Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A R Reddy presents Rs 1,28,542 crore Budget

Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Aanam Ramanarayana Reddy today unveiled a Rs 1,28,542 crore Budget for the 2011—12 financial year, projecting a fiscal deficit of Rs 17,602 crore.
The size of the budget is about Rs 15,000 crore more than last year’s budget estimate of Rs 1.13 lakh crore. This is the fourth consecutive year that the State’s Budget has been pegged at over Rs 1 lakh crore, despite actual spending falling way short of projections.
This was Mr. Ramanarayana Reddy’s maiden budget, which he presented at 11.43 am, the ‘muhurtam’ set for the occasion.
The Finance Minister pegged tax revenue in 2011—12 at Rs 56,438 crore, as against Rs 46,999 crore in the 2010—11 financial year. Non-tax revenue is expected to be Rs 12,339 crore, while central funds are projected at Rs 32,218 crore, including the State’s share of central taxes at Rs 16,826 crore.
The Plan outlay for 2011—12 has been put at Rs 47,558 crore and non-plan outlay at Rs 80,984 crore.
“Our State economy is likely to grow by 8.89 per cent in the year 2010—11, notwithstanding the heavy rains and floods which have adversely impacted the farming and allied sectors.
The Gross State Domestic Product at current prices is estimated at Rs 5.65 lakh crore, while per capita income during 2010—11 is estimated at Rs 60,224,” the Finance Minister said in his Budget speech.
The State is expected to achieve an industrial growth rate of 7.79 per cent in 2011—12, while the services sector is expected to expand by 9.61 per cent, he said.
“The good growth in GSDP is also expected to translate into buoyant revenue collections in the coming year at approximately 20 per cent higher than the current budget,” Mr. Reddy said.
“Our government is committed to continue all welfare programmes, while equal emphasis has been laid on development programmes by continuing substantial allocations to infrastructure sectors like irrigation, roads, water supply and power,” he said.
He said the government will introduce a Comprehensive Financial Management System (CFMS) for providing a seamless interface with all stakeholders and putting in place an efficient mechanism of electronic information sharing with external stakeholders in budgeting and accounting processes.
A sum of Rs 100 crore has been earmarked in the 2011—12 Budget for implementation of the CFMS.

AP CM asks Telangana supporters not to hamper welfare programmes

Reiterating that it was for the Centre to take a decision on the contentious statehood issue, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy today appealed to Telangana protagonists not to hamper the development and welfare programmes.
“The Telangana demand is not new and it has been there for the past 50 years. The Centre appointed the Srikrishna Committee to look into the issue and based on its recommendations and consultations with all political parties it will take a decision. The State government will implement whatever decision the Centre takes on Telangana,” Mr. Kiran Kumar Reddy said, replying to the motion of thanks to the Governor’s address in the state Assembly this afternoon.
The Chief Minister completed his reply in just about 12 minutes even as the TRS MLAs stormed the Speaker’s podium and raised slogans demanding that the House pass a resolution seeking creation of Telangana state.
Referring to the recent ‘Rachchabanda’ (mass contact programme) organised by the government across the State, the Chief Minister pointed out it was a massive success despite strong opposition by Telangana protagonists.
“The programme reflected the real aspirations of the people in getting their grievances redressed. More than 66 lakh new petitions were received during the three-week long programme from people seeking various welfare measures. Our government is committed to implement all the welfare programmes initiated since 2004,” Mr. Kiran asserted.
He warned the Telugu Desam Party that it would have to sit in the opposition for a third successive term if it did not cooperate with the government in implementing the welfare and development agenda.
The Chief Minister criticised TDP Chief and Leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu for not even condemning the unruly incidents in the House during Governor ESL Narasimhan’s address on the opening day of the session.
“I strongly protest the indifference of the Opposition Leader. The Governor is not just a person, but an institution. If we insult the institution, we will end up as a laughing stock in front of the public who elected us,” Mr. Kiran remarked.
He defended the suspension of three TRS and two TDP MLAs from the House for a week and said it was due to their unruly behaviour during the Governor’s address and not any other issue.
The House then adopted the motion of thanks to the Governor’s address by voice vote.
Earlier, in the day Chief Whip Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka initiated the discussion on the motion while Congress MLA Dronamraju Srinivas seconded it.
None of the Opposition parties took part in the debate on the motion as the proceedings were constantly disrupted by TRS, CPI and TDP MLAs from Telangana. The House was adjourned three times in the morning session because of the disruptions.

Monday, October 4, 2010

TD invites KCR to Delhi protest

Increasing its pressure on the TRS, the Telugu Desam, on Sunday, invited the TRS chief, Mr K. Chandrasekar Rao, to join the party-sponsored protest programme that it plans to host before the residence of the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, on October 25.

