Friday, July 31, 2009

Watch out, your Rs 500 note could be fake

Amount of fake currency suspected in market: Rs 1,69,000 crore Amount seized by authorities so far: Rs 63 crore
14 ARRESTED : In last two years across India; two alleged Bangladeshis with fake notes killed in encounter
THE LASHKAR LINK :An LeT terrorist in J&K caught talking to his handlers in Pak in January 2008 about fake notes

Around Rs 1,69,000 crore of fake money is in the system. And it’s growing. TOI looks into the growing threat

* Last month, when Maharashtra crime branch and anti-terrorism squad sleuths caught six persons with counterfeit currency worth over Rs 9 lakh, they themselves couldn’t make out the difference between the fake and genuine notes. “They have 95% features of genuine notes,’’ says an official. The provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been invoked—for the first time against fake currency.
* Zahoor Ahmad Mir of Rawalpora, Srinagar, withdrew Rs 2,000 from an ATM. He was told by a shopkeeper after his weekend shopping that the currency was fake. A frantic Zahoor rushed to the bank, the ATM of which had coughed up the 500-rupee notes. “But the bank officials refused to accept them. They suspected I had got the fake notes from somewhere else,’’ he says.

The proliferation of fake Rs 500 notes has just got bigger. You never know when you are holding one—or more. Even ATMs are disgorging them, indicating the counterfeits are so good that bankers are failing to detect them. Despite measures taken by RBI, the home ministry and intelligence agencies, the fear of the fake has grown—from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to Assam.

Officials say there’s a high volume of fake notes of Rs 100, Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 in the market, and that they have had limited success so far in controlling their spread. The Naik committee, set up to assess the menace of fake currency, says counterfeit money worth around Rs 1,69,000 crore is sloshing around the system. And just a tiny fraction of it, Rs 63 crore, has been seized.

Both the government and common people are aware of the problem, but feel ill-equipped to deal with it. In Chandigarh, traders, bank employees and petrol pump attendants turn suspicious whenever they get a Rs 500 note. “A petrol station attendant refused to accept the Rs 500 note I gave him and warned me about the glut of fake notes in the market,’’ said Rajinder Singh, a local resident. Even in Delhi, shopkeepers take extra time to accept high-denomination notes. They first hold the note against bright light and ensure that the water-mark is intact.

Many in Kerala are worried over outsourcing loading of currency in the ATMs to private agencies.”My salary
account is with a private bank and I also have a savings account with SBI. Lest I get a counterfeit note, I have now started transferring money only by cheques,’’ says A K Nair, a government employee.

“The extent of the problem can be gauged from the huge gap between actual seizures and circulation of fake Indian currency notes (FICN). Although several steps have been taken by the finance ministry and RBI, weeding out FICNs may take a long time,’’ says a senior home ministry official.

With inputs from Vishwa Mohan & Richi Verma (Delhi), Mateen Hafiz (Mumbai), Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui (Lucknow), Anantha Krishnan, (Thiruvananthapuram), Anand Bodh (Chandigarh) and Gauree Malkarlekar (Panaji)

The Times of India, July 31, 2009

Most fake notes printed in Pakistani presses

The cost of a manufacturing a fake Rs 1,000 note is about Rs 400 Making, keeping, distributing or using fake notes comes under
organised crime
Punishment: Can go up to LIFE SENTENCE

Times News Network
According to security agencies, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, have reported the maximum seizure of fake notes in recent years. The latest haul in Ghaziabad, Noida and Meerut reveal how organized gangs, said to be funded by Pakistan, have penetrated right up to Delhi’s borders.

Shopkeepers’ associations in Delhi are actively involved in monitoring the counterfeits, many of which come out of ATMs and banks. Says Sanjeev Mehra, president of Delhi’s Khan Market Traders’ Association, “Every shopkeeper has been issued a circular listing 10 ways of detecting a fake note. The local bank in the market has an officer posted for this very purpose.’’ Experienced shopkeepers feel the texture of the note, particularly when it’s of a large denomination, and hold it under lights to see the water-mark. However, if this year’s three major seizures—amounting to over Rs 35 lakh— in UP and Maharashtra are any indication, it’s the quality of FICN that has alarmed the security agencies. The paper, say intelligence sleuths, is almost identical to the original, which makes their identification very tough.

The UP STF suggests that most of these notes were print
ed in the security press at Malir Cantonment in Karachi and three other printing presses in Pakistan. Maharashtra’s security agencies, too, believe that the fake notes seized by them were printed in a Pakistan government printing press at Quetta.

Fearful businessmen and shopkeepers are installing machines to check counterfeits. In Kerala, the state-run SUPPLYCO (Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited) with 12 petrol pumps has issued specific instructions to its outlets to be wary of fake notes.

But there are limitations. For instance, large business outlets that handle heavy transactions can’t run a counterfeit check every time it receives cash. “During a hectic day, one can’t check every Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 note,’’ says Mujtaba Haaziq, manufacturer of signages
in Panaji. “In any case, it’s the government’s job to tackle the problem,’’ says Barnabe Sapeco, a well-known Panaji restaurateur. The police say arresting the carriers has not taken them to FICN masterminds. “The carriers are briefed on a need-to-know basis and are not aware of the entire network,’’ said a Maharashtra crime branch official. Intelligence agencies are fairly certain that the brains behind the FICN racket are sitting in Bangladesh and Pakistan. As proof, they cite the seizure of an Indian currency-minting machine in Bangladesh in 2006.

With inputs from Vishwa Mohan & Richi Verma (Delhi), Mateen Hafiz (Mumbai), Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui (Lucknow), Anantha Krishnan, (Thiruvananthapuram), Anand Bodh (Chandigarh) and Gauree Malkarlekar (Panaji)

Work on to get back black money: PM
ew Delhi: Under attack from the opposition on the issue of unaccounted money parked by Indians in tax havens abroad, PM Manmohan Singh on Thursday said the government had already initiated steps to get back the black money. “Action has already started,” Singh said in the Rajya Sabha during question hour. Singh referred to the FM’s remarks, saying Pranab Mukherjee had “specifically dealt” with the issue. Singh’s remark came after BJP’s Prakash Javadekar sought to know what his government was doing on the black money. Mukherjee on Wednesday told the Upper House that the government, as promised before the elections, was working on getting back black money stashed abroad.

