say he wants to live in the flat, so I am not interested in selling it to anyone,” Suvarna told reporters today.

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Quota euphoria may not last long
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jaipur, August 2
The Gujjars and Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) in Rajasthan may have been upbeat over getting reservation in the state government jobs, but their excitement may not last long as legal experts feel that the Act’s provisions will not stand in the eyes of law.

Moreover, the experts feel that even a constitutional indemnity may not be able to protect it from judicial review. Advocate BL Sharma said the proposed law offers reservation beyond the ruling of Supreme Court which has set a 50 per cent ceiling of the available quota.

“The Act offers 19 per cent reservation (5 per cent to Gujjars and 14 per cent to the EBCs), taking the state's total quota to 68 per cent reservation, which is much above the maximum limit of 50 per cent set by the apex court and can therefore be challenged in court,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Opposition BJP, which conceived the Bill, feels that the state government has no choice but to propose the law under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution.

“The state government should take the initiative to notify it under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution because decisions made therein cannot be challenged in court,” said the Deputy Leader of the BJP legislature party, Ghanshyam Tiwari.

However, constitutional experts hold a different view on the issue. They contend that bringing a law under the Ninth Schedule doesn’t take it beyond the purview of judiciary. They quote a January 2007 ruling delivered by the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court as per which if a law placed under the Ninth Schedule violated the fundamental right it can be subjected to scrutiny of court.

In its landmark judgement, the bench had ruled “If a law held to be violative (sic) of any rights in Part III of the Constitution is subsequently incorporated in the Ninth Schedule after April 24, 1973, such a violation/infraction shall be open to challenge on the ground that it destroys or damages the basic structure as indicated in Article 21 (read with Article 14, Article 19) and the principles lying there under.”

Advocate Sharma said there are several references where the Supreme Court has decided that a law under the Ninth Schedule can be looked into.

Governor SK Singh had on July 30 given his assent to the Bill offering 5 per cent reservation to the Gujjars and three other castes, besides 14 per cent quota to the EBCs. The Bill was pending his approval since July last year when it was unanimously passed by the state Assembly under the previous BJP regime led by Vasundhara Raje Scindia.

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AP govt draws flak over power project
Suresh Dharur
Tribune News Service

Hyderabad, August 2
The Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to revive a long-forgotten thermal power project by the Hinduja Group at coastal city of Visakhapatnam has come under flak from opposition parties and environmental groups.

The 1,040 MW power plant was originally conceived as a fast-track project in 1992 for which the then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao had laid the foundation stone. However, the project did not really take off as it was mired in disputes regarding land, power tariff and the fuel supply agreement with Coal India Ltd.

The Congress government had last month announced revival of the project with the co-chairman of the Hinduja Group, Ashok Hinduja, assuring that works would start after the financial closure, expected to be achieved in October.

However, local farmers, opposition parties and environmentalists are up in arms against the project. They contend that vast tracts of land, which fall under the coastal regulation zone, have been handed over to the Hinduja group at a throw-away price.

They also question the capability of the group to execute a project which was kept in hibernation for over one-and-half decade. “The Hindujas do not have the credentials or the requisite technical expertise to take up such a project. It is unfortunate that 15-16 years later the state government is now trying to revive it as a merchant power plant. It is also preparing to grant additional land,” former Union Power Secretary EAS Sarma said.

Sarma, a retired IAS officer, was involved in the decision-making process at the state and central levels when the project was first proposed. He is now heading a NGO, Forum for Better Visakha, which is opposed to the revival of Hinduja project. Raising objections over land allotment, he said: “More than 700 acres of the 1,100 acres at Ravada village falls within the coastal regulatory zone.”

Since no constructional activity is allowed in the 700 acre area, the project would be unviable, he argued. The government’s move to allot the land at the old price of Rs 2.5 lakh per acre was also unacceptable.

Meanwhile, the Centre has accorded environmental clearance for the project and coal linkage was also restored from Mahanadi coal fields. The Railways also cleared rakes for transportation of coal. As per the current estimates, the project is expected to cost Rs 4,800 crore. 

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Auroville - a model for using solar energy
N Ravikumar
Tribune News Service

Puducherry, August 2
Auroville, a spiritual community in the union territory, shows the way in using renewable energyy sources for daily use and live a life of harmony with the nature, instead of polluting the environment with fossil fuels.

The idea of using solar energy has its roots in the country's spiritual traditions which has propagated a peaceful life in a natural environment, while exploring the deeper states of the inner mind which simultaneously reveals the laws of nature.

The first solar panels were installed in Auroville in the early eighties. Today, it has more than 150 houses fully powered by photovoltaic panels and about 50 houses that use solar power in conjunction with a state grid connection. The total standalone photovoltaic energy capacity of Auroville is more than 15 per cent of the total photovoltaic capacity in India. Solar energy has several uses in Auroville. It is mainly used for home lighting systems, pumping water for drinking purposes and irrigation, heating water for domestic purposes, and food processing.

