SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI



THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
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N A T I O N

6 years later, life goes on for tsunami victims
Hundreds of memorial events held across Asia in memory of the towering waves that killed 2.26 lakh persons in 13 nations

Chennai, December 26
It has been six years since tsunami struck the Tamil Nadu coast, leaving more than 8,000 persons dead, injuring thousands and rendering many homeless, but the memories of the horrid day still bring tears in the eyes of the bereaved families.

Govt-Gujjar talks fail to break deadlock
Bainsla rejects offer to include him in panel to resolve quota issue, threatens to intensify stir
Bayana, December 26
fTalks between Gujjars, who are on a warpath on the issue of job reservation, and the Rajasthan Government today failed to break the deadlock with unrelenting protesters continued blockade of several rail and road routes in the state for the seventh day.

Ship detained, Iraqis, Pakistanis being quizzed
New Delhi, December 26
Security agencies continued to grill 16 Pakistani and three Iraqi nationals who were on board an unidentified ship detained off the coast of Lakshadweep recently after the vessel illegally entered its territorial waters.

Army backtracks on Kargil papers, calls them secret
Chandigarh, December 26
Backtracking on its earlier submission before the Armed Forces Tribunal, the Army recently maintained that the reports and documents relating to the 1999 Kargil conflict were secret and hence could not be produced.



Centre Stage
THE MONKEY BUSINESS


EARLIER STORIES

In MCI opinion, mortuaries not a must for new medical colleges
New Delhi, December 26
Strange it may sound but its true. Every new private medical college in India is required to offer forensic medicine course to its students, but it is not required to have a functional mortuary to train the learners in medico-legal autopsies. The Medical Council of India doesn’t mandate working mortuaries for new private colleges despite such colleges dominating medical education. Out of about 300 medical colleges, over half are private.

WB Govt must reply to PC letter on ‘armed’ cadres, says Pranab
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee Burnpur (WB), December 26
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the West Bengal Government should reply to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s letter asking them to disarm CPI-M cadres in Jangalmahal, thus virtually rejecting the state’s claim that the letter was not with them.

Mayawati divests officer of key rank
Lucknow, December 26
Many eyebrows were raised on Christmas day when state’s senior most Dalit officer Netram was deprived of the Additional Cabinet Secretary rank. Principal secretary PWD Housing and Urban Planning Ravindra Singh is now the new Additional Cabinet Secretary of the state.
HOMAGE TO VICTIMS: Women pour milk into the sea, as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives to the 2004 tsunami, at the Marina beach in Chennai on Sunday.
HOMAGE TO VICTIMS: Women pour milk into the sea, as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives to the 2004 tsunami, at the Marina beach in Chennai on Sunday. — PTI

spectrum Scam
Vinod Rai to face PAC today
New Delhi, December 26
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), whose report on a presumed loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in 2G spectrum allocation created a storm in Parliament, will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tomorrow.

Scandal shadow over TN poll
Chennai, December 26
Despite a series of bypoll victories, a successful World Tamil meet and the popularity gained through freebies, the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu faces a challenging task in the Assembly elections next year, as the multi-crore spectrum scam looms large over the party towards the end of 2010. The year started on a rosy note with the DMK crushing its archrival, the AIADMK, in the Pennagaram Assembly byelection, which was held in March. The principal opposition party suffered a severe jolt, occupying the third place with only 15.68 per cent votes.

BJP to sacrifice infiltrators’ issue for allies
New Delhi, December 26
The BJP has decided to give its main electoral plank for decades, the issue of Bangladeshi infiltrators in Assam, a short shrift as the state elections approach early next year. The party had chosen Guwahati for its next national executive slated for January 8 and 9, with Assam assembly elections, due early next year, in mind, explained a party spokesman.
IN STEP WITH TRADITION: The IAF band performs at India Gate on Sunday.
IN STEP WITH TRADITION: The IAF band performs at India Gate on Sunday. Tribune photo: Manas Ranjan Bhui

Centre neglecting Orissa: Patnaik
Bhubaneswar, December 26
Orissa's ruling BJD today claimed that some national political parties were conspiring against the state as they were worried about the regional outfit's popularity.

Indian ship detained at Chittagong port
Dhaka, December 26
An Indian ship was today detained at Chittagong port after a Bangladeshi court issued an "arrest order" against it over a suit claiming Rs 12 crore as compensation for the alleged loss of cargo.

‘e-anatomy surgeries can reduce errors’
New Delhi, December 26
In sync with the new wave of technology-driven treatment, Indian surgeons have routed to novel ways and innovations towards optimising the patient outcomes by reducing the chances of infection and hospital stay. A simulator-based surgical training based on computer graphics could be a significant step towards patient safety as the surgery enabled by e-anatomy could minimise mishaps during the operation by 500 times, Indian experts believe. 

Looking Back: North-east
Stronger India-Bangla ties spelt doom for insurgents
Guwahati, December 26
All these recent years, India has been airing its frustration over the Bangladesh Government’s non-cooperation in rooting out North East militant bases on its soil, but with Sheikh Hasina coming to power this year, there has been a marked difference in the neighbour’s attitude.

Day after debacle, ISRO introspects
Bangalore, December 26
Data from the ill-fated Indian rocket carrying a domestic communication satellite that exploded just after launch is being analysed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to know what caused the disaster even as a veteran space scientist vouched for the robustness of the indigenous launch vehicle.

CBI judge held hostage by lawyers in Delhi
New Delhi, December 26
A special CBI judge, hearing a bribery case against a member of Bar Council of India, was allegedly held hostage inside his court by a group of unruly lawyers for over an hour here.

6 Maoist leaders arrested
Gaya, December 26
Six top Maoist leaders were arrested in a raid by the police in the Rampur area of Bihar's Gaya district, a senior police official said today.

AP Cong steps up Telangana demand
Hyderabad, December 26
Stepping up their efforts to form a separate Telangana, ruling Congress leaders from the region today said they were prepared to quit their posts for the cause and also threatened to go on a "Gandhian fast" if police cases against students were not withdrawn forthwith.

Jantar Mantar
Bureaucrat’s apologetic message to Civil Aviation Minister
It is the season for clearing misunderstandings. Take the case of former high-profile bureaucrat and present Janata Dal (U) MP NK Singh whose uncharitable remarks in the recently-publicised Niira Radia tapes about several ministers, especially civil aviation minister Praful Patel, have soured many old relationships.

