Sunday, January 31, 2010

Seema Andhra leaders protest T committee

The Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram’s announcement of a committee on Telangana has kicked up a furore among Seema-Andhra leaders. The Telugu Desam leaders from the region have opposed the proposal saying it is a conspiracy hatched by a “Tamilian and Kannadiga” (the home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram of Tamil Nadu and the Union law minister, Mr Veerappa Moily of Karnataka) to bifurcate the state.
They demanded that the Centre drop the move or face the wrath of people from both the regions. They blamed Mr Chidambaram’s views in his book A view from the outside-why good economics works for everyone which states that there was a strong case for creation of Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Telangana in Andhra Pradesh besides further division of UP and Bihar.
Seema-Andhra TD leaders, Mr D. Narendra, Mr Devineni Umamaheshwara Rao, Mr K.E. Prabhakar and others met at the TD Legislature party and warned of serious consequences if the Centre went ahead with the committee to bifurcate Telangana without taking the views of other regions.
The TD MLAs from Andhra and Rayalaseema said the “committee” was unconstitutional since the Congress core committee had no right to constitute such a body. Samaikya Andhra students’ JAC convened a meeting in Anantapur to chalk out an action plan in the wake of Centre’s attempt to bifurcate AP. The TD Samaikya Andhra leaders will attend the meeting.
In another development, Telangana TD said they prefer to wait and watch the constitution of the committee before deciding on the course of agitation. “There should be a uniform national policy on bifurcation of states. The Congress is behaving like a regional party,” Mr D. Narendra said.

State Budget on Feb. 20, Cabinet nod for pay hike

The AP Legislative Assembly’s Budget Session will begin on February 15 and the Budget will be presented on February 20. The session which will continue till the end of March is going to be crucial for the Congress government in the wake of agitations over the bifurcation of the state.
The Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, who chaired the Cabinet meeting on Saturday had reportedly advised Cabinet colleagues to come prepared thoroughly for the session.
The Cabinet approved the pay revision agreement entered with the Joint Action Committee of Employees, Teachers and Workers.
Later the secretary (services) of general administration, Ms Sri Lakshmi and JAC leaders signed the agreement which ensured 39 per cent fitment on the basic pay with effect from July 1, 2008.
The government has issued an ordinance to provide reservation of 20 per cent of seats for the students of the state in the Nalsar University of Law.
“The government had given 50 acres of land and Rs 41.96 crore as grant-in-aid for the Nalsar university. With this, the government has given nod for 20 per cent reservations in seats. The decision is going to benefit several students who are appearing for the national common entrance test to get seats in the university,” said Ms J. Geeta Reddy, minister for information and public relations while briefing the Cabinet decisions.
The Cabinet also approved setting up of family courts in nine districts of the state. The expenditure on these nine courts will be Rs 2.10 crore per year.
Nine such family courts had already been set up in the first phase and now the state has 18 family courts.
The Cabinet sanctioned Rs 20 crore for construction of buildings and setting up 21 polytechnic colleges in 12 districts of the state. The government has increased the interest subsidies on the loans taken by the handloom weavers from Rs 15,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
The Cabinet has also decided to set up ESI hospital in Nellore district and sanctioned 13 civil surgeons posts, 6 regular posts, 34 contract and 6 posts on outsourcing basis. In the Tirupati Vedic University, 8 engineering posts were sanctioned.
In the Endowments department, the eight superintendent posts and one special category steno post have been upgraded as Assistant commissioner rank.

Maha crop helps cut pulse rate in state

Prices of pulses plummeted further in the city’s wholesale markets, thanks to the arrival of new stocks from Maharashtra and Karnataka apart from the districts within the state.

Speaker pours cold T on quit letters

The Andhra Pradesh Assembly Speaker, Mr N. Kirankumar Reddy, on Saturday, rejected the resignations tendered by 129 MLAs on “technical grounds” terming them “not in order” as per the rules and procedures of the House.
This has brought to conclusion the resignation drama enacted by MLAs cutting across party lines following the announcement of the formation of Telangana by the Centre.
The move comes even as the Supreme Court is entertaining a public interest litigation seeking an order to the Speaker to accept the resignations pending with him.
Addressing a crowded media conference in the evening, Mr Reddy said he received resignation letters from 222 of the 294 MLAs almost a month-and-a-half ago. Of them, 92 members had withdrawn their resignation letters leaving 130 pending with him, he said.
The Speaker said that after consultations with several constitutional experts and after going through the relevant procedures, he found that 129 out of 130 resignations were not in the prescribed form envisaged by the Constitution and rules and procedure of the House.
“There is only one resignation letter which was in order,” he said. “I have decided to speak to the concerned member and take a final decision.”