The Times of India, July 31, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

No impact of Dhawde’s discharge on Malegaon case

Pune-based antique dealer, Rakesh Dhawde is currently in judicial custody

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Pune-based antique weapons collector Rakesh Dhawde, a suspect in the six-year-old Porna mosque blast case, was on Monday discharged from the case. But this will not have an impact on the September 29, 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case where Dhawde is an accused and facing stringent charges under the MCOCA, ATS officials said.

A bomb was thrown in a mosque cum madrassa, Mirajul Uloom, in Porna during Friday prayers in 2003 in which 16 persons were injured. The ATS, which arrested 11 persons, including Dhawde, lieutenant colonel Prasad Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Shankaracharya Dayanand Pandey last year for the Malegaon blast, ‘alleged’ that Dhawde had played a vital role in the blast.

According to ATS officials, Dhawde’s discharge from the Porna mosque blast case will not affect their case. “We invoked the sections of MCOCA after we found that Dhawde was also involved in other blasts and two cases were chargesheeted against him prior to his arrest. The prosecution requires at least two previous chargesheets to book someone under the MCOCA,’’ said an ATS officer.

Dhawde is accused of aiding and abetting bomb blasts in the Porna mosque, Qadriya mosque in Jalna, Mohammediya mosque in Parbhani and one at Nanded. Chargesheets against him have been filed in all the cases. “We have made Parbhani (Nanal Peth police station) and Jalna mosque blast cases the grounds to invoke MCOCA,’’ said an officer.

The Times of India, July 30, 2009

Two killed in Nagpada as gunmen open fire

SCENE OF CRIME: Zahid and his nephew Arshad were killed in Nagpada on Wednesday

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Two persons, including the owner of a gambling club, were killed and three others injured at Nagpada in Central Mumbai on Wednesday night when unidentified gunmen fired at them.

No arrests have been made although the police suspect that this may be a reprisal for the killing of Irfan Chindi, a top police informer on April 3. He was known to be close to slain encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar.

According to the Nagpada police, the persons killed were Zahid alias Chhote Miyan (50) and his nephew Arshad. Zahid was shot in the head and chest while Arshad was shot in the head. The identities of the three injured in the firing have not been disclosed.

Chindi’s family as well as the informants who worked under him had ‘alleged’ that Zahid was behind his murder. In fact, they had staged a protest outside Chindi’s house
in Nagpada.

According to the police, Zahid and his friends were sitting outside his club near Taj Cinema in Arab Galli when the killers struck. Some eye-witnesses told the police that two shooters had arrived on a bike while others said that they came walking and fled in a taxi.

The Times of India, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Husband, wife convicted for Zaveri Bazar, Gateway blasts

SMILING KILLER: Hanif Syed, an auto driver and one of the three persons convicted by the special Pota court, is taken to Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai on Monday


Kartikeya & Mateen Hafeez | TNN

Mumbai: Six years after the terror attacks at the Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar killed 52 people, a special Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) court on Monday found three of the accused, including a woman, guilty of carrying out the twin blasts. This is the first time that a husband-wife terror team has been convicted and the first instance of a woman terrorist actively participating in making the bombs.

Hanif Syed, now 52, his wife Fehmida Syed, 49, and Ashrat Ansari, 38, face the prospect of being sentenced to death for the attack that was planned in Dubai with the help of Pakistani handlers.

As the court convened, Judge M R Puranik took a few minutes to pronounce the guilty verdict and then adjourned the matter to August 4 for arguments on the quantum of punishment. “I will ask for the strictest possible punishment for the barbaric act that took so many lives,’’ special prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told TOI. The convicts now face the prospect of either spending a life behind bars or getting capital punishment.

The prosecution relied on both eyewitness accounts and material evidence to nail the accused. A key eyewitness was the driver of the taxi which was used to carry out the blast at the Gateway. Sheer providence saved Shivnarain Pandey as he was not near the taxi when the bomb went off. He later led the police to the house of the accused in Andheri.

“The whole conspiracy was hatched in Dubai. The same accused had earlier planted bombs at Andheri and Ghatkopar, but those were gelatin sticks. However, their handlers in Pakistan were unhappy with the low-intensity blasts and asked them to go for something bigger. Thus RDX was used at Gateway and Zaveri Bazar, leading to several casualties,’’ Nikam said.

Judge Puranik had before him the confessional statements of the accused, evidence of recovery of the explosive substances from their house and details of the conspiracy given by a co-accused who later turned approver. Nasir Ahmed, the man who was called the chief conspirator in the case, was never brought to trial as he was gunned down in a police encounter in September 2003.

Defence advocate Sushan Kunjuraman said that he would appeal against the verdict to the Bombay high court. “We have argued that Hanif and Fehmida’s minor daughter had been taken into police custody and thus they were under duress
to confess to the crime. Also, we have pointed out that the taxi driver had been given money by a political party to give testimony,’’ added defence advocate Khan Abdul Wahab.

Initially, there were two other accused in the case—Mohd Ansari
alias Usman Ladoowala and Mohd Ansar Shaikh alias Hasan Batterywala. However, they were discharged by the Supreme Court in 2008 on the basis of a clean chit given by the Pota Review Committee in 2005. They had spent five years in jail.

Two powerful blasts took place almost simultaneously in two taxis on the afternoon of August 25, 2003. The first explosion took place at 1.05 pm in crowded Zaveri Bazar in Kalbadevi. Another blast took place just minutes later at the iconic Gateway of India. Fifty-two people (36 at Zaveri Bazar and 16 at the Gateway) were killed and 184 were injured

Revenge. Nasir Ahmed, a resident of Hyderabad who was later killed in a police encounter, along with some LeT operatives, formed the Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force (GMRF) to avenge the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. The outfit hatched the dastardly plot that was funded from Dubai

LUCKY BREAK Shivnarain Pandey, the driver of the taxi with the bomb parked at the Gateway, decided to answer nature’s call. That decision saved his life and helped him assist the police in tracking down the culprits

The three accused have been found guilty of murder, attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy under the IPC. They were also convicted under various sections of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota), Explosive Substances Act and Damage to Public Property Act

1. Hanif Syed (52). He worked as an electrician in Dubai and later as an auto driver in Mumbai. Police say he was indoctrinated in Dubai and planted the bomb at the Gateway
Fehmida Syed (49). Hanif’s wife
who was
also named as a fellow conspirator. She was involved in planting the bomb at the Gateway
Ashrat Ansari (38). He was a zari
worker who
lived in Andheri and visited Hanif often. He helped make the bombs and planted the one at Zaveri Bazar

On August 4 the court will hear arguments on the quantum of punishment. The trio faces either life in prison or death