Party leaders from the Telangana region met at Mr Chandrababu Naidu’s residence to chalk out modalities of the protest programme in New Delhi and have decided to invite all political parties including the TRS and the Congress to the ‘Chalo New Delhi’ programme. “We will invite all political parties to join us to sit before 10 Janpath. KCR should respond to our invite and join our programme if he has even the slightest commitment to resolve the T-issue,” said the senior TD leader, Mr Mothkupalli Narasimhulu.

In a bid to single out the TRS, the TD leadership has decided to invite the leaders who are heading the joint action committees in the Telangana region to the programme as well.

The party also discussed the pros and cons of inviting the new party launched by Gaddar for the protest. Though it was decided to invite Gaddar, some leaders opined that the party should wait and watch to understand the philosophy and the people of the new party before inviting them.

FM tune: No curbs on FIIs

The Union finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, has said that domestic stock markets have an appetite for more foreign investments as FII inflows were still at moderate levels. He also made it clear that it was not yet time for government intervention to check FII inflows.

Cumulative net FII inflow in equities and debt market till October 1 is pegged at $109 billion, of which $92.03 billion is in equities and $17.28 billion in debt. Net FII inflows since Mr Mukherjee presented his Budget on February 26 is pegged at $26.33 billion, of which $19.02 billion is in equities and $7.33 billion in debt, according to FC Research Bureau data.

The Bombay Stock Exchange’s 30-stock benchmark Sensex index closed at 20,445.04 points when trading ended on Friday.

The finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, speaking exclusively to Financial Chronicle on the state of the economy on Wednesday, a full seven months since presenting his last Budget and before North Block gears up to start work on the next one five months from now, said when asked if large portfolio inflows were a big concern for him: “We will have to make an assessment about how much of inflows will lead to overheating... we will have to see whether money is coming in for a very short term, medium term or long term. What we know is that countries where safe investments can be made are still in some difficulty, and their recovery process is still not robust. The recovery is weak in the whole of the euro zone, except Germany and France. North America is also not very strong.”

Gaddar party to be a storm in KCR T cup

A new political formation called the Telangana Praja Front has emerged as an alternative to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and its chief, Mr K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who have hitherto been the most aggressive proponents of statehood for Telangana.

Poets, intellectuals, artists and dozens of joint action committees that were formed after December 9, 2009, have come together to endorse the Telangana Praja Front which will be led by the famous balladeer Gaddar. Known to be a Maoist sympathiser, Gaddar has wide contacts with Telangana artists, poets and people’s organisations working for human rights. Political parties such as the Congress and the Telugu Desam too have welcomed the new outfit, with the TD leader Mr Revuri Prakash Reddy, offering to convince his boss, Mr Chandrababu Naidu, to endorse the new party if Gaddar is ready to work with the TD. The Osmania Joint Action Committee has already announced its support to the new party.

The new party has found champions among dozens of joint action committees that have been complaining that Mr Chandrasekhar Rao is not taking them into confidence.

“We will decide the future course of action and modalities of the party on October 9 at Nizam College where representatives of different sections will meet and decide the action plan to achieve Telangana,” said Gaddar.

“If political lobbying can bring about a Telangana state, why has it failed to do so after Mr Chandrasekhar Rao was elected with 2.6 lakh majority in the Karimnagar election?” he questioned.

Olympic start to CWG

The 19th Common-wealth Games got off to a spectacular opening on Sunday. It was an extravaganza that blended tradition and technology in a smooth mix before 60,000 enthralled spectators and a billion people watching on TV.

Dr Manmohan Singh, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Mr L.K. Advani, Ms Sushma Swaraj and a host of bigwigs sat in companionable peace as the curtain went up in spectacular style.

“I am delighted to declare the Games open,” said Britain’s Prince Charles, who was greeted with chants of “India! India!” This was followed by the President, Ms Pratibha Patil, who concluded by saying “the 2010 Common-wealth Games in Delhi are now open. Let the Games begin.”

The Delhi sky exploded into a frenzy of colour and light before morphing into a musical routine that left spectators with sore palms and a lump in their throats.

The much-touted “aerostat” rose to much acclaim and applause, becoming a screen of sorts to reflect and support the action and activity underneath.

The teams strolled in led by medal-toppers Australia. Going by the smiles of three women athletes of the squad all the problems they had either anticipated or faced on arrival had long vanished.

The International Olympic Committee president, Mr Jacques Rogge, who had a ringside view of the preparations for the event, said India had set a “good foundation stone” for an Olympic bid in future.

“There is a difference between Olympics and Commonwealth Games. But I think India has set a good foundation stone for the Olympics bid ..,” Mr Rogge said.

Friday, October 1, 2010

India, Oz all set for big test

When Australia arrived here in 2008, they were not just planning to keep possession of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, they were talking of putting daylight between themselves and the rest of the Test-playing community. They, however, departed four Tests later with a 0-2 loss and an unnerving knowledge that their dominance of Test cricket was as good as done.