Kashmir gunbattle ends as militants escape

The 15-hours long gunbattle between the security forces and terrorists holed up in a house in north Kashmir's Sopore town ended early on Sunday. The encounter ended as the militants hiding in the house escaped. A combing operation, to hunt the militants, has begun.
The gunfight began late on Saturday evening. According to media reports, the encounter continued for around 15 hours.
Police said troops of 22 Rashtriya Rifles and the Special Operations Group of the state police had surrounded a house in Sopore, 52 km from Srinagar, on Saturday evening following a tip-off on the presence of militants. The militants then started indiscriminate automatic gunfire at the surrounding security men.

Girl kidnapped in Vijayawada

Three men kidnapped the nine-year-old daughter of a prominent industrialist while she was going to school. They killed the driver of the car who tried to save her.
The incident occurred in broad daylight on the newly laid Bus Rapid Transportation System Road in Madhura Nagar in Vijayawada on Saturday.
The girl, Vaishnavi, is the daughter of Mr Palagani Prabhakar, an industrialist and prominent BC leader. The police suspect the kidnappers may have abducted her for money.
Mr Prabhakar lives in Ayodhyanagar and his two children study in the NSM Public School in Patamata.
The car driver, Mr Lakshmana Rao, takes them to school every day in a Tavera. On Saturday too, they left for school and reached the Sai Baba temple area by 8 am.
The kidnappers, who were chasing the vehicle on two bikes, pelted stones and broke the car’s rear glass. The driver then halted the vehicle. The gangsters stabbed Lakshmana Rao before speeding away in the Tavera with the girl.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Judge pulled up for leaving holes in recording evidence

Pulling up a trial court judge here for not asking an accused questions about vital incriminating evidence and circumstances while recording his statement before concluding the trial in a murder case, the Delhi High Court has itself completed the proceeding.
In the instant case, the accused, Bashir, had allegedly murdered his wife in the Govindpuri area in South Delhi in 2003. He had come to the High Court in appeal against his conviction by the trial court.
Commenting on the ignoring of the evidence by Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Narottam Kaushal, a Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Suresh Kait said: “We are surprised that Shri Narottam Kaushal, ASJ Delhi, has not put the incriminating evidence/circumstance to the appellant of having a quarrel with his wife in the matrimonial house where she was killed. The ASJ has not put the incriminating evidence/circumstance to the appellant that his daughter had seen him running down the staircase.’’
“To put it in simple terms, the incriminating evidence of the appellant being seen running away from his house in early morning on the day of the incident as also the incriminating evidence of sleeping with his wife in the room where she was murdered, the incriminating evidence of the two having a quarrel and finally the incriminating evidence that there is no evidence of any third person entering the house have been put to the appellant,’’ the Bench said.
The Bench also directed that a copy of the order be sent to the Registrar-cum-Secretary of the High Court Chief Justice as well as the Committee of Inspecting Judges of the Additional Sessions Judge.