The Times of India, July 28, 2009
SUDDENLY, HORROR: Photos taken seconds after the Gateway blast show (top) bloodied tourists sitting dazed after the attack. (Left) A man stares at a mangled vehicle. (Right) A wounded father carries his five-year-old son. A Photoraph by K K Chaudhry


Aug 25, 2003: Blasts occur at Gateway and Zaveri Bazar, killing 52 people

Aug 31-Sep 1: Ashrat Ansari and the Syeds are arrested

Sep 12:
Naseer is killed in encounter

Nov 11: Police arrest Batterywala and Ladoowala

Oct 2: Accused who later turned approver is held

Feb 5, 2004: Charge sheet filed against six accused in Pota court. Accused also allegedly involved in planting an unexploded bomb in a bus at Seepz on Dec 2, 2002 and a bomb that went off in a bus at Ghatkopar on July 28, 2003, in which two people died

May 5: Approver gets pardon from court

Jun 20: Charges framed against accused

Sep 2, 2004: Trial commences

June 28, 2005: Batterywala and Ladoowala ask court to drop Pota charges after a Pota review panel says there’s no evidence against them

Oct 30, 2006: Dileep Wankhede, conductor on Ghatkopar bus, turns hostile in court

Dec 4: Conductor Dileep Masram of bus at SEEPZ turns hostile

Nov 17, 2008: Pota court acquits Ladoowala and Batterywala

Jul 27, 2009: Ansari, Hanif Syed and Fehmida are convicted

Aug 4: Arguments on sentencing to be heard

The Times of India, July 28, 2009
BROUGHT TO JUSTICE: Hanif Syed outside the Pota court on Monday after he was convicted in the twin blasts case in Mumbai. Syed helped make both bombs and planted the one at the Gateway


HANIF SYED | A Dubai-returned electricianturned-auto driver, he was brainwashed in the Gulf country by Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) agents who recruited him to avenge the killing of Muslims during the Gujarat riots. Hanif helped make the bombs and planted the one at the Gateway. He was reportedly leader of the Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force

Hanif’s wife Fehmida was supposed to be one of the first women who willingly took part in the making and planting of bombs. In the 1993 serial blasts, women were accused of knowing about the conspiracy, but not executing it. Fehmida helped make the bombs at home in Andheri (West) and planted the Gateway one

He lived in Juhu Gully, Andheri, where he also worked in an embroidery firm. He also drove an auto. He helped make the bombs at Hanif’s house. Ansari planted the bomb at Zaveri Bazar

Name Withheld | He was brought by the police from Dubai, where the entire conspiracy had been hatched. He became an approver in the case and the court ordered that his identity not be disclosed. He was said to be part of the LeT’s Dubai cell

SHIVNARAIN PANDEY | The taxi driver had a fortuitous escape. Hanif and Fehmida had hired his cab and asked him to park it at the Gateway while they went shopping. They told Pandey to have lunch while waiting. He left the vehicle to answer nature’s call when the bomb went off in a bag left by the couple in the boot

NASIR AHMED | Termed as the main conspirator of the blasts, he was shot dead in an encounter near Ruparel College in Matunga on the night of September 12, 2003. He was from Hyderabad

MOHAMMED ANSAR SHAIKH ALIAS HASAN BATTERYWALA | He was discharged after a Pota review committee gave him a clean chit. The cops claimed they recovered 750 gm of RDX from his auto repair shop in Kurla, but the panel couldn’t believe he would keep explosives when the cops were looking for suspects

MOHAMMAD ANSARI ALIAS USMAN LADOOWALA | Discharged along with Batterywala on the recommendation of the same Pota committee. The cops claimed they recovered two detonators from Ladoowala’s house

FARHEEN SYED | Hanif and Fehmida’s daughter, Farheen, was 16 in 2003 and had accompanied her parents to the Gateway. She was initially arrested, but the police dropped all charges saying she was unaware of the conspiracy. She was released from juvenile remand in February 2004 and is married in Pune today

TWIN BLASTS | August 25, 2003
1.05 pm at Zaveri Bazar | 36 dead 1.08 pm

Gateway of India | 16 dead
Total injured: 184 |

Explosives: Gelatin, RDX

Accused: 6 |
3 convicted, 1 turned approver, 2 discharged

Charges: Murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy (Indian Penal Code). Various sections of Prevention of Terrorism Act, Explosive Substances Act and Damage to Public Property Act

Other charges: Hanif and Fehmida are also accused of involvement in the Ghatkopar bus blast of July 28, 2003 and planting a bomb that was detonated at Seepz on December 6, 2003

Revenge for Gujarat riots

The plot: Hatched in Dubai in 2002. Nine absconding Pakistanis, allegedly LeT men, attended the meeting along with Nasir

The Times of India, July 28, 2009

File on witness protection scheme gathers dust

Kartikeya & Mateen Hafeez | TNN
The role of witnesses and the issue of their protection triggered intense debate after cabbie Shivnarain Pandey gave vital clues in the Gateway blast case and was given extra protection by the Mumbai police. Pandey’s identity was inadvertently leaked to the media by an inspector the day the blasts occurred; this officer allegedly circulated photocopies of a document bearing his name and his vehicle’s registration number and cops took a lot of flak for not realising that Pandey was an important prosecution witness in a very sensitive case.

The police then sent a proposal to the state law and judiciary department for protection
of witnesses in terror cases and organised crime and a budget of at least Rs 50 lakh a year for this. However, like many other files, this has remained with the state till date.

In 2003, the Delhi high court issued guidelines to cops on providing protection to witnesses after a petition filed by Neelam Katara, whose son Nitish was kidnapped from a marriage party and then killed. The Law Commission submitted a report in 2007, calling for a statutory programme for guaranteeing anonymity of witnesses and for protection of witnesses in specified cases.

But the SC, in the same year—while terming the concept of witness protection a noble idea—said it was practically impossible to have a blanket order to provide security to every witness.

The Times of India, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gateway, Zaveri Bazaar blasts verdict today

(Pics: Haneef Sayyed, the man sporting beard, burqa clad woman is his wife Fahmeeda and the clean-shaven man is Ashrat Ansari)

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: A special Pota court will pron o u n c e the verdict in the sixyear-old Gateway of India and Zave r i B a z a a r t w i n bl a s t s case on Monday. Fifty-two people were killed and 184 injured in the August 25, 2003, blasts. This would be the biggest judgment in a terror-related case since a Tada court convicted 100 people for the 1993 serial blasts case in 2007.