It’s ironical that India’s two-match Test series against Australia this time — the first of which begins here from Friday — throws up the opposite scenario. After a bumper 2009 that saw them reach number one in the Test ranking, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men have had a mixed year so far that is threatening to cut short their stint at the top.

India haven’t lost a series at home in two years, but with draws in the last two, Dhoni has a lot on his platter. There is unpredictability over India’s bowling resources with both Zaheer Khan and Shanthakumaran Sreesanth returning from injury, and Ishant Sharma on the rebound after a woeful season.

No decision has also been taken on Harbhajan Singh, who is suffering from an ankle sprain. “It is a bit of a concern, but you can’t control injuries. We’re just hoping he’ll be available for selection, but if he’s not we’ll have to make use of the available resources in the best possible manner,” Dhoni said. “He has been our main spinner since Anil Kumble left cricket (in 2008). He has been well-supported by Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha, but the main attack has always revolved around him.”

Harbhajan’s absence will be a big blow to India’s aspirations of putting it past Australia as he has been hugely successful against them. In case he doesn’t make it, India will be forced to decide between either another pace option in Sreesanth, or Mishra. Sreesanth is as aggressive as Harbhajan, but has been underwhelming as far as his performance is concerned. Mishra, in contrast, has had a reasonably good season, but lacks the ability to get under the batsman’s skin.

Whatever the final combination, India know where their strength lies — in batting. A slimline Virender Sehwag has been oozing confidence both in words and at nets every since the Indians came here. His opening partner Gautam Gambhir has also had a proper pre-season rest.

India’s start to the new season leading up to the World Cup could well depend on how damaging they prove to be in these two Tests. A nice, solid platform from them will be just the thing the old warhorses in the middle-order would need to settle in.

The Teams

India (from): Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Vangipurappu Venkatsai Laxman, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay.
Australia (from): Ricky Ponting (captain), Michael Clarke, Doug Bollinger, Peter George, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Marcus North, Tim Paine, Steven Smith, Shane Watson, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson.

TD says KCR is not sincere on T

The Telangana Telugu Desam Forum convener, Dr Nagam Janardhan Reddy, alleged that the TRS chief, Mr K. Chandrasekhar Rao’s actions indicate that he doesn’t want Telangana. “The TRS chief is systematically using the Telangana issue for his personal and political gains. He lacks sincerity over the issue,” Dr Janardhan Reddy alleged.

“Mr Chandrasekhar Rao is deliberately trying to target the TD while ignoring the Congress which alone can take a decision on Telangana. If Mr Rao is sincere about the issue he should take all parties together and pressurise the Centre to carve out a separate state,” he said. Referring to Mr Rao’s statement that there was no need for a dharna in front of the UPA chairperson, Mrs Sonia Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi since she had already announced a process for a separate Telangana on December 9 and it was Mr Naidu who had stalled the operation, the TD leader questioned whether Mrs Gandhi had no role in the December 23 statement which stalled the process.

“Mr Chandrasekhar Rao should come out of the grip of the Congress. He has never demanded in Parliament the introduction of a Bill to carve out Telangana,” Mr Nama Nageshwara Rao, TD MP said.

The Telangana Telugu Desam leaders are up in the arms against the TRS chief for his verbal and at times physical attacks on them.

Parties to move SC over verdict

The Sunni Central Waqf Board on Thursday said it would appeal in the Supreme Court against verdict of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on the Ayodhya title suits. Interestingly, the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, one of the early litigants in the Ayodhya title suits, also said it would challenge the HC order to divide the Ramjanmabhoomi land in three parts.

Mr Zafaryab Jilani, counsel for the Sunni Central Waqf Board, said the court verdict, which came after 60 years, was "partly disappointing and against expectations". He ruled out the possibility of accepting one-third of the land. “The Babri mosque cannot be reduced to a part or portion,” he said.

“The board will move the Supreme Court after a meeting of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board,” he said, adding that not much more could be said without studying the judgment in detail.The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen president and Hyderabad MP, Mr Asaduddin Owaisi, said Muslims will appeal in the Supreme Court against the Allahabad High Court verdict.

"We are hugely disappointed by the HC judgment,” said Mr Owaisi. “We have lost the battle but still the war can be won and we will win it in the apex court. The division of land is not acceptable to the Muslim community.”

Referring to the verdict, Mr Owaisi said one of the three judges has clearly stated that a Ram temple was not destroyed to construct a masjid there. “There are many historical evidences that were submitted to the court but the court has erred in law by not looking into them,” he said. “As such, we have a good case for appealing to the Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile, Mr Kamlesh Tiwari, president of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, said the organisation had decided to challenge the decision to divide the Ramjanambhoomi land in three parts. “Our fight for the Ramjanmbhoomi was acknowledged by the entire bench unanimously,” he said and pointed out that the legal battle was initiated by Mahasabha president of Faizabad Gopal Singh Visharad in January 16, 1950.