India should play South Africa on turning tracks: Kapil

India should play South Africa on turning tracks in the forthcoming two-match home Test series rather than playing on pace-friendly pitches, former captain Kapil Dev suggests.
Observing that Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men don’t possess a formidable fast bowling line-up, except for left-arm paceman Zaheer Khan, Kapil said India should rely on their spin department in the home series.
“Our strength is spin bowling and the wickets for the upcoming two Tests have to be prepared accordingly. Also, we don’t have a quality pacer other than Zaheer Khan right now who can make an impact,” Kapil said.
“There is no point in having a pitch, which assists fast bowlers more than the spinners, since South Africa has a much better pace attack in comparison to the hosts,” Kapil said during a panel discussion on ‘Aaj Tak’.
Nagpur will host the first Test on February 6, followed by the second Test in Kolkata from February 14.
Kapil was also worried about lanky pacer Ishant Sharma’s recent loss of form.
“Ishant’s strength is his in-swinging delivery and if you lose your natural ability, then definitely, it is a cause for concern. Maybe batsmen have started reading him better now but he has to find ways to outwit them,” Kapil observed.
Meanwhile, New Zealand pace legend Richard Hadlee, who also took part in the discussion, said Indian fast bowlers should focus on Test cricket rather than playing all the three formats.
“My observation of the Indian pace attack is that they are certainly quality bowlers and have it in them to take wickets and win games. However, they have to get out of this rut very quickly. It is actually very tough for pace bowlers to play all the three formats and deliver goods consistently,” Hadlee said.
“They will be a little bit tired, injured or jaded and there will be a loss of form. They need to be better managed, perhaps miss a few games to freshen up and be fired up for Test cricket,” he added.
“Some pacers perform exceptionally well in their debut year and then fade away. However, some of them stay in like Zaheer Khan and Glenn McGrath. Those who fade can also blame the amount of cricket that they play these days. They have to perform day in and day out, which is certainly not an easy task,” said another fast bowling great Denis Lillee of Australia.

WFP sets up fixed food distribution sites in Haiti

The World Food Programme said on Saturday it had started its first systematic food distribution system for Haiti since the earthquake, establishing 16 sites in the capital where only women can collect food.
Food distribution since the January 12 quake has often been marked by poor coordination, gaps in coverage and desperate, unruly lines of needy people in which young men at times have shoved aside the women and the weak and taken their food.
The U.N. agency said in a statement that the fixed sites established across Port-au-Prince by it and other aid groups will ensure a regular flow of food and other humanitarian assistance to all those who need it.
Starting Saturday, Haitians will receive coupons entitling each family to 25 kilograms (55 pounds) of rice, WFP said. The first distributions begin on Sunday, with only women allowed in to collect rations. WFP said it would work with other aid groups and local authorities to ensure men in need aren’t excluded.
“Up until now the nature of this emergency has forced us to work in a quick and dirty way simply to get food out,” WFP’s executive director Josette Sheeran said in a statement. “This new system will allow us to provide food assistance to more people, more quickly.”
WFP said it aimed to reach over two-million people in the next two weeks. To date, WFP said it had reached nearly 600,000 people with over 16 million meals.
WFP has said the collapse of Haiti’s infrastructure, losses in the aid community in Haiti at the time of the quake, security concerns and the huge scale of need have hampered their response.
Ms. Sheeran said the emergency was “the most complex challenge we have ever confronted.”

US citizen detained in North Korea seeks asylum

A US citizen detained in North Korea has reportedly requested asylum because he wants to serve in the North Korean army and not a “capitalist militia,” South Korea’s Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported on Saturday.
Few details were released about the 28-year-old man, including his identity. He allegedly entered the Stalinist nation through China.
The US is working though the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang to gain access to the detainee, according to a government spokesman in Washington.
The Swedes represent US interests in the country because the US and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic relations.
The man was arrested on January 25, becoming the second known US citizen in North Korean custody.
Another, Robert Park, was detained by North Korea in December while wandering across the border from China on a religious mission.
Washington has also sought access to him.
In March, two US journalists were arrested after allegedly entering North Korea illegally and sentenced to 12 years of hard labour. They were released and flown back to the United States months later, after a meeting in Pyongyang between former US president Bill Clinton and North Korea leader Kim Jong Il.

Telangana JAC to go ahead with protests till February 7

Notwithstanding its decision to wait until February 7 to press for the resignation by MLAs from the Telangana region, the all-party Joint Action Committee (JAC) on Friday finalised an agitational programme up to that date.The working and steering committees of JAC which met here decided to go ahead with the agitation demanding that the Centre announce formation of Telangana State within a time frame.

The agitation will culminate with the ‘Chalo Kakatiya University’ programme at Warangal where a major meeting of students is scheduled on February 7.

Military Secretary faces court martial

Chief of the Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor, on Friday accepted the advice of Defence Minister A.K. Antony by ordering court martial proceedings against Military Secretary Lieutenant General Avadesh Prakash for his alleged involvement in a land scam in the Darjeeling area of West Bengal. He would be the first three-star general to face such action.