The crime branch had said the blasts were engineered by members of the “Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force’’ to
avenge the Gujarat riots. The conspiracy for the blasts was hatched in Dubai, the police claimed. The accused told the police that they
planned the blasts in retaliation against “atrocities on Muslims’’ in Gujarat.

The police arrested six persons, including a 16-year-old girl, but a court later acquitted her. Two other accused, Ansari Ladoowala and Hasan Batterywala, were discharged from the case after a Pota review committee gave them a clean chit. The police claimed to have recovered 750 gm of RDX from Batterywala’s auto repair shop in Kurla and two detonators from Ladoowala’s house in November 2003. The cops also claimed that Nasir Ahmed, the main conspirator, was killed in an encounter on September 12, 2003, near Matunga.

The court will pronounce
its judgment against three accused, Haneef Sayyed (46), an auto driver, his wife Fahmeeda (43) and Ashrat Ansari (32). The fourth accused has been made an approver. Fahmeeda is lodged at the Byculla women’s prison for the last six years while the two men have been kept at the Arthur Road jail. A total of 103 witnesses have been examined in court.

A taxi driver, a key witness in the case, led the police to the accused and said they travelled in his taxi on the day of the blast.

“We got the first clue from the taxi driver, Shivnarayan Pandey, who had described the whole journey and given the description of the suspects. Later, we arrested the husband-wife duo and Ansari,’’ said chief investigating officer Suresh Walishetty, retired ACP. “Ladoowala and Batterywala had supplied the RDX to the accused. Haneef and the slain accused, Nasir, had assembled the bomb while Ashrat helped them plant it,’’ said Walishetty.

“We have got 100% evidence and are hoping capital punishment to the accused in
the case,’’ said Walishetty. According to him, the conspiracy was hatched in Dubai after the Gujarat riots.

Defence lawyer Sushan Kunjuraman, however, said, “There are serious lapses in the police investigation. According to the police, Ladoowala and Batterywala had assembled the explosives and three other accused had planted them. Now that Ladoowala and Batterywala have been discharged from the case, the question that arises is who gave the explosives to the three accused.’’

The suspects face two other cases—in the first, a bomb went off on a BEST bus in Ghatkopar on July 28, 2003, killing two. In the other case, a bomb was planted on another bus in SEEPZ on December 2, 2002. It did not explode.

On August 25, 2003, a blast at the Gateway of India killed 16 people, while another explosion at Zaveri Bazaar claimed 36 lives. A total of 184 people were injured and property worth Rs 1.29 crore was damaged. Both the blasts occurred at 1.05 pm.
The accused used gelatine sticks and RDX in the two bombs.

The Times of India, July 27, 2009

Purohit held terror camp in MP, says ATS

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Lt-Col Prasad Purohit, a suspect in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, had organised a terror training camp in Madhya Pradesh where he imparted arms training to 40 semiliterate youths in 2007, ATS officials said.

However, the ATS did not book Purohit for “organising a terror camp’’ saying the sections for such a crime under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) did not exist

at the time of Purohit’s arrest.

“Purohit organised a terror training camp near Pachmarhi in MP for semi-literate Hindus. The recruits were taught how to make firearms, assemble and operate them for ‘self-defence’ in the 15-day session. However, the intention was not self-defence but to disrupt communal harmony,’’ an ATS officer said.

After Tada and Pota were repealed, the government amended the UAPA and included some stringent sections in the Act to tackle terrorism and for having any association with
banned organisations.

A new section (18A)—aimed at dealing with organisation of terror training camps—was added to the UAPA in last December. “Whoever organises or causes to be organised any camp or camps for imparting training in terrorism shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term, which shall not be less than five years but which may extend up to life,’’ reads this section.

Purohit (38) was arrested in November last year. He was stationed at Army Education Corps Training College and Centre at Pachmarhi in MP when arrested. Six persons were killed in a blast at Malegaon on September 29, 2008.

An ATS officer said as the amendment to the UAPA was made in December, while the training took place three months earlier, they could not book Purohit under this section.

Purohit has been booked for murder as well as conspiracy for a terror act. The ATS has also booked him for the suspects’ association with an organised crime syndicate.

The ATS, however, did not have details of all 40 youths who attended the camp. “Purohit held several meetings, terror training sessions and indoctrination programmes where he is suspected to have brainwashed and trained over 200 youths. ATS officers told me that they were still looking for them,’’ said minister of state (home) Arif Naseem Khan.

The Times of India, July 27, 2009

Swine flu scare: No prohibition on Haj pilgrims

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The Haj Committee of India officials on Sunday said Haj pilgrims would not be barred from going to Mecca because of swine flu. The Saudi government had earlier appealed that senior citizens and minors should avoid coming for Haj this year.

Around two lakh people go to Mecca every year for Haj from India alone. “The Saudi government had appealed that minors and senior citizens (above 65 years of age) should avoid travelling this year due to swine flu. However, there is no ban on anyone,’’ said Abbas Mukadam, assistant chief executive officer of Haj Committee.

Mukadam added that the ministry of external affairs (MeA) has written to the ministry of health to provide H1N1 vaccines to all Haj pilgrims.

“Vaccines will be given to all the pilgrims before they travel for Haj,’’ he said. The health ministry has assured to provide vaccines till August this year.

On July 23, the Egyptian health ministry decided to ban children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses from attending the Haj. Global deaths from the H1N1 virus have doubled in the past three weeks to over 700 from about 330, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The Times of India, July 27, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

CCI chief booked for suicide attempt

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The Cuffe Parade police on Sunday registered an attempt to commit suicide case against the Cricket Club of India (CCI) CEO Kamaljeet Rajpal (53) for trying to kill himself. Rajpal was found lying in a pool of blood at his Cuffe Parade flat on May 8.
“The forensic report suggested that the gun was kept just four-to-six inches from Rajpal’s mouth. We invoked Section 309 of the IPC against him,’’ said the police. If convicted, he stands to get simple imprisonment that could extend to a maximum of one year.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Security cover for MCOCA court judge after threat call


Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Special judge Y D Shinde, who is handling cases of the Indian Mujahideen and the Abhinav Bharat’s terror suspects, on Thursday complained that he had received a threat call from an unknown person. Following the threat, the city police have provided security cover to the judge. No FIR was registered till late evening.

Shinde is handling at least half-a-dozen sensitive cases in the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court. Confirming the threat call to Shinde, city
police chief D Sivanandan said on Thursday evening, “Some unknown person called him up from a PCO. He has given a letter to the police and officers of inspector general and deputy IG rank met him.
He has been provided with a security cover.’’