At the same time, the Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad, the apex body of sadhus and saints, welcomed the Allahabad High Court's verdict on Ayodhya title suits saying the Ram temple issue had come out of the trap of political parties with the ruling. “This is not a matter of victory or defeat. Now the political parties cannot play politics in the name of Ram temple issue,” said the parishad general secretary, Swami Hari Giri.

Appealing to all sections of society to maintain calm, the Swami asked Muslims to join Hindus for the construction of a grand temple in Ayodhya.

Clear path to build Ram temple: Advani

Lord Ram is back at the centrestage of saffron politics. An upbeat BJP and RSS on Thursday said the Allahabad High Court’s verdict on Ayodhya had paved the way for the construction of a “magnificent Ram temple” at the disputed site.

Both the RSS chief, Mr Mohan Bhagwat, and the senior BJP leader, Mr L.K. Advani, also appealed for restraint and said the verdict had opened a “new chapter of reconciliation” in the country.

Mr Advani said: “It is a significant step forward towards construction of a grand temple at the birthplace of Lord Ram.” Echoing the RSS line, he added that the “verdict opens a new chapter for national integration and a new era of inter-community relations.”

He said, “The expert opinion of the Archaeological Survey of India and the other agencies has clearly opined that there were remains of a Hindu religious structure at the disputed site.”

Evoking the name of “Maryada Purushottam Sri Ram”, Mr Bhagwat said on Thursday evening that the Ram temple movement was “not a reactionary one... nor is it against any particular community”.

The RSS chief, taking the “opportunity to heartily and affectionately call upon countrymen, including Muslims”, exhorted everyone “to forget all ill-will and hard feelings... of past decades” and welcome the judicial verdict. He urged people to become “active collaborators in organising the constitutional and practical means to build a magnificent temple.”

The RSS chief said the verdict “Should not be seen by society as a victory for one group or defeat for the other”.

Judges divide land to unite India

The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court in a majority verdict on the Ayodhya title suits on Thursday ruled that the 2.7 acres of disputed land in Ayodhya is to be divided equally into three parts among Hindus and Muslims.

It dismissed the Sunni Central Waqf Board’s claim to the Babri mosque with a 2-1 majority and accepted that the land in question was the birthplace of Lord Rama.

A three-judge bench comprising Justices S.U. Khan, Sudhir Agarwal and Dharam Veer Sharma, however, were unanimous in the opinion that the makeshift temple of Ram Lalla could not be removed and the land on which it was located rightfully belonged to the Hindu litigants.

The detailed judgment was of over 10,000 pages.Mr Zafaryab Jilani, the counsel for the Sunni Central Waqf Board, said the court verdict, which came after 60 years, was “partly disappointing and against expectations”. He said the board would appeal the judgment in the Supreme Court. Mr Jilani ruled out the possibility of accepting one-third of the land. “The Babri mosque cannot be reduced to a part or portion,” he said.

Justices S.U. Khan and Sudhir Agarwal ruled that the disputed property should be equally divided among the Hindu Mahasabha, the Nirmohi Akhara and the Sunni Central Waqf Board, with each party getting one-third.

Justice Dharam Veer Sharma was categorical that the land belonged to Hindus and rejected the claim of the Sunni Waqf Board. Justice Sharma ruled that the disputed site is Lord Ram’s birthplace and that the disputed structure constructed by Babur was built “against the tenets of Islam” and “did not have the character of a mosque”. Justice S.U. Khan said the mosque was built by Babur, not by demolishing a temple, but on the ruins of a temple, as found in the Archaeological Survey of India report.

The court pointed out that the mosque was not in use and hence the disputed structure could not be termed a mosque in the true sense of the term. However, the entire bench held the view that the central dome of the disputed structure — where the idols had been installed since 1949 and again in 1992 after the demolition of the Babri mosque — belonged to the Hindu Mahasabha. The Sita Rasoi and Ram Chabutara have been given to the Nirmohi Akhara.

The bench has also directed maintenance of status quo for three months and invited suggestions from all parties for demarcation of the land.

Justice Khan said, “All the three sets of parties, i.e., Muslims, Hindus and the Nirmohi Akhara, are declared joint title holders of the property/premises in dispute as described by letters A B C D E F in the map Plan-I prepared by Shri Shiv Shankar Lal, Pleader/Commissioner appointed by the court in Suit No. 1 to the extent of 1/3rd share each for using and managing the same for worshipping. A preliminary decree to this effect is passed."

However, the Judge said the portion below the central dome, where the idol remains in a makeshift temple, will be allotted to Hindus in the final decree and that the Nirmohi Akhara would be allotted a share including that part shown by the words “Ram Chabutra” and “Sita Rasoi” in the map.Justice Khan added, “However, if while allotting exact portions, some minor adjustments in the share are to be made, then the same will be made and the adversely-affected party may be compensated by some portion of the adjoining land which has been acquired by the Central government.”