The Auroville temple located at the Centre is powered by a 37 KW solar power plant and is the largest photovoltaic power plant in the country. There are 150 solar water pumps being used by 150 families and nearly 50 other houses are powered partly by solar energy.

The solar kitchen utilises a reflective bowl to tap solar energy and the kitehen has a capacity to attain a temperature of 150 degree celsius for generating sufficient steam to cook more than 1000 meals per day.

Each day, the meals cooked are packed in tiffin boxes and sent to schools and work places for people's consumption. About 12 litres of diesel is saved every hour, which saves hundreds of rupees every day.

Many organisations are working in Auroville to promote solar energy and this includes the Centre for Science and Research. This volunteer based organisation is promoting renewable energy sources for a sustainable future. The 25-year old organisation is involved in many types of solar initiatives. It has installed hundreds of solar water pumps across the country and encouraged hawkers in Tamil Nadu to switch from kerosene lsmps to solar laterns.

Another organisation Auroville Energy Products is also involved in propagating solar energy. It develops solar products like solar lamps, solar charge controllers and solar inverters. It has designed a solar charged bike system, using the solar water pumps in Auroville. Both the residents and visitors can rent the solar bikes and travel for a radius of ten kilometres in the area.

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23 girls caught impersonating in Bihar nursing exam 
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, August 2
The famous Bollywood flick "Munnabhai MBBS" may have inspired many other boys to play Munnabhai in different examinations across the country, but in Bihar the film seems to have to left a deep impression on many ‘behens’ (girls) as well.

The Patna police took into custody 23 girls on the charge of impersonation from an examination centre at Shastrinagar yesterday. They were all writing the competitive examination on behalf of others for the para-medical course in nursing grade ‘A’ and ‘B’, being conducted by Bihar Combined Entrance Examination Board.

The invigilators were surprised to notice that the photograph on the admit cards looked different from the candidates appearing in the examination. Soon, a magistrate came to the examination centre and found that at least 23 girls were impersonating for others.

Later, some of them confessed that they were appearing in the examination on behalf of their relatives. The police have lodged a case of forgery against all of them and suspects involvement of a syndicate in this racket. Further probe was on to ascertain whether the girls were hired by some syndicate or they were really appearing on behalf of their kin.

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Nitish orders probe into Bagmati breach
Sanjay Singh
Tribune News Service

Patna, August 2
Just when the Bihar government was to declare a majority of its districts as drought hit, a breach in it’s newly made embankment of Bagmati river under Sitamarhi district near the Indo-Nepal border has created a flood-like situation on Saturday. Around 100 villages under Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur districts were marooned by this flash flood affecting a population of around 50,000.

The state administration was taken by surprise at this breach which appears to be man made. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered a probe by the Divisional Commissioner and Range DIG of Tirhut to ascertain whether the breach in Bagmati embankment at

Tilak-Tajpur village under Runni-saidpur block of Sitamarhi ( around 120 kms from Patna) was due to laxity of the concerned officials of water resources department or a miscreant activity. The only solace for the administration is that no lives were lost in this flash flood, said Commissioner Tirhut S.M.Raju.

The administrative officials of both the affected districts have launched rescue and relief operation in the area with the help of trained personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

Two units comprising 120 men from the NDRF with 32 motorised boats were already on the job to evacuate the marooned people. Two relief camps each have been set up by both the district authorities to provide food and medicine to the flood victims.

Meanwhile, the engineers and experts of water resources department are working round the clock to plug the breach in the embankment. They are all hopeful about competing the job by Monday morning.

The Chief Minister made an aerial survey of the flood affected areas today and held a meeting with the top officers of water resources department and Disaster Management Department to take stock of the situation and efforts being made to tackle the problem.

The irony is that most parts of Bihar are still facing a drought-like situation with the state government finalising the contingency plans to tackle the drought.

The Bagmati river having its catchment area in Nepal is infamous in north Bihar for its flash floods. At times even when there is no rain in Bihar, Bagmati swells up and also overflows due to rains across the border. This is the reason it is considered to be a river of sorrow for the people of Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur districts living by the side of Bagmati. In order to tame this river, the state government had spent a good amount of money a couple of years ago in making a strong and high embankment of Bagmati.

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Centre mulls amendment to 6th Schedule
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, August 2
With diversion and alleged pilferage of Central funds meant for development by the authorities in hill autonomous district councils in the Northeast becoming a major impediment to development of those areas, the Centre has initiated steps to amend the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

The Centre is very much concerned over the rampant misuse of development fund in North Cachar Hill Autonomous District Council (NCHADC) in Assam following recent arrest of the chief executive member of the council Mohit Hojai along with a deputy director of the social welfare department RH Khan. The case is now under investigation of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and both the accused are now under custody. They are charged with providing huge amount of money to Black Widow militant group operating in the hill district.