General Kapoor was overruled by Mr. Antony who felt the alleged misdemeanours of General Prakash were serious enough to merit a court martial and not just disciplinary proceedings preferred by the Army chief.

As Military Secretary, General Prakash is one of the closest aides to the Army chief in dealing with daily matters and policy planning. The general is due to retire in a couple of days.

General Prakash was indicted in an internal probe at the command level along with the then 33 Corps Commander Lieutenant General P.K. Rath, his Chief of Staff at that time, Lieutenant General Ramesh Halgali and then Brigadier Administration Major General P.C. Sen. Following a court of inquiry, Eastern Army Commander Lieutenant General V.K. Singh, who will be the next Army chief, had recommended termination of service of General Prakash and administrative action against the other officers.

The controversy arose after General Kapoor recommended court martial proceedings against Lieutenant General Rath and issued show-cause notice to others for administrative action. It was felt by many in the Army that General Kapoor was being unfair as all four officers should have been meted out the same punishment. Mr. Antony overruled the Army chief.

The officers were found culpable by an internal probe for overruling their predecessors and issuing a no objection certificate to a private developer to lease 71 acres of land next to the Sukna military station near Darjeeling. The developer was also found to have falsely represented that he would open an educational institution affiliated to the prestigious Mayo College, Ajmer.

The probe at the command level had allegedly indicted Lieutenant General Rath for inking a pact with the property developer provided a certain percentage of seats was reserved for children of armed forces personnel. Lieutenant General Prakash was seen as being too interested in the case and persuading his juniors to pursue the deal. Lieutenant General Halgali was alleged to have suppressed information from his seniors and Major General P.C. Sen was said to have played an active role in discussions with the developer during his tenure at the 33 Corps headquarters.

Four-year-old dies in borewell

Pankaj, a four-year-old boy who fell into a 250-foot deep borewell in Bhilwara district on Thursday, died on Friday as rescuers failed in their 22-hour efforts to save him.

“The boy was pulled out after about 22 hours of rescue operation in the evening and was rushed to hospital, where doctors declared him brought dead,” the police said.

“Doctors said the boy, who sustained serious injuries in the head and leg, had died in the borewell,” District Collector Manju Rajpal said.

The incident occurred on Thursday afternoon at Jahazpur village when Pankaj was playing near the borewell and fell about 22 feet into it. Rescuers dug a parallel pit and connected with the borewell through a tunnel in attempts to rescue him.

CPI(M) State committee meeting begins

A three-day meeting of the State committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) began here on Friday. On the agenda are a host of issues including a rectification campaign for the party, organisational matters and the present political situation in the State. These will be taken up at an extended meeting from Saturday.

Senior party leader Shyamal Chakraborty said issues like the ensuing municipal polls in the city are also likely to be discussed at the headquarters at Alimuddin Street. Party general secretary Prakash Karat and Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechuri were also present at the meet.

The plan to initiate such a rectification campaign was first discussed in November last, at a meeting which was presided over by Mr. Karat. The campaign aims at removing the wrong trends and shortcomings of the party so that it becomes stronger and more unified.

As for the municipal elections, party sources said the opinion of the party leaders and workers would be sought during the meeting. The elections due in May 2010 are being seen as a run-up to the State’s Assembly elections scheduled for 2011.

Chinese delegation At the start of the meeting a Chinese delegation from the Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament visited the CPI(M) office and met Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee for half an hour. Sources said they discussed the India-China friendship and world peace. They were also briefly present during the meeting.

Basu remembered Departed leader Jyoti Basu was also remembered and homage was offered to him at the meeting. The conclave also discussed the February 7 meeting of party workers and supporters proposed to be held at the Brigade Parade  Grounds as a tribute to the party patriarch.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Army Chief orders court martial of Lt Gen Avadesh Prakash

Two days after Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s diktat, Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor on Friday ordered court martial proceedings against Military Secretary Lt. Gen. Avadesh Prakash in the Sukna land scam, the senior-most three-star officer ever to face such an action.

“The Army Chief has ordered disciplinary action against Lt. Gen. Prakash, who will face a court martial in Sukna land scam. The Chief has stuck to the advice from the Defence Minister in the case,” ministry officials said.