Justice Khan held that the disputed structure was constructed as a mosque “by or under the orders of Babar but it is not proved by direct evidence that the premises in dispute, including the constructed portion, belonged to Babar or the person who built it”. He said no temple was demolished for constructing the mosque as it was built over the long-lying ruins of a temple.

Justice Agarwal said, “It is declared that the area covered by the central dome of the three-domed structure, i.e., the disputed structure being the deity of Bhagwan Ram Janamsthan and place of birth of Lord Rama as per faith and belief of Hindus belong to plaintiffs (party on behalf of Lord Rama) and shall not be obstructed or interfered in any manner by the defendants (sic).”

He also observed that the area within the inner courtyard, except some portion, belongs to Hindus and Muslims since both had been using it for centuries. “It is, however, made clear that the for the purpose of share of plaintiffs (parties on behalf of Lord Ram) under this direction, the area covered by the central dome of the three-domed structure shall also be included,” he said.

Justice Agarwal said the open area within the outer courtyard shall be shared by Nirmohi Akhara and the party for Lord Ram since it has generally been used by Hindus for worship.

“It is, however, made clear that the share of Muslim parties shall not be less than one-third of the total area of the premises and, if necessary, it may be given some area of the outer courtyard. It is also made clear that while making meets and bounds, if some minor adjustments are to be made with respect to the share of different parties, the affected party may be compensated by allotting the requisite land from the area which is under acquisition of the government of India,” the Judge said.

In his findings on issues, Justice Agarwal said the parties of the Muslim side had failed to prove that the disputed property was constructed by Babur in 1528 AD. In his separate judgment, Justice D.V. Sharma observed that the disputed site is the birthplace of Lord Ram. “Place of birth is a juristic person and is a deity. It is personified as a spirit of divine worshipped as Lord Rama as a child (sic). Spirit of divine ever remains present everywhere at all times for anyone to invoke at any shape or form in accordance with his own aspirations and it can be shapeless and formless also (sic),” he said.

Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh, particularly Lucknow, was converted into a fortress with thousands of paramilitary personnel patrolling the streets. Aerial surveys of “sensitive districts”, including Ayodhya, were carried out Thursday afternoon and the majority of the commercial establishments and shops opted for a complete shutdown after 2 pm when the streets wore a deserted look. The court premises had been turned into an impregnable fortress and all roads leading to it were declared as no-access zones.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pricey Sunny out of IPL

Lalit Modi is not the only one out of the IPL. Cricketing legend Sunil Gavaskar will not be in the council when IPL-4 begins.

The BCCI has decided that Ravi Shastri and Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi will be the two cricketers deciding on playing matters, that too in an honorary capacity. The move will become formal once Pataudi gives his consent to serve without the `1 crore net (tax-free payment) that each of the three cricketers got in the first three editions.

It is learnt that Modi had promised to increase the payments to the cricketers on the council on a differential scale, with as much as an additional million dollars going to the top player.

That did not go down well with the BCCI, which wants to change the structure of the IPL by making it a subsidiary tournament under its aegis instead of letting it be run by a sporting czar like Modi.

With Mr Sharad Pawar, ICC president, not in a position to lend his voice in BCCI matters now, Gavaskar may have been isolated. It is believed that he may become a mentor figure for one of the two new teams that are slated to join in season 4.

It is thought that Gavaskar will in some way be attached to the Kochi franchise while also being in a position to retain his commentary position as a freelance commentator.

US Senate blocks bill on H1B bar

Two amendments moved by the US Senator, Mr Chuck Grassley, on restricted hiring of foreign workers and another aimed at preventing abuse of H-1B and L1 visas could not pass the Senate floor.

The amendments moved along with the Creating American Jobs and End Offshoring Act, was bloc-ked by the Democratic Party, he said. The offshoring Act, meant to ensure that firms taking US government aid do not outsource jobs, was blocked by the Republicans.

His first amendment would have prevented any firm engaged in a mass lay-off of American workers from importing labour from abroad through temporary guest worker programs.

The second would have taken aim at fraud and abuse of the H-1B and L Visa programmes, while making sure that Americans have the first chance at high-skilled jobs in the US.

The H-1B and L1 Visa amendment would have required employers to try and recruit US workers before hiring H-1B visa holders.

Judgment day: Nation waits for verdict in Ayodhya title suit

Police has tightened security in 50 sensitive towns in Andhra Pradesh to avoid trouble after the Ayodhya verdict even as the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, and the director-general of police, Mr K. Aravinda Rao, made fervent appeals for calm.

The government ruled out declaring a holiday to government institutions and schools on Thursday, saying things would be normal. Some schools, however, will be closing early to enable children to reach their homes by 3.30 pm, when the Allahabad High Court will pronounce its verdict on the Ayodhya title suit.