16 drown as boat capsizes
Rameswaram, December 26 
Sixteen persons, including 10 women, were drowned when their boat capsized in the sea near Vazhai Theevu island in the Gulf of Mannar, off Periyapattinam coast, the police said. The victims included an Australian NRI woman, it added. The deceased, hailing from the fishermen colony of Periyapattinam village, were on a picnic between Rameswaram and Tuticorin when the mishap occurred, Marine Police DSP Thiagarajan said.

Differences in Cong over poll tie-up with BPF
Guwahati, December 26
The ruling Congress’ alliance in Assam with Bodo tribe political party, Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) is turning uneasy even as 2011 Assembly election is fast approaching.





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6 years later, life goes on for tsunami victims
Hundreds of memorial events held across Asia in memory of the towering waves that killed 2.26 lakh persons in 13 nations

Chennai, December 26
It has been six years since tsunami struck the Tamil Nadu coast, leaving more than 8,000 persons dead, injuring thousands and rendering many homeless, but the memories of the horrid day still bring tears in the eyes of the bereaved families.

The 2004 tsunami was triggered by a 9.3 magnitude earthquake, off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, causing one of the country's biggest post-independence natural calamities.

In Nagapattinam, the worst-hit in Tamil Nadu, where giant waves claimed over 6,000 lives and rendered about a lakh homeless, painful memories of the tsunami still linger, but people have moved on.

During the past six years, the government, NGOs and various voluntary organisations pumped in crores towards rehabilitation of the affected people.

Children of tsunami-hit coastal areas of the state now have access to high-quality English medium education, which was absent earlier, while the youth have taken up entrepreneurial ventures.

According to NGO volunteers engaged in rehabilitation of the affected, about 40 per cent of the women of tsunami-hit areas have become entrepreneurs and are making products such as footwear, leather articles, pickles and coir products.

Many other women have embarked on modern fish marketing activities, tailoring, mobile canteens, handicrafts making and even driving and masonry.

Besides formation of self-help groups have also helped the district's economy to grow. A study conducted by Rejuvenate India Movement (RIM), an NGO, more than eight tsunami-hit villages in Tarangambadi taluk of Nagapattinam district has revealed a remarkable improvement in the learning skills of tsunami-hit students.

In Chennai, about 500 residents of Odai Kuppam and Odai Managar at Besant Nagar here offered prayers and thronged the Elliots Beach on the sixth anniversary of the tsunami.

About 500 women at the Marina here took out a "milk-pot" procession and later poured the milk in the sea as a mark of respect for the departed.

Candle-light march and memorial service were also held. Fishermen stayed away from the sea as a mark of respect to those who lost their lives on December 26, 2004.

A section of fishermen alleged that they were yet to get the complete compensation and relief package announced by the Central and state governments.

In Tarangambadi in Nagapattinam district, where more than 700 lives had been killed due to the tsunami, the scars of the disaster have faded with time and the town is abuzz with tourism activities.

A large number of foreign tourists, mostly from the Scandinavian countries, visit the town every day, which has two major attractions - the 'Ozone-Rich Beach' and the majestic Dansborg fort that withstood the tsunami attack. It is reported that Tarangambadi ranks next only to Switzerland in having high dose of Ozone content in the breeze, which has a rejuvenating effect on health.

Silent march and candle processions were held as part of the anniversary and people observed a minute's silence at 9.17 am, the time at which the tsunami started attacking. — PTI

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Govt-Gujjar talks fail to break deadlock
Bainsla rejects offer to include him in panel to resolve quota issue, threatens to intensify stir

Bayana, December 26
fTalks between Gujjars, who are on a warpath on the issue of job reservation, and the Rajasthan Government today failed to break the deadlock with unrelenting protesters continued blockade of several rail and road routes in the state for the seventh day.
NO RELENTING: Gujjar community members during their protest that entered Day 7 at Pilupura village in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan on Sunday.
NO RELENTING: Gujjar community members during their protest that entered Day 7 at Pilupura village in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan on Sunday. — PTI

Gujjar leader Col (retd) Kirori Singh Bainsla rejected the government's offer to set up a committee with him as one of the members to resolve the reservation issue. “I want a permanent solution to this because I do not want to leave things half-way,” he said, threatening to intensify the stir if their demands were not met within seven days.

Energy Minister Jitendra Singh, an emissary of the state government, said the Gehlot administration is committed to reservation for the Gujjars but before that it has to undertake a quantifiable data of nomadic tribes who come under the 5 per cent category. “Although the High Court has given a year's time, the government may finish the task much earlier,” he said. The government is ready to set up a committee with Bainsla as one of its members to resolve the stand-off, the minister said.

The first round of government-Gujjar talks was held at Pilukapura, the epicentre of the stir, some 11-km from here in Bharatpur district. After an hour-long discussion, the minister, who described the talks as cordial, went back to Jaipur to brief Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.

Gujjar leader Roop Singh, a close aide of Bainsla, said a bandh was observed in Alwar and Sawai Madhopur. Nearly 1,000 agitators blocked Jaipur-Agra NH-11 at Patoli near Mahua in Dausa district. “Around 1,000 Gujjars have blocked the highway and vehicles are not plying,” Mahua SHO Deepak Yadav said. Agitators also disrupted traffic on Jaipur-Kota NH-12 in Bundi district. However, there were no reports of any violence.

In a relief to passengers and railways, reports said agitating Gujjars in Bhilwara were vacating the Ajmer-Indore rail route today evening after their meeting with the district administration. They, however, have not called off the agitation and said that the stir will continue, but without causing any public inconvenience.

“Gujjars agreed to carry on peacefully without causing any further problem to people, and are now vacating the tracks after our meeting with them,” Pukhraj Sen, ADM, Administration said. “The Gujjar leaders have submitted a memorandum to grant them reservation and said their agitation will continue,” he said. Three rail routes are still blocked by the agitators and it may take some more time in restoring normal train movement on the vacated route.

Later, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot reviewed the situation and discussed the issue with ministers Jitendra Singh, Shanti Dhariwal and BK Sharma at the chief minister’s office here. “Singh briefed Gehlot on the first round of talks with Gujjar leaders, while law and order situation were also reviewed in the meeting,” an official said tonight. Senior officials, including Chief Secretary S Ahemad and DGP Harish Meena, were also present in the meeting, he said.