The police chief added that extra security cover will be provided to Shinde, if required.

A senior official from the ATS said they had received a
letter from Shinde. “We are examining the PCO’s call records. The matter is under investigation,’’ the officer said. He refused to elaborate on how many calls were made to Shinde and what the callers said.

Last week, Shinde had rejected the bail plea of Malegaon 2008 blast suspect, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, a member of Abhinav Bharat.

It is learnt that the callers had alleged that Shinde was discriminating among the accused and had not released some terror suspects. The trial in Malegaon blast and the Indian Mujahideen cases are yet to begin.

The Times of India, July 17, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Man abducts stepdad for Rs 3L

Drama Starts In Goregaon And Ends After Night Chase Through City’s Poshest Neighbourhoods

Mateen Hafeez & Nitasha Natu | TNN

Mumbai: Malabar Hill cops nabbed a 34-year-old man, who kidnapped his stepfather at gunpoint from his Goregaon (E) residence, after a dramatic chase through some of south Mumbai’s poshest neighbourhoods on Tuesday night.

Mikhail Zaveri drove to one of Mumbai’s most expensive addresses, the Il Palazzo building (near the tourist destination of Hanging Garden), with stepdad Pradeep Sood as hostage to collect a modest ransom—of Rs 3 lakh— from his aunt. He was finally caught near the Kemps Corner junction in his Maruti Swift.

Police officials said Tuesday’s drama started after the 61-year-old Pradeep refused to give in to his stepson’s demand for Rs 3 lakh. The unemployed Mikhail would get close to Rs 1 lakh as monthly pocket money, the officials added.

Pradeep, who runs an engineering firm, is partially paralysed and lives on the 20th floor of the Raag Meghmalhar building in Goregaon (E) with wife Tara. The couple got married nearly 20 years ago. Mikhail is Tara’s biological son from her late husband, Lalit Zaveri.

“Mikhail had frequent fights with his stepdad; the latter asked him to leave the house and stay separately but Mikhail demanded Rs 3 lakh,’’ DCP A Patil said. Other officials said Mikhail wanted the money to pay a club membership fee.

An enraged Mikhail threatened Pradeep with an airgun on Tuesday evening and asked him to call up his sister, Mridula Maluste, a resident of Malabar Hill. Pradeep refused once again, prompting Mikhail to make the call himself and ask Mridula to keep the money ready. He threatened to kill his stepdad if she did not pay up.

“Mikhail had a noisy fight with his parents around 5 pm on Tuesday. He kicked and punched his mother and also assaulted his stepfather. He then went on a rampage in the house, smashing the television set, electronic appliances and furniture. He even turned on the gas stove in the kitchen, threatening to set the house on fire,’’ Patil said.

After snatching his mother’s cellphone and locking her at home, Mikhail forced his stepfather into their black Maruti Swift and left for Malabar Hill around 8.45 pm. “We received a call from Mridula that Mikhail was coming to her house to collect Rs 3 lakh,’’ Malabar Hill senior inspector Iqbal Shaikh said. A team of 50 policemen were then posted around Il Palazzo though cops
knew only one half of the car’s registration number.

Mikhail drove into the no-entry road on Little Gibbs Road to reach Il Palazzo. But, as the police deployment was around the Malabar Hill Club, officials failed to spot the car immediately. So Mikhail saw the cops at a distance and realised something was amiss and took a turn and fled.
What followed was a chase through some of the city’s toniest parts. It was finally at Kemps Corner that the police vehicles overtook the Swift and blocked its path.

But the drama did not end there. A cornered Mikhail then tried to attack his stepdad in the car as cops fumbled while opening the car’s jammed door. One of the cops, however, managed to yank the door open before Mikhail could do any harm. Mikhail, who was abusing cops and his stepdad at the top of his voice, was bundled into a police car and handcuffed. A panchnama was
carried out there itself, resulting in a traffic snarl on the stretch.

Malabar Hill police station was witness to some high drama around 11 pm on Tuesday. Among the relatives who turned up to lodge the complaint against Mikhail was her
itage activist Anita Garware. She is the sister of Mridula’s husband.

Mikhail, officials said, was heavily into gambling. “We scanned his cellphone and found a text message — to a friend — where Mikhail said he had lost Rs 28,000 in gambling,’’ assistant inspector Ghansham Palange said. An airgun, two knives, three cellphones, Rs 4,000 and sleeping pills were recovered from Mikhail.

The stepdad had complained to cops about Mikhail in the past. Mikhail, in December 2003, had demanded Rs 40,000. Mikhail had also allegedly beaten up a female friend in 2001, after which she complained to the Vashi police.

Mikhail has been booked for abduction, extortion, attempt to murder, damage to property, assault, criminal intimidation under the IPC and for possession of firearms under the Arms Act. A local court has sent him to police custody till July 18.

A five-hour Family Drama, JULY 14 TUESDAY
5.15 PM — 8.45 PM

Mikhail Zaveri demands Rs 3 lakh from his stepfather Pradeep Sood. After the stepfather refuses, Mikhail fights with him and in a fit of anger smashes TV, furniture and other items in the house.
He beats up the mother, threatens the stepfather with an air gun and asks him to call up his sister staying at Malabar Hill to keep the amount ready. Mikhail then turns on the gas stove, saying he would set the house on fire. Minutes later, he forces his stepfather into their black Maruti Swift. He is now armed with two kitchen knives besides the gun. Before leaving, he locks up the mother in the house and also snatches her phone

After receiving Mikhail’s threat, Sood’s sister Mridula Maluste calls up her relatives seeking advice. One of them asks her to call him over to Il Palazzo so that they can nab him with the help of the police. Mridula then calls up the Malabar Hill police

About 50 cops, most of them in plainclothes, and five jeeps take position to nab Mikhail who, they are informed by his relatives, would be arriving there in a black car

Cops find a black Swift, which is being driven on the wrong side, approaching Il Palazzo . Mikhail, who is in the car, smells a rat. He then turns the car and takes off towards Kemps Corner

The cops, hot on his heels, overtake the car in a jeep. They force open the car door, drag Mikhail out of the vehicle and arrest him

I. Mikhail Zaveri’s relationship with Pradeep Sood
Mikhail Zaveri is Pradeep Sood’s stepson. Sood was married twice, and Mikhail is the son of his second wife by her previous marriage to Lalit Zaveri