Security was ramped up across the country and leaders across party lines called for restraint in the aftermath of the verdict on four title suits on the ownership of the disputed 2.7 acres of land in Ayodhya.

In New Delhi, invoking Mahatma Gandhi and resting hope on the young generation, the home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, made an appeal for peace, stating that India has “moved on since 1992”. He said, “the India story is much bigger a story and young people recognise that bigger story should not be derailed over dispute over a piece of land.”

The AP police chief said the towns in Anantapur, Kurnool and Chittoor district have been added to sensitive areas list and urged people not to get emotional about the verdict. He specially appealed to the youth not get involved in the clashes and spoil their careers as they will be booked by the police.

“We are requesting the cooperation of the public,” said the DGP. “All community leaders and political parties have pointed out that this judgment is not the end of the road."

Police has taken 100 rowdysheeters into custody and has deployed additional forces across the state. The Hyderabad police commissioner, Mr A.K. Khan, imposed 144 section of CRPC banning assembly of more than four persons.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Athletes to hold fort in opening gala

In a first for the 80-year-old Commonwealth Games, athletes will be provided the honour of marching into the stadium for the opening ceremony, much like the Olympic Games. Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell announced the protocol arrangements for the opening ceremony of the Delhi Games at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on October 3.

“For the first time in the history of the Games the athletes will march into the stadium during the opening segment of the ceremony after which they will be seated to enjoy the rest of the ceremony,” a CGF statement said here on Tuesday.

“Both the CGF and the Organising Committee have agreed that the emphasis of the opening ceremony must be on the athletes of the Commonwealth, allowing them to be the focus of attention,” Fennell said.

The dignitaries to be present at the ceremony will include President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, HRH the Prince of Wales, as the representative of the Head of the Commonwealth, the Queen, Fennell himself and OC chairman Suresh Kalmadi, all of whom will officiate at the ceremony.

3,100 athletes check into Village

Athletes from around the world continued to pour into the Athletes Village on Tuesday. About 850 sportspersons arrived on the day, among them Canadian Susan Nattrass, a six-time Olympian and seven-time world trap shooting champion.

Jamaica’s contingent of 87 athletes who entered the Village included the shooting, cycling, netball and athletics teams. The other large contingents arriving included Northern Ireland (83), Samoa (57), Guernsey (55), New Zealand (52), Cook Islands (49) and Australia (48).

Australia, one of the countries that had slammed the village last week, said the organisers were working hard to improve the facilities with less than a week remaining before the start of the event.

“It’s pretty good. I feel completely safe and secure,” Lynsey Armitage, a member of the Australian lawn bowls team, said.

South Africa also said the first contingent from their 150-
strong squad had moved into the village on Tuesday after the residential zone was passed as fit by the team leader.
There was more good news as coach of women’s world 800m champion Caster Semenya assuring of her trip to India. “She is still coming to India,” Semenya’s coach Michael Seme told an Australian newspaper.

Red alert: Police bans pillion riding

Bracing itself for the aftermath of the Allahabad High Court verdict on the Ayodhya title suit, the city police banned pillion riding for a week from Tuesday and also deployed 20,000 personnel in the city.

“Pillion riding would not be allowed from 9 pm to 6 am from September 28 to October 4,” said the Hyderabad police commissioner, Mr A.K. Khan. “Women and children below 12 years are exempted.”

The city police extended prohibitory orders and banned gathering of more than four persons, holding rallies and making speeches or displaying banners or flags. The Cyberabad police imposed Section 144 within its limits. CRPF and RAF personnel would be deployed from Wednesday.

The Centre identified 32 trouble spots across the country and kept forces on alert at 16 places and has readied transport aircraft.

State gets Polavaram shocker from Centre

The state’s efforts to get national status for the Polavaram project received a jolt on Tuesday when the Central Water Commission (CWC) made it clear that it would not send the proposal for clearance to the Expenditure and Finance Committee (EFC) until the Central Electricity Authority gave the Techno Economic Clearance (TEC) for the 960-mw hydro power project.

This means that national status for Polavaram will take more time as the CEA has asked AP Genco to prepare a detailed project report for a second time.

The project has been waiting for national status for four years. It had received all clearances and was awaiting a final nod from the EFC. The irrigation department, meanwhile, has dropped hopes of getting the TEC in time and has requested the Chief Minister’s permission to go ahead with separate tenders for the hydro project and the dam and spill way.

Raising serious objections over availability of water and floods in the Godavari, the CEA had asked Genco to submit a revised project report to get the TEC. “We are finalising the report as the apex electricity body wanted to know about several other aspects of the project, it will take more time,” said Mr Adiseshu, director (Hydel), Genco.

Until AP Genco submits a revised DPR, there will be no TEC. If there is no TEC, the CWC will not propose national status for the project before the EFC.

The state is awaiting the status as it would ensure 90 per cent of the project cost from the Centre.