Meanwhile, in Jammu, Gujjars sought the intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi to "provide justice" to their community in Rajasthan. They urged the Centre to take action on the basis of Justice Chopra Committee report and alleged that the Gujjars of Rajasthan had been deprived and denied of their basic rights. — PTI

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Ship detained, Iraqis, Pakistanis being quizzed

New Delhi, December 26
Security agencies continued to grill 16 Pakistani and three Iraqi nationals who were on board an unidentified ship detained off the coast of Lakshadweep recently after the vessel illegally entered its territorial waters.

Sources privy to the interrogation of the foreign nationals said today they were not forthcoming in giving out details about their voyage. The ship has been anchored off Kavaratty, the capital of Lakshwadeep.

The ship had sailed into the waters and was heading to an unknown destination when it was challenged by the Coast Guard and the Navy, the sources said.

In a bid to take on piracy, a new Coast Guard (CG) headquarters and a station were inaugurated by Defence Minister A K Antony at Lakshadweep chain of islands two days ago, on December 24.

The headquarters of the CG district-12 in Kavaratti and the station at Minicoy are part of the Coast Guard's expansion plans and to combat the looming threat from the sea brigands in the Indian territorial waters.

The initial suspicion amounted to the ship’s movement towards the Maldives, which, according to Indian intelligence, is now a preferred destination by terror groups based in Pakistan.

However, the sources did not rule out the vessel sailing towards any of the unoccupied islands in Lakshadweep or Daman and Diu areas. However, the picture would be clear once the people on board the ship being questioned by the central security agencies, the Coast Guard and the Navy, give out information, the sources said.

The ship was being thoroughly combed and a special team was being rushed from Delhi to carry out the searches as well as to interrogate the crew of the ship, they added.

The Lakshadweep chain of islands have witnessed recent piracy attempts on cargo ships in and around its waters, as 14 incidents were reported from here in the last one year. — PTI 

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Army backtracks on Kargil papers, calls them secret
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 26
Backtracking on its earlier submission before the Armed Forces Tribunal, the Army recently maintained that the reports and documents relating to the 1999 Kargil conflict were secret and hence could not be produced.

On October 25, when the case of Brigadier Surinder Singh had come up for hearing, the Army had stated that all documents were available and were in the custody of various units and locations and need some time to collect and present.

Brigadier Surinder Singh was commander of 121 Brigade at Kargil when the conflict broke out. He was removed from command in the early stages of the conflict and later dismissed from service.

In his petition he has prayed not only for professional restitution, but also for a complete investigation into the Kargil conflict, modelled on the Shimon Agranat Commission that was set up after the Yom Kippur war between the Arabs and the Israelis. 

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In MCI opinion, mortuaries not a must for new medical colleges
Aditi Tandon/TNS

New Delhi, December 26
Strange it may sound but its true. Every new private medical college in India is required to offer forensic medicine course to its students, but it is not required to have a functional mortuary to train the learners in medico-legal autopsies. The Medical Council of India doesn’t mandate working mortuaries for new private colleges despite such colleges dominating medical education. Out of about 300 medical colleges, over half are private.

The Tribune has further learnt that more than 98 per cent state governments don’t allow post-mortems and other medico-legal work to be conducted in private set-ups despite acute shortage of government forensic experts for criminal investigations.

Karnataka is the only state where private hospitals are trusted with autopsies. Maharashtra and Gujarat also allow private autopsies to some extent but all other states are too hesitant to give up control over medico-legal investigations, with top forensic experts doubting such intentions. “Why do governments fear allowing private autopsies? Is it so because evidence can be manipulated easily in government set-ups? asks a n expert.

The Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine (IAFM) has now asked the MCI to make it compulsory for every private medical college to have full-fledged functional mortuary to do autopsies and also ask private hospitals to be attached to some police stations in the area so that students get to do actual cases. “Demonstrations of post-mortems must happen at the hospital itself, not at other places as is now happening,” Dr Adarsh Kumar, general secretary, IAFM told The Tribune. Investigations also reveal that in states like Karnataka, private colleges are better trusted even by the police for forensic investigations. Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, has an envious reputation in the field and does forensic investigation for several cases involving Naxalites.

“People trust us and we get cases from far off places, even those outside our jurisdiction. Every state government, while issuing an NOC to a new private medical college, must have a clause asking such a college to do compulsory autopsies. If you can teach private students how to save lives, why can’t you teach them how to respect the dead?” wonders Dr G. Pradeep Kumar, Head, Forensic Medicine, KMC Manipal, which recently got a post mortem request involving a girl who died in Batkal, 100 km from Manipal.

Investigations confirmed her rape and murder - something an untrained MBBS from a primary health centre could have never proved. Inquiries also show that forensic medicine is allotted the least (among all subjects) marks during professional evaluation of medical students - just 100. IAFM wanted it increased to at least 200 to develop an interest of the subject among students.

Recently Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad asked the MCI to address the issue of change of UG curriculum to make doctors more sensitive to primary health care and ensure that other specialists posted in district hospitals are freed from postmortems. “How will that happen unless you create a district-level cadre of medico-legal experts?” asks Dr Pradeep Kumar.

Kerala is one state, which has posted police surgeons at district level. They are medico-legal experts in charge of complicated cases in their areas. It if further learnt that the Central Medicolegal Advisory Committee set up in 1973 had asked the Health Ministry to post two experts after every 100 post-mortems and an additional one after every subsequent 100 considering forensics of government departments have to also handle court work. This is yet to be done.

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WB Govt must reply to PC letter on ‘armed’ cadres, says Pranab

Burnpur (WB), December 26
Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said the West Bengal Government should reply to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram’s letter asking them to disarm CPI-M cadres in Jangalmahal, thus virtually rejecting the state’s claim that the letter was not with them.

“The Home Minister has written to the state government. He has fulfilled his responsibility. Now the state government should fulfill its responsibility and reply by acknowledging receipt of the letter. It is hoped that the government would fulfill its responsibility,” he told reporters here after attending a function.

Mukherjee’s comment on the letter questioning role of central forces in Jangalmahal came a day after Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh said the Secretariat had not received the letter. “I have not seen any such letter as yet,” Ghosh told reporters yesterday. Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had also expressed ignorance of the letter even after its contents were disclosed by Chidambaram on December 24.

Chidambaram’s strongly-worded letter to Bhattacharjee comes in the wake of ally Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee alleging misuse of central security forces in the state and offering to quit if her charge was proved wrong.— PTI

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Mayawati divests officer of key rank
Shahira Naim/TNS

Lucknow, December 26
Many eyebrows were raised on Christmas day when state’s senior most Dalit officer Netram was deprived of the Additional Cabinet Secretary rank. Principal secretary PWD Housing and Urban Planning Ravindra Singh is now the new Additional Cabinet Secretary of the state.