II. Pradeep Sood’s connection with Il Palazzo

Pradeep Sood’s sister Mridula Maluste is married to Nandan Maluste, formerly a senior bank executive and also former trustee of CRY

Incidentally, Nandan’s sister is the well-known heritage activist Anita Garware. Anita is also the founder of the Indian Heritage Society which organises the only awards for heritage in the city. Both the Malustes and Garwares live in Il Palazzo

Born Sheela Maluste, Anita changed her name to Anita Garware after her marriage to Chandrakant Garware, the son of noted industrialist and educationist Bhalchandra Digamber Garware, fondly called Abasaheb

The Times of India, July 16, 2009

City kidnap drama ends after car chase at Kemps Corner

The Swift in which Mikhail ‘abducted’ his stepdad

Mateen Hafeez & Nitasha Natu I TNN
Mumbai: A sordid family drama over money spilled onto the streets of some of Mumbai’s toniest neighbourhoods on Tuesday night as police vehicles chased a car through the Malabar Hill area before trapping a man who had kidnapped his stepfather at gunpoint for ransom near the Kemps Corner junction. He has been arrested.

The drama had begun earlier in the evening when Mikhail Zaveri, 34, asked for Rs 3 lakh from his 60-year-old stepfather, Pradeep Sood, who runs an engineering firm. On being refused the money, the unemployed youth threatened Pradeep with an air
gun and told him to ask for the money from his sister, Mridula Maluste, a resident of Malabar Hill. Pradeep refused, prompting Mikhail to make the call to her. He threatened to kill his stepdad if she did not pay up.

He locked his mother in the flat in Goregaon (E), forced Pradeep into his car and left for Malabar Hill. His aunt, meanwhile, alerted the police, who lay in wait for Mikhail. Seeing the cops, Mikhail sped away, prompting the chase. Trapped at Kemps Corner, he tried to attack Pradeep, but was stopped in the nick of time.

The Times of India, July 16, 2009

Photos of two terror targets shot in city raise recce fears

KEEPING VIGIL: Security personnel stand guard at CST on Wednesday

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Mumbai: Two of the targets mentioned in the latest threat alert by the intelligence agencies were reportedly surveyed by terrorists, highly placed sources said.

Sources said an examination of the pictures of the two potential targets revealed that the images were not downloaded from the internet but were shot in the city. “This revelation is serious, because it suggests that a recce of the terror targets was done. One picture was of a bank near the Bombay high court and the area around it,’’ a source said.

TOI, in its Wednesday edition, had reported a serious terror threat to seven places in Mumbai, including an important railway junction in Navi Mumbai.

Another picture of a railway junction, intelligence agencies believe, was not procured from the internet either. “At least two pictures have been clicked and not downloaded from websites. It’s an indication of local support or a recce here. Our operation is at a preliminary stage, and it’s premature to say anything at this juncture,’’ the source said.

Some cellphone numbers are under the scanner

Mumbai: After the July 8 terror alert, the most serious in two years, for Mumbai and areas along the western coast, police suspect a recce had been done of at least a couple of targets in the city. Sources said some suspected mobile phone numbers were being monitored by security agencies as an investigation has been launched into the possibility of local support to the terrorists.

This is one of the more serious security threats to the city in two years. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had also mentioned four dates on which terrorists were planning to carry out the attacks.
One of the dates has passed. Senior police officials confirmed the alert but refused to comment. The IB had also emailed pictures of the targets to security agencies.

Crime branch chief Rakesh Maria said, “We’ve received intelligence information from central agencies on attacks at some places. Whenever we receive information we deploy security
personnel, gather information and at times make preventive arrests.’’

Meanwhile, home minister Jayant Patil attempted to play down the threat, saying the alerts were general and did not mention specific places. Patil also denied that a leading bank was on the hitlist of terrorists, although sen
ior police officers interpreted this as a bid by the minister to avert panic in the city.

Patil, however, held a high-level meeting with police officers and intelligence personnel at Mantralaya on Wednesday. He said the state government had ordered speedboats. “Mumbai will get
one large and six medium boats. The Navi Mumbai police will get a speedboat on Tuesday.’’ Navi Mumbai has a huge coastline which can be used to carry out attacks on sensitive government installations nearby. Deputy commissioner of police, Navi Mumbai (zone II), Ashok Dudhe said, “Everyone must cooperate with the police on this, and we’re on high alert.’’ Apart from patrolling the Sion-Panvel highway, the police have also set up a few temporary checkpoints along interior roads at various nodes in the city.

Intelligence agencies had earlier warned of an attack by the sea route along the western coast. Patil said the Coast Guard was maintaining a tight vigil, especially on ships coming in from the direction of Pakistan. Hence there was little reason to fear an attack from the sea.
Defence PRO Captain Manohar Nambiar said the vigil had been stepped up following the alerts.
(With inputs by Yogesh Naik, S Ahmed Ali, Vijay V Singh and Vijay Singh)

PM pushes for action against 26/11 culprits
As Mumbai moved into Code Red alert over a terror threat from suspected Pakistanbased groups, PM Manmohan Singh on Wednesday made a strong pitch for action against the masterminds of the
26/11 strike on the city. “Terrorist groups have become more sophisticated, more organised and more daring. Terrorists and those who aid and abet them must be brought to justice,’’ he told the NAM summit in Egypt

The Times of India, July 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Terror alert points to 7 state targets - City Stations, Bank On Hit-List

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: A heavy downpour soaked Mumbai on Tuesday,but security forces in the city kept their powder dry after a fresh terror alert which,sources said, represented the most serious threat to the city in two years.

The Intelligence Bureau, in its alert, warned that at least seven places in Maharashtra—including a reputed bank in Mumbai and an important railway junction in Navi Mumbai—could be attacked. The alert, dated July 8, also contains photographs of the seven ‘targets’.

Home minister P Chidambaram had warned that Pakistan-based terrorists could launch another sea-borne attack despite the bad weather and choppy seas. While the minister did not give details, sources in the central intelligence agencies described the threat as specific and the most serious in two years. A massive coastal patrol was launched following that alert.

The July 8 alert, officials said, was issued after a terror suspect was detained in Jammu and Kashmir and the police recovered photographs of targets in Maharashtra from him. The colour pictures were sent to security agencies in Maharashtra by e-mail. “The photographs are genuine. They include the picture of a reputed bank near the Bombay high court, two railway stations in Mumbai and a railway station in Navi Mumbai,’’ an official said, adding that the Navi Mumbai station was not properly covered “security-wise’’. Over seven million people travel by the Mumbai local trains every day.