Meanwhile, the National Forum Against Polavaram Dam resolved to stall the project alleging that it will displace more than two lakh people and over 300 habitations. The convener of the forum, Mr Badal Kumar Tah, said consent has not been taken from the people of affected.

Siddhantis to fix festival dates

Senior siddhantis from various parts of the state will converge for a summit at the temple town of Basara on October 3 to standardise the Telugu panchangam or almanac.

Mr V. Mrutyunjaya Sarma, who is coordinating the event, said as many as 30 senior siddhantis sort out differences among various panchangas on events such as festivals, muhurats and eclipses.

In recent years, there have been differences among siddhantis even on festivals such as Ugadi, the Telugu New Year, often forcing people to celebrate it on two different days.

“The idea is to evolve a code of ethics for siddhantis in the state,” said Mr Sarma, who also heads the Medak district unit of AP Brahmins Association. “Panchangam prepared by different siddhantis follow different patterns.”

“Unfortunately, over a period of time the standards have fallen and siddhantis often end up as a laughing stock,” he added.

The Telugu almanac is based on the calculations of Bhaskara II dating back to the 12th century. The Telugu lunar calendar has a cycle of 60 years and the interpolation of the solar calendar has often led to differences among siddhantis on when the actual muhurat of an event or festival begins.

The senior siddhanthi from Tirupati, Tangirala Poornachandra Siddhanti, will chair the event. “We will also discuss how to expose bogus siddhantis,” said Mr Sarma. “Only well qualified siddhantis should be allowed to prepare the almanac.”

Praful stopped at Chicago airport

The Union civil aviation minister, Mr Praful Patel, was stopped for questioning by authorities at the Chicago airport in the United States but later allowed to go on Monday night, in a case of mistaken identity.

According to sources, the incident occurred after Chicago airport officials posted a lookout notice for someone with a “similar name and date of birth” as that of the minister. Indian diplomats in the US intervened following which Mr Patel was allowed to leave.

Mr Patel, as an Indian minister, is exempt from frisking at American airports. The Union civil aviation ministry sought to downplay the incident. The minister stated, “I’m in Montreal and nothing happened... There is a person with
similar name and date of birth and that’s why they just
checked.” The minister is on an official visit to Canada.

There was a furore last year when the former President, Dr A.P.J. Kalam, was subjected to checks at the New Delhi IGI airport by an US airline.

60-year Ayodhya wait ends tomorrow

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed two petitions to defer the Ayodhya title suit ruling and cleared the decks for the Lucknow bench of the Allhahabd high court to pronounce judgment in the 60-year-old case.

Soon after this, it was announced that the three-member high court bench would deliver its verdict at 3.30 pm on Thursday, September 30.

The September 30 date fixed by the Lucknow bench is of some importance as one of the judges of the three-member bench, Justice D.V. Sharma, is due to retire on October 1. The other two judges on the bench are Justices S.U. Khan and Sudhir Agarwal.

Preferring not to comment on the merits of the case and offering no major observation during the hearing of arguments by a battery of senior advocates for the contesting parties, a Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justices Aftab Alam and K.S. Radhakrishnan, in a very brief order, rejected two special leave petitions by the former bureaucrat, Mr Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, to allow the contestants a last chance for a negotiated settlement.

“Having considered the detailed arguments advanced in these cases, we are of the view that the special leave petitions deserve to be dismissed. Accordingly, we hereby pass the following order: the SLPs ... stand dismissed,” said the chief justice of India, reading the order from his diary as the court reassembled at 2 pm.

The only notable observation came from Justice Alam, who said: “We are running out of time because you woke up very late. It (the case) has been going on for the past 50 years.”

Justice Alam further asked: “Why were you quiet all these years. Why is this petition only before the judgment is to be pronounced?”

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jagan drops his father’s style of delivering speech

On the 17th day of his Odarpu yatra, the Kadapa MP, Jagan Mohan Reddy, has changed his style of delivering speeches. Visiting villages in Ballikurva and Martur mandals of Prakasam district, the Kadapa MP took to speaking in very fast bursts very different from the slow speed with long pauses that he adopted earlier on in imitation of his father, the late YSR.

The new style of speaking will have a wider appeal for women and the young, according to political analysts. After an overnight stay in Konanki, Mr Reddy resumed his yatra by offering flowers before the statue of YSR at the zilla parishad high school in Konanki on Thursday morning. He then went to Nagaraju Palli Tanda and offered prayers at Anjaneya Swamy temple.

Banjara tribals gave him a warm welcome with a traditional dance. Jagan claimed that every farmer will remember YSR whenever he switches on the motor that works the pump that provides free power for his fields.

Shoaib caught tampering with ball

Pakistan’s beleaguered cricket team was hit by yet another allegation on their ill-fated England tour, this time a UK newspaper publishing photographs to claim that fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar had tampered with the ball in the fifth and final one-dayer against England on Wednesday.