In a minor reshuffle in the bureaucracy involving six IAS officials’, 1979 batch IAS officer Netram has been evidently given a rap on his knuckles.

The powerful bureaucrat has not only been deprived of the high-sounding designation but also dispossessed of the significant departments of excise and sugarcane.

He would however, continue as Principal Secretary to the chief minister with additional charge of department of stamp and registration. Principal secretary Kapil Dev who till now was looking after department of stamp and registration is now in charge of the departments of planning and cooperatives. The charge of the vital sugar industry and cane development department held by Netram has now been added to the responsibilities of Principal Secretary Agriculture Sanjay Agarwal. Principal Secretary Irrigation K S Atoria has been given the other important department of excise that had been held by Netram.

The officer whose profile has gone up is another 1979 batch officer - Ravinder Singh. Today he was promoted to the post of additional cabinet secretary along with his existing responsibilities as Principal Secretary PWD as well as Housing and Urban Planning. He is also in charge of the ambitious Manyawar Kashiram Shahri Samagra Vikas. He continues as the CEO of UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority. Secretary Panchayati Raj Alok Kumar has been given additional charge of Housing and Urban Planning Department, the release added.

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spectrum Scam
Vinod Rai to face PAC today

New Delhi, December 26
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), whose report on a presumed loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in 2G spectrum allocation created a storm in Parliament, will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) tomorrow.

The PAC, headed by BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi, will continue with its examination of the controversial allocation of 2G radio waves and Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai is expected to put forth his point-of-view before the panel.

The CAG report has proved to be quite an ammunition for the Opposition, including the BJP and Left parties, to target the government and it is insisting that only a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) can bring out the truth in what they allege is the “biggest scam in independent India”.

The demand for JPC has led to stalemate in Parliament with the government stoutly resisting Opposition's demand.

Monday's meeting assumes added significance with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offering to appear before the committee. But there has been no official word yet about the Prime Minister making a formal request. A decision to ask Rai to appear before the powerful parliamentary committee was taken during its last meeting earlier this month. The committee has already invited views and suggestions on the 2G spectrum allocation.

“Taking into consideration the importance of the subject and the nationwide interest evinced in it, the committee has decided to invite memoranda containing views/suggestions from various individuals, experts, associations, institutions, organisations interested in the subject matter," the Lok Sabha Secretariat said in a notification.

The CAG has quantified revenue loss to the exchequer at up to Rs 1.76 lakh crore, a development that forced A Raja to quit as the Telecom Minister.

The committee has been examining the subject "Recent Developments in the Telecom Sector including Allocation of 2G and 3G spectrum" since June and has asked for views within next 15 days.

The PAC has already obtained some valuable information from the DoT, Finance Ministry, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and experts in the telecom sector through oral deposition and written submission. — PTI 

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Scandal shadow over TN poll
Tribune News Service

Chennai, December 26
Despite a series of bypoll victories, a successful World Tamil meet and the popularity gained through freebies, the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu faces a challenging task in the Assembly elections next year, as the multi-crore spectrum scam looms large over the party towards the end of 2010. The year started on a rosy note with the DMK crushing its archrival, the AIADMK, in the Pennagaram Assembly byelection, which was held in March. The principal opposition party suffered a severe jolt, occupying the third place with only 15.68 per cent votes.

Having vanquished the opposition, Karunanidhi set out to appease the Tamil nationalist groups, who were angry with the DMK for failing to stop the war in Sri Lanka. The five-day meet which began on July 23, turned out into a DMK show and was successful in attracting lakhs of people in western Tamil Nadu, which is considered a strong hold of J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK.

The month of August marked a revival of the AIADMK, whose leader J Jayalalithaa attended a series of public meetings which saw huge turnouts everywhere. As Jayalalithaa went to demonstrate her strength in major cities, a section of Congress leaders too started attacking the DMK.

The month of November saw the forced exit of DMK propaganda secretary A Raja from the cabinet, following the CAG report on spectrum allocation. As if it was not enough, raids in the residence of Raja and his family on 8 December, sounded alarm bells in the DMK camp. The most crucial blow followed on 15 December, when raids were conducted in an NGO called “Tamil Maiyam” patronised by DMK chief Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, indicating a connection between the major scam and the Chief Minister’s family.

As Tamil Nadu enters the election year, spectrum scam has emerged as the major issue, overshadowing the bypoll wins, a successful Tamil meet and a spate of populist schemes. Now, everything related to 2011 Assembly polls, the alliance formation, election campaign and outcome heavily relies on developments and the direction of CBI investigation into this scam.

It is already clear that the CBI probe has moved uncomfortably close to the DMK’s first family. As the spectrum heat rises, the tolerance limits of Karunanidhi will be certainly tested, which is bound to have an effect on the DMK-Congress relationship. When the pace of Supreme Court monitored CBI investigation picks up, the image of Karunanidhi and his family is sure to take a beating. On the other hand, the Congress leadership too cannot hold high moral ground, while continuing its relationship with the “tainted ally”.

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BJP to sacrifice infiltrators’ issue for allies
Faraz Ahmad/TNS

New Delhi, December 26
The BJP has decided to give its main electoral plank for decades, the issue of Bangladeshi infiltrators in Assam, a short shrift as the state elections approach early next year. The party had chosen Guwahati for its next national executive slated for January 8 and 9, with Assam assembly elections, due early next year, in mind, explained a party spokesman.

The BJP has been raising the issue of Bangladeshi infiltrators since early 1980s at each successive election and reaped electoral benefits from it.

Initially the focus of discussion at the national executive was to be ‘Assam, North-Eastern states. Towards this end the BJP had dispatched its high profile secretary Varun Gandhi to Guwahati to charge up its supporters on the infiltrators issue and the IMDT Act. But suddenly the whole programme has changed. The first day of the national executive meet will focus on corruption and scams of the UPA government. The second day there will be a public meeting.

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Centre neglecting Orissa: Patnaik

Bhubaneswar, December 26
Orissa's ruling BJD today claimed that some national political parties were conspiring against the state as they were worried about the regional outfit's popularity.

BJD supporters garland party president Naveen Patnaik during celebration of the party's 14th foundation day in Bhubaneswar on Sunday.
BJD supporters garland party president Naveen Patnaik during celebration of the party's 14th foundation day in Bhubaneswar on Sunday. — PTI 

"Orissa is being constantly neglected by the Centre while some national parties are conspiring against the state's development. It will not be tolerated any more," BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said at his party's 14th foundation day celebrations here.