The fresh alert, officials said, also mentioned four dates on which the terrorists planned to carry out the strikes. TOI has a list of the dates (one passed last week) and details of the targets.

‘LeT behind new terror plot’

Mumbai: Although an IB alert has warned of threat to seven places in the state, it did not specify the number of terrorists planning to enter Maharashtra and did not provide any information about possible local involvement.

This is the second alert in two weeks by central intelligence agencies. The first was issued on June 24—it said a 26/11-like terror strike could be repeated again via the sea route by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). The alert put all the security agencies in Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra on high alert and prompted a review of security. It said Indian associates of the LeT were preparing for the attack with the help of their Pak-based mentors.

“The LeT has been singled out as having planned an attack in the second alert too,’’ said an officer. He added that some of the photographs of the “targets’’ were downloaded from websites.

Blasts had rocked seven Mumbai local trains three years ago, killing 188 people. Police officials had then said it was the handiwork of the LeT that had taken the help of 13 members of the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).

The Times of India, July 15, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

‘JuD recruiter Madni was not part of 7/11’

Jamatu-ud-Dawa's operative, Omar Madni (50) has been given a clean chit in the July 11, 2006 serial blasts in local train cases

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative Omar Madni’s estranged brother, Haafiz Zubair, had sent Kamal Ansari, a suspect in the 2006 train blasts case, to Pakistan for terror training, the state anti-terrorism squad (ATS) has revealed. Madni, however, was not part of the terror strike.

This has emerged during Madni’s interrogation by the ATS in Kolkata. After the questioning, the government agency gave him a clean chit, saying he did not play any role in the terror strikes in Maharashtra. However, Zubair is one of the foreigners, wanted in the train blasts case.

Madni was arrested in June by the Delhi police who claimed that he had gone to that city to “recruit youngsters for an extremist outfit’’. From there, he was handed over to the Bihar police for another case following which, he was sent to the custody of the Kolkata police.

According to a source, Madni was in charge of recruiting unemployed and uneducated youth in Nepal for terror training in Pakistan. He climbed his way up to become a commercial HR manager for the Lahore-based Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD), but he was not part of the conspiracy of carrying out terror strike in Maharashtra, an official said.

Currently in the custody of Kolkata’s special task force (STF), Madni told the police that he had joined hands with the LeT to fight against the “atrocities on Muslims and later, became the main recruiter for LeT in Nepal. “I was paid Rs 40,000 in Nepalese currency for sending each recruit for terror training,’’ said Madni, who has been
associated with the LeT over the past 11 years and has sent many boys, including Zubair, to Pakistan for training.

A dispute over money reportedly created a rift between Zubair and Madni, who has now parted ways.

Madni was born in a poor family at Madhubani in Bihar. His father, Shamsul Haque, was a teacher of Islamic studies at Jamia Salfiya in Banaras where Madni studied for 10 years till 1980. After that, he went to Saudi Arabia’s Madina University. He returned to Bihar and married Mumtaz Begum from West Bengal in 1984; They had a daughter. They separated later.

Later, the entire family shifted to Janakpur in Nepal where they started a school for Islamic studies, Jamia Salfiya. In 1993, he again married, this time, a Nepalese woman, Rahima Khatoon, and has four sons and a daughter with her.

The soft-spoken Madni was first impressed with LeT when he came across the outfit’s monthly magazine, Dawa. “I was LeT chief Haafiz Saeed’s fan and would go to Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Ba
ngladesh to collect zakat (2.5% of income’s share Muslim donate every year) to run Jamia Salfiya,’’ he said. In 1998, he met Saeed and was selected for a 21-day training in assembling and operating arms and bombs. “However, I could not go through the rigorous physical training and was asked to identify youth in Nepal and India for the outfit,’’ Madni told the police.

Learning about Madni’s finacial transactions, Maoists in Nepal demanded a ransom of Rs 3 lakh, which after bargaining, was brought down to Rs 7,000. Madni later floated an air ticket firm, Nice Tours & Trav
els, whose name first came to the fore during the 7/11 probe.

Madni was introduced to a Pakistani national, Ahmed, by an LeT operative, Feroz. Ahmed handed him over Indian fake currency with a face value of Rs 50,000 and that of US$ 8,000 to deliver in Delhi. He was promised commission, claimed the police. The Delhi police claimed that Madni was on a trip to India to recruit “young talent’’ when he was arrested on June 4 from near Qutub Minar.

The Times of India, July 13, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

ATS gives clean chit to Sadhvi’s Delhi aide

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Senior ATS officials on Saturday said that Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh member Shailendra Chauhan was not involved in the 2008 Malegaon blast. Chauhan (26), a close aide of suspect Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, was arrested on June 25 by the Delhi police on charges of killing a church employee.

An ATS team from Maharashtra reached New Delhi and questioned Chauhan. “We found that he was not involved in the blast. He is associated with Sadhvi Pragya but had been committing crimes only in and around Delhi,’’ said ATS additional commissioner Param Bir Singh.

The Times of India, July 5, 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Al-Qaida role in train blasts unclear, says ATS chief

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Reacting to the statement by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that al-Qaida was involved in the 7/11 serial train bombings in Mumbai, state anti-terrorism squad (ATS) chief K P Raghuvanshi said they are not aware of the terror outfit’s role as they could not carry out investigations beyond the Indian border.

The US and UNSC had said the al-Qaida had aided the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in engineering and executing the July 11, 2006, Mumbai train blasts that killed 188 and injured 817. The ATS had already
arrested and chargesheeted 13 youths, suspected to be members of banned outfit, Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The trial is pending in the case.

The ATS had said that Rs 20 lakh was used to finance the operation and the money had come from Pakistan through hawala. “It was engineered by LeT and SIMI activists were used to execute the train blasts,’’ said Raghuvanshi.

Referring to the UNSC report, Raghuvanshi said, “This report talks about who funded the attack. The conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan by LeT operative Azam Cheema and
his associates. But we had no opportunity to investigate how LeT is being financed in Pakistan as we could not conduct any probe beyond our border.’’

The ATS had earlier said that at least six youths caught for the 7/11 blasts went to Bahawalpur in Pakistan for terror training.

The US and the UNSC had named four LeT top commanders, Fazeelatul Shaikh Abu Mohammed Ameen Al-Peshawari, Nasir Javed, Arif Qasmani and Mohammed Yahya Mujahid. However, these names neither appeared in the interrogation report of the 7/11 suspects nor in the
chargesheet. “We are looking for 13 Pakistanis who are wanted in the case. Most of the Pakistanis had used code names and we are not sure if the names we got were real or just code names,’’ said ATS additional commissioner Param Bir Singh.

