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Marriage revellers killed in crash

Dehradun (PTI): Twenty people were killed and 55 injured when an overcrowded bus skidded off the road and rolled down into a deep gorge in Pauri district in Uttaranchal, police said.

The private bus, carrying nearly 100 people of a marriage party, was returning to Dhansi village from Kalchi Kothar when it fell into the 300-metre gorge in Devikhal area on Tuesday night, DIG Anil Raturi said.

Thirteen people died on the spot, while three succumbed to injuries in hospital, Raturi said. The father of the groom was among those killed. The bride and the groom escaped with minor injuries.

Nearly 45 people were rushed to the nearby Rishikesh Government Hospital where the condition of dozen of them was stated to be critical.

Shahnawaz tabulates Haj deaths

New Delhi (PTI): As many as 108 Haj pilgrims from India have died in Saudi Arabia till date this year, including nine in accidents and stampede, civil aviation minister Shahnawaz Hussain said on Wednesday.

Quoting figures available with the Indian mission in Jeddah, Hussain said while four of them had been killed in a stampede about two weeks ago, five more died in other accidents. The rest died of natural causes, the minister said.

Keeping in mind such deaths, which were a regular feature of the annual Haj pilgrimage, he said he would submit a detailed report to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which, among other things, would include a suggestion for insuring the Indian pilgrims.

The insurance cover would cost an additional amount of Rs 150 per person, he said, adding that his report to the Prime Minister would contain several other suggestions in this regard.

Of those dead this year, 66 were registered with the Central Haj Committee while 43 were private pilgrims.

The oldest Indian Haji this year is 100-year-old Syed Moinuddin Shah and the youngest is Alnoor Maqqi, who was born in Saudi Arabia on January 26.

A total of over 1,16,000 pilgrims went on Haj from the country this year, Hussain said.

Hussain had led the official delegation from the country this year. During his visit, he had held a meeting with Saudi interior minister Naif Bin Abdulaziz and invited him to India on behalf of deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Katara case transfer plea

New Delhi (PTI): Rejecting the plea for transfer of the Nitish Katara murder case from the present trial court, Delhi High Court on Wednesday said any observation by the trial judge during the hearing or any adverse order passed by him cannot be a ground for alleging prejudice and claiming transfer.

Dismissing the petitions by Rajya Sabha MP D.P. Yadav’s son Vikas and nephew Vishal, prime accused in the Katara murder, Justice R.C. Chopra said that if such a plea was accepted “it would lead to endless transfer petitions and throttle the entire judicial system”.

Bookies arrested

Mumbai (PTI): The social security branch of city police claimed to have busted a major betting racket on the ongoing World Cup matches, arresting eight bookies during a raid in Dahisar. The number of bookies arrested since the beginning of the tournament has risen to 25, the police said.

Heaviest snowfall

Dehra Dun (PTI): The Garhwal and Kumaon received the season’s heaviest snowfall on Wednesday. Several other areas of Uttaranchal were lashed by medium to heavy rain coupled with hailstorm and squall, bringing down the temperatures to freezing point and paralysing normal life in the state. Kameth, Dronagiri, Trishul, Nandadevi, Chaukhamba, Joshi Math, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Hemkund Sahib and Gopeshwar in Chamoli district received the season’s heaviest snowfall.

Gangsters in net

Salem (PTI): Two gangsters have been arrested in connection with burglaries in Yercaud estates, K.C. Mahali, superintendent of police, Salem rural district, said. He said the gangsters used to bring 40 to 50 men in their lorry and loot the estate produce of sandalwood and other valuable wood.

Girl drowns

Bijnore (PTI): An 11-month-old girl drowned in a bucket of water in Rangpura near Najibabad. The girl, who was playing in a cot, fell into the bucket kept underneath. The girl was rushed to the hospital but could not be saved.

A 10-day cultural extravaganza near Taj Mahal, Taj Mahotsav, got underway on Wednesday. Inaugurating the festival, Uttar Pradesh minister of state for tourism Naresh Kumar Khanna said efforts were on to reopen the monument for night viewing.


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