While hundreds of crores of rupees are being provided to other states as assistance, distressed farmers of Orissa have not got any help though their crops were destroyed due to untimely rains, Patnaik said.

Stating that the BJD was striving to make the dream of legendary Biju Patnaik a reality, he said despite being rich in minerals and natural resources, "Orissa was still backward and poor due to negligence by the Centre".

Addressing the function, senior leaders like Rajya Sabha member Pyari Mohan Mohapatra and state finance minister Prafulla Ghadai alleged that some national political parties are trying to obstruct Orissa's development as they are afraid of BJD's growing popularity.

The BJD would inform 80 lakh families of the state of the 'injustice' being done to the state by an agitation against the Centre from January 17 and February 14, Patnaik said. Besides spreading awareness about welfare measures undertaken of the state government, partymen should also try to induct at least one person from every family into the BJD fold, he said. — PTI

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Indian ship detained at Chittagong port

Dhaka, December 26
An Indian ship was today detained at Chittagong port after a Bangladeshi court issued an "arrest order" against it over a suit claiming Rs 12 crore as compensation for the alleged loss of cargo.

'MV Ocean Pearl' was detained after the arrest order was issued by the High Court on Thursday, a senior customs official was quoted as saying by the 'New Age'.

“The ship was scheduled to call at Mongla port to unload the cargo. But as the ship faced trouble after developing cracks, it made emergency beaching on Patenga coast. As it failed to reach the destination in time, some cargoes were damaged," he was quoted as saying the Age.

The ship carried over 16,000 tonnes of fertiliser from China for Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation, officials here said.

The Department of Environment in Chittagong on Thursday had served a show cause notice to Sigma Shipping Ltd, the local agent of the ship, for spilling oil along the coastline, officials said here.

Sigma Shipping was asked to show cause by December 28 why legal action against MV Ocean Pearl should not be taken for oil spills in sea, DOE officials said. — PTI 

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‘e-anatomy surgeries can reduce errors’
Ananya Panda/TNS

New Delhi, December 26
In sync with the new wave of technology-driven treatment, Indian surgeons have routed to novel ways and innovations towards optimising the patient outcomes by reducing the chances of infection and hospital stay. A simulator-based surgical training based on computer graphics could be a significant step towards patient safety as the surgery enabled by e-anatomy could minimise mishaps during the operation by 500 times, Indian experts believe. 

The genesis of the surgical application can be traced to a software - 3D Indiana - that is actually a digital cadaver developed by Cochin-based Dr Thomas Kalister. Currently the team is in the process of making the model user-friendly.

The digital redition of human anatomy, said to come out as a boon for medicos and currently in the last lap of programming, has been approved after successful trails by the NRHM in 2008 and is likely to be introduced in five government medical colleges in Kerala.

“The modality, an interactive model as it helps in navigating through the virtual human body, has also been endorsed by the Anatomical Society of India’s journal 2006-2007. It would be an anatomy-aid for MBBS students and would help surgeons in practising the surgery for better outcome,” said Geetha Kalister, who is also involved in the programming of the revolutionary modality.

Importantly, 3D Indiana, the second such software in the world, is said to have an edge over the NASA-developed software ‘Visible Human Anatomy’ (2000) in view that it would capture the human anatomy in entirety vis-a-vis system-wise the former.

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Looking Back: North-east
Stronger India-Bangla ties spelt doom for insurgents
Bijay Sankar Bora
Tribune News Service

Guwahati, December 26
All these recent years, India has been airing its frustration over the Bangladesh Government’s non-cooperation in rooting out North East militant bases on its soil, but with Sheikh Hasina coming to power this year, there has been a marked difference in the neighbour’s attitude.

The new regime has enthusiastically responded to India’s call for cooperation in efforts to evict North East insurgent leaders taking shelter in that country. Subsequently, bases of key N-E insurgent groups, including the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), United National Liberation Front (UNLF) of Manipur and National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), were kept under strict surveillance leading to the arrest and handing over of many top insurgent leaders to India.

This helped the government initiate the process to facilitate talks with the banned ULFA from a position of advantage this year, given that the outfit’s entire top brass, barring its commander-in-chief Paresh Barua, were in jail throughout 2010.

So far, five top ULFA leaders including its vice-chairman Pradip Gogoi, deputy commander-in-chief Raju Barua, central publicity secretary Mithinga Daimari, cultural secretary Pranati Deka and adviser Bhimkanta Buragohain have been released on bail after the state government did not contest their bail petitions in the interest of the peace process with the outfit. Now, chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa is set to be freed after the government told the designated court that it would also not oppose his bail.

But it is not only the ULFA that has been at the receiving end of renewed India-Bangladesh cooperation in taming insurgents. National Democratic Front of Bodoland’s (NDFB) most-wanted chairman Ranjan Daimary was also handed over to India by Bangladesh on May 1 and is now in an Assam jail. He is accused by the CBI of having masterminded the October 2008 serial blasts that claimed over 90 lives and maimed over 400 in Assam.

After Daimary, UNLF chairman Rajkumar Meghen was handed over to India in November. He was reported to have been picked up in Dhaka on September 29 last. UNLF is the biggest militant group based in Manipur which has been fighting for Manipur’s separation from India since 1964.

Meanwhile, the government is trying to engage the anti-talks NDFB faction led by Ranjan Daimary in the peace process involving the other faction of the group. Daimary has stated that it is now up to the newly-formed Bodo People’s Convention to do the spade work for talks with the government. It is gesture that has been construed positive here.

Another significant development in insurgency this year was the en masse surrender of dreaded Black Widow or Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel Garlosa) militants on October 2. The group was running riot in North Cachar Hill district through killings, rampant extortion and abductions. The outfit came under pressure after the arrest of its chairman Jewel Garlosa in Bangalore by the police in June. Later, a peace process was initiated with the outfit. 

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Day after debacle, ISRO introspects

Bangalore, December 26
Data from the ill-fated Indian rocket carrying a domestic communication satellite that exploded just after launch is being analysed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to know what caused the disaster even as a veteran space scientist vouched for the robustness of the indigenous launch vehicle.

The ISRO said an expert committee was likely to be formed shortly to give a report on its second space launch failure this year.

“Teams are looking at the data to find out the reason for what happened,” ISRO spokesperson S Satish said, adding: “A Failure Analysis Committee (FAC) is likely to be constituted in the next one or two days.”