According to the UNSC report, Qasmani, the chief coordinator for LeT, deals with other organisations to carry out the operations. In the 7/11 case, the ATS said it was Faisal Shaikh, LeT’s western India commander, who had plotted the blasts. Thirteen SIMI members, including Shaikh, are currently in jail.

The Times of India, July 4, 2009

Thursday, July 2, 2009

‘Fake notes weren’t made in India & had govt safeguards’

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: The team investigating the source of the counterfeit notes of Rs 1,000 denomination that were seized in Mumbai late last month believe that the fakes were printed in a “government press’’ belonging to a neighbouring country. Last month, six people were caught supplying fake Rs1,000 denomination notes amounting to about Rs 4 lakh, in Mumbai. This was followed by a series of similar arrests in Hyderabad, Goa and Bangalore.

“The quality of these fake
notes is very high. The paper has been imported. The new security features introduced by the Indian government have been copied by the culprits. Producing such high-quality notes requires a government printing press,’’ said a senior police officer.

The case has recently been handed over to the newly formed, National Investigating Agency (NIA).“It is also a form of financial terrorism, which spreads suspicion in the minds of the public about the
authenticity of their own country’s currency,’’ said a senior ATS official.

There were only two instances where the notes failed to pass the authenticity test. The culprits could not copy the Microlettering. In the original notes, the letters ‘RBI’ and the numeral, ‘1000’ can be viewed with the help of a magnifying
glass in the zone between the Mahatma Gandhi portrait and the vertical band. (see Identifying the real Mccoy). The number of ‘RBI’ words on the vertical band corresponds to the series of the currency. This was not the case with the counterfeit notes. “The fake notes also lacked the colour quality in the printing of the numeral ‘1000’ that is in the middle of the note. They tried using the Optically Variable Ink, but were unable to match it with the original,’’ said a senior police official. The colour of the numeral ‘1000’ is green when the note is held flat, but changes to blue when held at an angle. There was no colour change in the fake notes. In all other features the notes resembled the real McCoy.

“The notes possibly came from Bangladesh via West Bengal , but are yet to confirm this,’’ said an ATS officer.

Times of India, July 2, 2009

COP’S SON AMONG THE ACCUSED - 2 college students held with cocaine

Mateen Hafeez I TNN
Mumbai: Two college students were a r re s t e d on Wednesday afternoon after they were found with cocaine while seven others were detained for questioning. The students, including a son of a serving police inspector, are from two city colleges.

According to DCP V N Patil, the anti-narcotics cell (ANC) received an information about the ‘drug deal’ and laid a trap at 2 pm. “We arrested the students near Bhavan’s college at Chowpatty. Two students were caught with 2 gm of cocain each,’’ said Patil.

The college students, all aged between 18 years and 22 years, were supplied drugs by a Nigerian drug peddler, claimed Patil. Under the NDPS Act, 2 gm is termed ‘small quantity’ and the maximum punishment is one year.

“Three boys were sitting inside a car while six others were standing. We caught them and seized the car,’’ he added.

The two arrested students have been booked under the stringent Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. It is difficult to procure bail under this law.

“We have sent the seven other youths for blood and urine tests and whether to arrest them or not will de
pend upon the medical reports,’’ said a senior antinarcotics cell official.

The police have got the names and other details about the drug supplier but he fled from the spot where he was supposed to be present after delivering the drugs to these students.

“We have also seized the students’ mobile phones and are scanning their phone records,’’ said an official.

The Times of India, July 2, 2009

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sonia inaugurates govt hospital in Malegaon

This 200-bed government hospital was inaugurated in Malegaon by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on June 30, 2009.

Mateen Hafeez I TNN

Malegaon: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday inaugurated a government hospital in the textile town of Malegaon which had been a longstanding demand of residents.

Sonia promised a civil hospital in 2006 when she visited Malegaon after four serial bomb blasts had killed 31 here. It is the first government-run hospital in this town which has a population of 7 lakh. “We were in trouble because of the blasts the last time I came here. I had then asked the chief minister that there should be a proper government hospital in Malegaon. I am very happy after seeing this 200-bed hospital,’’ Sonia said.

This was Sonia’s first visit to Maharashtra after the UPA came to power at the Centre for the second consecutive time. People of the country have faith in the Congress and it was reflected clearly in last month’s election results, she said.

Malegaon, a 10th-century city located about 300 km from Mumbai, did not have a single government hospital all this while and had to depend only on private hospitals. So, the last time the Congress chief came here, a government hospital ranked top on the list of demands
of Malegaon residents.

“Malegaon needs progress. There are more poor people here. Several powerloom weavers and their children have deafness. I have asked the CM to look into the problem and the central government will help the state,’’ she said. But many Malegaon residents, despite appreci
ating Sonia’s concern, said she had been provided with wrong information and not many in the town were deaf. Around 4 lakh people are dependent on the powerloom industry.

Taking a firm stand on the attack on North Indians in Maharashtra, Sonia said: “Our government will protect all migrants who come to Maharash
tra from several parts of the country for their livelihood.’’

Sonia seemed to have the elections on her mind when she gave details on how the Congress was helping the minorities.“Minorities, Dalits, farmers and women have to be given special attention. That was why we constituted the Sachar Committee. Districts with a greater percentage of minorities have been provided with funds and special funds have been released for children,’’ she said, adding that farmers and Dalits were given a Rs 100-crore development fund.

CM Ashok Chavan said that Malegaon will be provided with ‘as much funds as required for development. “Mrs Gandhi has fulfiled her promise of a hospital,’’ said Chavan.

Union health minister Gulam Nabi Azad, who began his speech in Marathi, changed to fluent Urdu after the audience demanded it. All Muslims in Malegaon speak Urdu. “We are working on many projects envisaged by Soniaji under the National Rural Health Scheme,’’ he said. Calling Malegaon “mini-India,’’ Azad said people from Hyderabad, UP, Delhi and Gujarat had migrated to this town for their livelihood and it was one of the best examples of unity and integrity.

Sonia appeared confused while trying to pronounce Malegaon Municipal Corporation mayor Najmuddin Khajoorwale’s name. As the audience laughed, a smiling Sonia said: “Kuchh galat kaha mein ne (Did I say something wrong)?’’ But her honest admission of her mistake was enough for the crowd to forgive her.

The Times of India , July 1, 2009