The Daily Mail published photographs of Akhtar allegedly “running his left thumb along the ball’s seam before dropping the ball on the ground and standing on it with his spiked right boot” in the 41st over of England’s inning before bowling to Paul Collingwood.

There was no reaction to the claim made by the newspaper by the England and Wales Cricket Board on Thursday.

The end of the Pakistan tour of England has put the focus back on the outcome of the Scotland Yard investigation into illegal spot-fixing during the Lord’s Test match between Pakistan and England last month. Pakistan Test captain Salman Butt, fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer and bowler Wahab Riaz have been questioned by the Met police.

The International Cricket Council has already suspended Salman Butt and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer pending an inquiry.

The relationship between the two cricket teams deteriorated sharply since the first round of spot-fixing allegations surfaced.

The lowest point came when England batsman Jonathan Trott and Pakistan bowler Wahab Riaz were involved in an altercation at nets before start of the fourth one-day international at Lord’s on Monday afternoon.

Jaipal, Gill take over to clean up Kalmadi mess

In a last ditch-attempt to save the Commonwealth Games, due to start here on October 3, the Centre has finally decided to move in. Marginalising the controversial head of the Games organising committee, Mr Suresh Kalmadi, two Cabinet ministers — Mr S. Jaipal Reddy (urban development) and Mr M.S. Gill (sports) — are now expected to oversee all the preparations for the Games in the remaining time left and clean up the mess.

The snub to Mr Kalmadi became evident as neither he nor any OC member was called for a high-level meeting called by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence on Thursday evening. Those present included, besides these two Cabinet members, Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit, lieutenant-governor Tejendra Khanna, national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and Union home secretary G.K. Pillai.

It has also been decided that the Prime Minister will not meet the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Mr Michael Fennell, who arrived in New Delhi on Thursday amid reports of mounting glitches surrounding Games preparations.

It has been conveyed to the Games organisers that in case Mr Fennell has any query he could meet the Cabinet Secretary, Mr K.M. Chandrashekhar, or the urban development minister.

At the meeting, Ms Sheila Dikshit was also asked to press in all available Delhi government resources to spruce up the CWG Village.

Divided SC has Ayodhya verdict put off by 5 days

As the government had its fingers crossed on the sensitive Ayodhya issue, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the pronouncement of the Allahabad high court judgment on the title suit by Hindus and Muslims for the ownership of the 2.77 acres of land on which the demolished Babri Masjid stood.

The interim stay was granted by a division bench comprising Justices R.V. Raveendran and H.L. Gokhale till September 28 despite sharp differences between them on entertaining a petition by Ramesh Chandra Tripathi, one of the parties to the suit, for deferment of the verdict.

While Justice Raveendra was not inclined to entertain the petition, saying “if in 50 years you have not been able to settle the dispute despite hundreds of opportunities, there is no reason for allowing the issue to remain as a festering wound,” but Justice Gokhale said though there might be little chance of the negotiations to succeed, “yet if there is even one per cent chance, why not it be given a try?”

“If it is postponed for some time, what is the prejudice? There may not be change in the stand of the parties, but what is the harm to give a chance. You will be the first people to blame us if there is (any) consequences (of the verdict),” Justice Gokhale told senior advocates Anoop George Chaudhary and Ravi Shankar Prasad, opposing the deferment.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

APSRTC to set right killer buses

Driving behind an APSRTC bus comes with its own perils. The APSRTC fleet is besieged with myriad problems like malfunctioning indicators and defective tail lamps that create problems on road as bus drivers often have to use hand signals which the motorists behind can’t see. Also drivers coming from the opposite direction get confused when the buses turn.

Mr T. R. S. Mukund, a senior service engineer said, “The indicator lamps don’t blink, which lead to accidents. The drivers sometimes show hand signals, but it is not possible every time to watch out for the hand.”

Mr N. Narayan Murty, a businessman said, “I travel by car and sometimes when buses take an unexpected turn it result in accidents. The accident might be a minor one but it is not safe to follow an APSRTC bus.”

Non-functioning tail lamps and brake lamps are also some of the problem areas.

A college student, Mr Narendra Reddy, said, “During the night tail lamps don’t function and you never know when the bus is going to stop. So there are chances of the vehicle behind colliding into the bus.”

Admitting to the problem, Mr Purushottam Naik, the regional manager of RTC, city region, said, “We are in the process of rectifying the problem and a special drive for lights is been carried out. In the coming few days things are going to be fine.”

Other problems have also surfaced regarding fitness tests, pollution control and braking system.

Responding to the cases, Mr Ravindra Babu, regional manager for Ranga Reddy region, said, “The APSRTC conducts fitness tests on all buses every year and a smoke test every month. We are ensuring that all buses meet the standards. We are also focusing on the braking system,” he added.
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