In a major setback, the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV-F06), which was also powered by a Russian cryogenic engine at the upper stage with a GSAT-5P satellite on board, failed in its mission yesterday in the first stage itself following a snag less than a minute after the liftoff from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh.

UR Rao, a veteran space scientist and a former ISRO chief, vouched for the robustness of the indigenously-built GSLV, saying it was a well-proven space rocket, and maintained that “quality problem” led to the failure of the multi-crore mission.

He said: “It’s just a quality problem”, noting that command did not reach the actuators leading to non-ignitionresulting in thrust being insufficient. — PTI

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CBI judge held hostage by lawyers in Delhi

New Delhi, December 26
A special CBI judge, hearing a bribery case against a member of Bar Council of India, was allegedly held hostage inside his court by a group of unruly lawyers for over an hour here.

Official sources said judge OP Saini was also verbally abused by some 40-50 lawyers, who had gathered in the Patiala House courts in support of the accused who was allegedly caught while taking bribe for granting affiliation to a law college in Ghaziabad.

The incident happened on December 23 when Saini dismissed the bail plea of BCI member Rajendra Singh Rana, who was arrested by the CBI three days earlier.

Upset over denial of bail to Rana, the lawyers led by some senior advocates kept the judge confined to his room and raised slogans besides hurling abuses. They even tried to attack and manhandle CBI officials present there, the sources said.

Noticing the situation, some of the officials called the Registrar General of Delhi High Court after which additional police personnel were rushed to the courts, they said. The judge had rejected Rana's bail plea saying that "the probe is at its initial stage".

The CBI had on December 20 arrested Rana along with Manish Tyagi, one of the members of the advisory body of the Global Law College, Ghaziabad.

A mob of 30-40 persons led by president of a bar association, had at that time allegedly "manhandled" a team of agency sleuths at Rana's residence and snatched away the seized documents and cash, the CBI had said. It had filed an FIR with Maurya Enclave police station against three people including lawyers.

Rana was allegedly taking bribe of Rs one lakh from Tyagi for giving a favourable inspection report of the college. The agency had also raided seven places in and around Delhi, including Rana's office and the college premises.

The CBI had said it had been monitoring Rana's telephone calls and had swooped on his Pitampura residence in north Delhi on December 20 evening when another advocate had arrived there with the file of the law college.

Rana was elected to the state Bar Council of Delhi in 1998 and became its Vice Chairman in 2000. In 2010, he was elected to the Bar Council of India. Both Rana and Tyagi are in judicial custody till January 6.

"Considering the serious nature of the allegations... recovery of Rs 1 lakh on the spot and incriminating material figuring in the transcription (of taped conversation) and other documents, I find that the prayer for police custody remand is justified," the court had observed.

The accused filed an appeal in the Delhi High Court which had on December 24 sought response from the CBI on Rana's bail plea.

Justice Mukta Gupta had issued a notice to CBI and sought its reply by December 29 on Rana's submission that he was entitled for bail as his custodial interrogation by the CBI was over and verification of relevant documents are complete. — PTI 

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6 Maoist leaders arrested

Gaya, December 26
Six top Maoist leaders were arrested in a raid by the police in the Rampur area of Bihar's Gaya district, a senior police official said today.

The six, including zonal commander of CPI (Maoist) Bhushan Sharma were arrested when the police raided several places in Rampur last evening following information that they were planning to attack the divisional jail here, DIG (Magadh range) Jitendra Kumar said.

Besides Sharma, the others netted by the police are CPI (Maoist) regional commander Suresh Yadav, alias Chandanji, area commanders Jainandan Paswan, Jitendra singh and Arjun Paswan and secretary of the outfit's zonal sub-committee Yugal Yadav.

The arrested Maoist leaders were involved in the killing of a station house officer Mithilesh Prasad 
in Gaya and 45 other naxal-related incidents in Bihar and Jharkhand, Kumar said.

One AK-56 rifle, two regular carbines looted from the police, two country-made pistols, 249 live cartridges besides Rs 59,000 in cash and seven cellphones were seized from them, he added. — PTI 

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AP Cong steps up Telangana demand

Hyderabad, December 26
Stepping up their efforts to form a separate Telangana, ruling Congress leaders from the region today said they were prepared to quit their posts for the cause and also threatened to go on a "Gandhian fast" if police cases against students were not withdrawn forthwith.

"If the government withdraws the police cases against students (from the region) by evening, it is fine. Otherwise, Telangana Congress MPs would go on fast from tomorrow. It is a Gandhian fast," Congress Rajya Sabha member K Keshav Rao told reporters here after a meeting.

Andhra Pradesh ministers from Telangana, who attended the meeting, will speak to the Chief Minister about withdrawal of police cases against pro-statehood students, he said.

The Congress MPs, ministers, MLAs and other leaders from the region held a meeting today to chalk out their future course of action as the Centre-appointed Srikrishna Committee is scheduled to submit its report on the statehood issue by the end of this month.

Expressing the hope that the Centre would agree for a Telangana state, Rao said all Congress public representatives are ready to quit their posts in support of the demand.

"We are fully confident that Telangana statehood will be realised. Since there is no compromise on this issue, all the MLAs, MPs and even MLCs will submit their resignations (if the goal is not realised)." Withdrawal of police cases against students and other Telangana supporters, who took part in the ongoing agitations, is a demand that has been voiced by ruling Congress, TDP, TRS, and all other Telangana outfits. — PTI 

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Jantar Mantar
Bureaucrat’s apologetic message to Civil Aviation Minister
Anita Katyal

Praful PatelIt is the season for clearing misunderstandings. Take the case of former high-profile bureaucrat and present Janata Dal (U) MP NK Singh whose uncharitable remarks in the recently-publicised Niira Radia tapes about several ministers, especially civil aviation minister Praful Patel, have soured many old relationships. Miffed over these references, Patel decided not to go to Singh’s son’s wedding reception although he was originally slated to attend it. Clearly rattled at this open snub, the suave NK Singh quickly shot off a long apologetic text message to the civil aviation minister to explain that he had been misunderstood.

The message went on to heap fulsome praise on Patel and the great contribution he has made to the civil aviation sector by encouraging competition among the various airlines. Not just that, NK Singh even sent him the text of a statement (in which he described Patel as a young, dynamic minister), which he planned to put out in some of the leading newspapers in a belated effort to set the record straight. However, it is still not known if the message has had the desired impact and whether Patel has decided to forgive and forget in this festive season.