The Government of India would soon engage the Accountant-General to carry out audit of financial dealings in the hill council, according to an official source here. The Union Home Secretary, G K Pillai, during his visit to Assam couple of days back took stock of the financial irregularities in the NCHADC.

Pillai announced that the Centre was considering recommendations of several expert committees on bringing about amendment to the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution that is applicable to ten tribal autonomous district councils in the North East, two in Jammu and Kashmir, one in Andaman and Nicobar Island and one West Bengal. The objective is to facilitate greater financial discipline in the functioning of those councils. He said there were proposals to extend Sixth Schedule even to village council level for devolution of power in those hill areas of the Northeast.

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Another Taj project runs into trouble

Agra, August 2
Yet another mega project in the name of promoting tourism around the Taj Mahal has run into trouble with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) opposing a plan for a ropeway behind the world famous monument.

The project, to build a ropeway, a suspension bridge across the Yamuna river and a giant ferris wheel for an aerial view of the Taj, was apparently drawn up by the Agra Development Authority(ADA)without seeking clearance from the ASI or the Supreme Court.

ASI superintending archaeologist AR Siddiqui said: “We are clear and categorical that we will not allow any such project in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal. Clear-cut guidelines and rules are there which we need to follow”.

“They have not asked us for any clearance or no objection certificate. The ADA vice-chairman even claimed that the DG ASI was in agreement with his projects,” he said. “The question does not arise,” said Siddiqui.

ADA vice-chairman Tanvir Zafar Ali announced plans for ropeways-from the 17th century Taj to the Mehtab Bagh across the river and another to Agra Fort. A series of preliminary studies and surveys have been carried out by experts of the Usha Breco group.

Tanvir, while announcing the project, has also spoken about his discussions with Supreme Court amicus curiae Krishna Mahajan and his reported agreement to the ropeway.

However, Mahajan said: “Tanvir met me and I told him to get Supreme Court clearance first and then talk about the project. I never agreed. I am in fact surprised how he has gone on record saying the Supreme Court would approve of the project”.

“Tourists wanting to visit monuments behind the Taj Mahal in the Mehtab Bagh area need not take the time-consuming circuitous route via the Strachey Bridge if the plan of the ADA to construct a ropeway materialises,” said Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Hotels and Restaurant Association of Agra.

Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society president Surendra Sharma has criticised the ropeway project. He said: “Once again they are playing with the Taj Mahal forgetting what happened in the controversial Taj Corridor issue. The Dr S Varadarajan Committee appointed by the apex court had clearly recommended there should be no tampering with the physical settings around the heritage monuments”.

Is there really a need for a ropeway behind the Taj?

This question has irked many locals who want the ADA to address more fundamental issues of infrastructure for tourism development. The ADA collects crores of rupees through entrance tickets to the monuments. “The ADA is run by bureaucrats and is not under democratic control of the Municipal Corporation of Agra,” said social activist VP Singh. — IANS

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Manipur steps up security for migrants

Imphal, August 2
With 16 migrant labourers having been killed by unidentified gunmen in four valley districts of Imphal East, Imphal West, Thoubal and Bishenpur this year, the Manipur government has stepped up security at places where they reside, official sources have said.

The most gruesome incident was the kidnapping of nine migrant small traders and killing of six of them at Keibul area in Bishenpur district on June 5, the sources said.

The police had been asked patrol round-the-clock at places, particularly Imphal and surrounding areas, where migrant labourers worked, the sources said.

Non-local workers had been asked not to venture into interior parts of the state for their own safety, they said.

SSP, Imphal West district L Kailun appealed to migrant labourers to stay and work within Imphal municipality and Imphal market areas only, the sources said. — PTI

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BRIEFLY

NSA invoked against 5 for rape, murder
Mainpuri:
A district administration in Uttar Pradesh has slapped National Security Act (NSA) on five persons accused in rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl, senior police officers said here on Sunday. The girl went missing on July 1 and her battered body was recovered behind a college in Bhogaon the next day. A post-mortem report confirmed that the girl was raped and later killed, the police said, adding that her face was battered with a brick in a bid to conceal her identity. — PTI

Two militants shot dead
Lakhimpur (Assam):
Two National Democratic Front of Bodoland militants were killed on Sunday in an encounter with the police in Assam’s Dhemaji district. The ultras exchanged fire with the security forces at Santipur in the district, official sources said. — PTI 

Malegaon: M’rashtra to challenge court’s order 
Pune:
Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has said the government will challenge in Supreme Court, the special court’s decision of dropping the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) invoked against 11 accused in 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case. “We would initiate the MCOCA against those involved in terrorist activities irrespective of caste and religion of the accused,” Chavan said addressing a party rally here last night. — PTI

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