When Jairam got an SMS from Montek

 Jairam RameshBesides Praful Patel, controversial environment minister Jairam Ramesh has also been receiving similar text messages. Shortly after the publication of his interview in which an exasperated Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia declared that the environment minister’s veto would hit the country’s infrastructure growth plans, Jairam Ramesh received a placatory text message from Ahluwalia. Needless to say, the environment minister, who has been nicknamed the “no go minister”, was mighty pleased, especially since it coincided with the Mumbai high court order upholding his stay on the Lavasa project. Unfazed by the flak he is receiving from his own colleagues for grounding their plans, a chuffed Ramesh told mediapersons that like his political guru, the veteran ND Tiwari, he also uses different coloured pens to sign his official papers to indicate to his officials if it is a “go or a no go” file.

PM obliges Prithviraj Chavan

Prithviraj ChavanTill over a month ago, as a minister in the PMO, Prithviraj Chavan often sat in when chief ministers called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with their list of grievances and demands for more funds. As Maharashtra Chief Minister Chavan is now on the other side of the fence. Last week, he called on the PM along with a delegation of legislators and MPs to seek contingency funds from the Centre to cope with the damage caused by the floods to the crops in the state.

Faced with similar demands from other states, the PM initially offered Rs 200 crore but the Maharashtra delegation insisted on an increase, especially since the Centre had recently released Rs 600 crore for AP. The PM eventually agreed to raise the amount to Rs 400 crore after Chavan urged him to accede to his request on the plea that it was the first time he had come to him with a request for funds after taking over as chief minister. 

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16 drown as boat capsizes

Rameswaram, December 26 
Sixteen persons, including 10 women, were drowned when their boat capsized in the sea near Vazhai Theevu island in the Gulf of Mannar, off Periyapattinam coast, the police said. The victims included an Australian NRI woman, it added. The deceased, hailing from the fishermen colony of Periyapattinam village, were on a picnic between Rameswaram and Tuticorin when the mishap occurred, Marine Police DSP Thiagarajan said.

It was not known immediately how many people were travelling in the boat though it was permitted to carry up to seven passengers only.

Preliminary reports said the boat carried more than 20 persons, he added. People from the village had proceeded in two boats, one of which capsized, Thiragarajan said. — PTI 

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Differences in Cong over poll tie-up with BPF
Bijay Sankar Bora/TNS

Guwahati, December 26
The ruling Congress’ alliance in Assam with Bodo tribe political party, Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) is turning uneasy even as 2011 Assembly election is fast approaching.

While Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi maintains that the alliance would continue because of committed support provided by the BPF to Congress-led coalition government since 2006, the BPF leaders say that the post-election alliance struck with the Congress after 2006 polls has been basically support extended to the Chief Minister and his government, not a conventional alliance with Congress party.

“We have been supporting the Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for the last five years. But Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Bhubaneswar Kalita of late has been making statements that there is opposition within the Congress to have a pre-poll alliance with the BPF. So, we are prepared to fight the election on our own,” BPF leader Promila Rani Brahma said.

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Centre Stage
THE MONKEY BUSINESS
Monkeys, leopards and other wild animals are fast becoming 'ecological refugees' and straying into human habitats. The solution need not lie in limited culling of monkeys allowed in Himachal Pradesh writes RAKESH LOHUMI

An invasion by the smaller rhesus monkeys had prompted the Government of India, not too long ago, to hire the services of the larger and more menacing 'Langurs' to drive them away. The threat was real as the monkeys not only scared visitors to the South Block but also played around with files, cables and phones. A similar threat to the Commonwealth Games village this year again brought the Langurs back, at Rs 600 per day by way of bananas, to serve a similar purpose.

Spotting the big, fat cash-cow
Spotting the big, fat cash-cow— Photo: Nitin Mittal

The monkey menace in Himachal Pradesh has acquired a far more serious dimension with the monkeys straying into fields and villages and damaging crops. The agitated farmers claim the loss to be as much as Rs 2,000 crore by way of mandays lost in tackling the menace and by way of crops damaged. The unrest was serious enough to prompt the Chief Minister, Prem Kumar Dhumal, to admit that despite the government having sterilised over 23,000 monkeys in the past four years, their number continues to go up and they are increasingly straying into villages and human habitats.

Tourists to Shimla, and the temple on Mount Jakhu, have often enough been at the receiving end of these intelligent creatures. Some of them have learnt the trick of pouncing on sunglasses and spectacles, returning them only after the tourists buy them something to eat, usually roasted gram or bananas, with the sellers explaining to the amused but hapless tourists the only way to recover the sunglasses.

In Himachal Pradesh, there is now one monkey for twenty people ! In the last two decades, the number of monkeys is said to have grown from 60,000 to 3.19 lakh as per the 2004 census. And sections of people, specially farmers, blame the Wildlife Protection Act for the situation and would like to have the freedom to kill the intruders.

The state government had initiated the poly-house scheme, which, it hoped, would provide protection from the vagaries of weather and also safeguard the crops from the marauding troops of monkeys. However, the monkeys are increasingly becoming belligerent and recently were emboldened enough to raid the greenhouse of a farmer in Sunni area of Shimla after tearing the poly-sheet to shreds.

But strangely, while organisations like Gyan Vigyan Samiti and Himachal Kisan Sabha have been raising the issue of monkey menace for the last one decade, no scientific study has ever been conducted to ascertain the extent of the problem and confirm the figures of damage caused by the simians to crops as bandied about by these bodies.

However, a recent study (an opinion survey to understand the human-monkey conflict in the city of Shimla) conducted by Prof R. S. Pirta and Anita Chauhan of Department of Psychology, Himachal Pradesh University, revealed that the intensity of the problem is possibly not as severe as is made out.

FIGURATIVELY


Their research paper, published in the Journal of Human Ecology, indicates that people perceived the human-monkey conflict to be of moderate intensity. More importantly, the study finds that though people agree with most of the solutions suggested to resolve the conflict, they disagree with measures such as culling and relocation of monkeys.

An authority on the issue, Pirta has been engaged in the study of primates in the state for the past three decades. In his opinion, the decision to allow farmers to kill monkeys and other animals was a retrograde step and a setback to conservation efforts made during the past four decades.

The enforcement of wild life protection act, creation of sanctuaries and other measures had made people aware about the need to preserve wildlife and brought a positive change in their mindset. However, recent campaigns advocating mass killings of hapless animals will put to nought the effort and make the people insensitive towards wild animals.
"Farmers are in favour of a lasting solution and are not against wild life as such. We will withdraw our campaign if a solution emerges".
— Kuldeep Tanwar
Convenor, Kheti Bachao Sangharsh Sam
"Pine trees do not support wild life as there is no undergrowth. The only way to send simians back is to plant fruit-bearing trees".
— Kulbhushan Upmanyu
Convenor, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan
"The real issues like industrialisation and unregulated urbanisation must be addressed in their entirety".
— R.S.Pirta
Expert on primate behaviour

The farmers are not impressed. Frequent leopard attacks and the ever-growing monkey menace, they say, are symptomatic of the increasing conflict between the animal world and humans. Farmers claim to be suffering huge losses due to damage caused to crops year after year and now their patience has run out. Certain species have been provided 'over protection' under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and the Wild Life Protection Act, they claim.

"The enormity of the problem is that 2301, out of the total 3243 panchayats in the state, have been affected and the total annual loss in terms of damage to crops and the mandays wasted on protecting the crops works out to over Rs 2,000 crore", claims Kuldeep Tanwar, convenor of the Samiti.

The farmers, he argues, are left with no option but to obtain permits for killing the troublesome wild animals posing a threat to their livelihood as government had failed to come out with an effective strategy to deal with the problem. The government is also reluctant to carry out scientific culling, he points out. It was a half-hearted and token campaign to cull monkeys during the first phase between December 10 and 23. Pointing out that only around 15 monkeys were actually killed in the whole state during this period, he assured that farmers would wait for the government and the judiciary to come up with more humane and more lasting solutions.

THE WAY OUT

The farmers appreciate the need to protect wild life and they wanted the government agencies, conservationists and animal rights activists to sit together and find a practical solution to the problem, he told The Tribune.

The government claims to have done all that it could. Under the mass sterilisation programme 23,900 monkeys have been operated so far at the three centres set up in Shimla, Gopalpur and Sastar. A fourth is expected to be set up in Una district. The plan is to sterilise over 20,000 annually so that the problem is contained over the next five years.

The sterilisation programme has, claims the government, started making impact in places like Shimla where reduction in number of monkeys is becoming discernible. However, it has created a new problem as the territory vacated by monkeys is being occupied by large troops of langurs, particularly in localities like Lower Kaithu, Bharari and Shankhli.

The two species do not share territories and in the absence of monkeys, the Langurs are having a free run and emerging as a bigger source of nuisance for the residents.

The root of the problem lies in the conflicting development policies of the government. Rapid depletion of forest cover in the ecologically fragile hills has led to the impasse. The fragmentation of forests due to construction of hydropower plants, big dams, roads and other projects have destroyed the natural wild life habitats rendering species like leopards and monkeys as 'ecological refugees' who have been forced out of their natural habitats due to increasing human activity.

The troops of monkeys have permanently migrated to urban settlements and, short of prey in the forests, the leopards are making frequent forays into villages in search food. In fact, they are finding easier pickings in the livestock and pet animals like dogs.

Unlike neighbouring Uttrakhand, Himachal Pradesh has failed to preserve its forest wealth. The state with a geographical area of 55,673 sq km has only 14,668 sq km (26.35 per cent) of forests whereas Uttarakhand, spread over 53,483 sq km, has 24,495 sq km (45.8 per cent) under forests. Open forests (density between 10 to 40 per cent) accounted for over 34 per cent of the total forest area as compared to just 24 per cent in Uttarakhand.

Solar fencing

Several conservationists strongly advocate the use of solar-powered electric fences to protect the crops. After a certain period, the fence acts as a strong psychological barrier and animals consciously avoid coming into contact with it once they experience the shock. It does no physical harm to the animals or human beings and they only feel a short, painful but safe electric shock on coming in contact with the fence. In due course the mere presence of the fence, even if it is not powered, acts as an effective barrier. The cost of the fence ranges from Rs 70,000 to Rs 80, 000 per hectare and it has an average life of about 20 years. It also has an alarm system which alerts farmers whenever an intruder comes in contact with it.Once fully charged, it continues to function for two weeks even if there is not much sunshine, it is claimed.

The 13th Finance Commission made the state pay for "not protecting" its forest cover by recommending the least "green bonus" to it. The commission took into consideration the existing green cover and based its recommendation on the latest "India State of Forest Report (SFR)-2009" of the Forest Survey of India (FSI) and accordingly Himachal received only Rs 100.6 crore as against Rs 205.4 crore recommended for Uttarakhand.

It was quite an embarrassment for the government which has been claiming to be the leader among Himalayan states in protecting forests and created much hype about the initiative being taken to attaining carbon neutrality.

These figures underline the need to take strong measures to protect the forests and restrict human activity in the hills, failing which the problem of human -animal conflict can only get worse.

However, the government is doing exactly the opposite by allowing private builders from outside to build apartments and sell them to outsiders. Allowing cement plants, private universities, big industrial units and other projects which will lead to mass influx of population to the hills already burdened beyond their carrying capacity.

It is high time the government realises that hills are not meant to support large population and takes effective steps to restrict new projects to lower hills by declaring the areas above 4,000 ft as eco-sensitive zone.

Unscientific & unwarranted
Rajeshwar Negi

Nature Watch India (NWI) considers the government's move unscientific since mass killing is being carried out without any assessment or an authentic census by any credible wildlife expert or agency.

Random culling of animals without an authentic census and without the assistance of a credible wildlife expert would be disastrous. It threatens to create a serious imbalance by leading to sudden and unscientific reduction in the number of some species and increase of others. This may lead to unwanted prey-predator equations and unwarranted spurt in harmful plants, insects etc.

Moreover, permits for killing the animals straying into their fields are issued to individual farmers. A joint campaign in groups is illegal.

Worse, some threatened species like black bear, jackal, fox, blue bull and sambhar have also been added to the government list of vermin. The black bear is an endangered animal, the jackal is deemed to be harmless and a fast disappearing scavenger, the monkeys are already subjected to a massive sterilisation drive and the Neel Gai and wild boars are found in very limited area and , therefore, the licence to kill them is hardly justified.

The government's knee-jerk reaction is a short-cut and ill-advised. It has chosen to address the symptoms rather than the disease. Such "politically endorsed killings" on public demand had led to the extinction of the Caspian Tiger, South China Tiger and the Grey Wolves in China, Russia, Japan and Norway in the past.


Photos by: S Chandan and Amit Kanwar

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