Gen. Kapoor was on Wednesday overruled by Mr. Antony, who directed him to take disciplinary action instead of administrative action against Lt. Gen. Prakash, considered close to the Chief. This was the first instance of a Defence Minister overturning the Army Chief’s decision in a disciplinary case.

As Military Secretary, Lt. Gen. Prakash is one of the top aides of the Army Chief handling postings, appointments and transfers but is due to retire from service on January 31. The proceedings against him can continue even after his superannuation.

Lt. Gen. Prakash was found culpable in the Sukna land scam along with the then 33 Corps Commander Lt. Gen. P.K. Rath, his Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ramesh Halgali and the then Brigadier Administration Maj. Gen. P.C. Sen.

After the Court of Inquiry indicted all the General-ranked officers in the case, Eastern Army Commander Lt. Gen. V.K. Singh, who is the Army Chief-designate, had recommended “termination of service” of Lt. Gen. Prakash and administrative action against the other officers.

However, Gen. Kapoor chose to court martial Lt. Gen. Rath and issued show-cause notice to others for administrative action, prompting Antony to ask why the officers, found culpable by the probe for the same offence under Army Act, were meted out different punishments and “advised” disciplinary action against Lt. Gen. Prakash too.

The scam relates to issue of a ‘No Objection certificate’ by the Army’s 33 Corps officers to a private realtor Dalip Aggarwal to buy a 71-acre piece of land adjacent to the Sukna military station near Darjeeling in West Bengal, much against earlier objections by previous officers holding office of 33 Corps.

Mr. Aggarwal had “falsely” represented to the Army that he would open an educational institution affiliated to the Ajmer-based Mayo College.

The probe had reportedly held Lt. Gen. Rath culpable for signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Mr. Aggarwal for allotting a percentage of the seats in the educational institution to wards of army personnel serving in the military station.

In the case of Lt. Gen. Prakash, the probe’s “findings” were believed to be that he took undue interest in getting the NOC issued and the MoU signed between Mr. Aggarwal and the Army and had also “influenced” his junior officers to go ahead with the deal.

Lt. Gen. Prakash, being the Military Secretary, is in charge of postings and appointments of all officers in the Army and hence is considered an important aide of the Army Chief.

In the case of other General-rank officers, Lt. Gen. Halgali’s role was said to have been limited to “omissions” as he had not intimated his higher ups on the happenings at the military station with regard to the NOC episode.

Maj. Gen. Sen, who is at present in the Eastern Army Commander headquarters, had during his tenure as Brigadier Administration of 33 Corps under Lt. Gen. Rath reportedly had “an active role” in the talks with Mr. Aggarwal for issuing the NOC.

Food prices to ease next fiscal: Sharad Pawar

Food prices are expected to decline in the next fiscal on the back of higher farm output and the only worry then for the government would be on storage, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has said.

He, however, said that the country would remain import dependent when it came to pulses and edible oils for the next 10 years.

On the possibility of prices coming down in the next financial year beginning April 1, Mr. Pawar told in an interview to CNN-IBN news channel: “100 per cent. In 2011-12 the problem which the government of India will have to worry about (is) what to do and where to store.”

Food inflation touched 17.40 per cent for the week ended January 16 on account of high prices of vegetables and pulses.

On controlling prices of pulses, the minister said: “Pulses we have to import, edible oil we have to import even for another 10 years or so. Because day by day, demand is growing, purchasing power of the weaker section is also improving.”

India imported a record 8.1 million tonnes of edible oils in 2008-09 season (November-October). The country imports 3-4 million tonnes of pulses every year to meet domestic demand.

The prices of essential food items have risen sharply in last one year, particularly of sugar, pulses and vegetables.

Sugar prices have more than doubled since January 2009 and is ruling at Rs 43 a kg in the national capital. Pulses are ruling high, with arhar being sold at about Rs 85 a kg.

India faced a severe drought this year affecting over 300 districts that resulted in loss of Kharif production. Rice output is estimated to decline by 13 million tonnes in Kharif.

The Centre has taken various steps to curb rising prices and give relief to consumers, including abolition of import duties on sugar, rice, pulses and crude edible oils.

Women ITBP first batch inducted

Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who took the salute of first batch of women ITBP constables, congratulated their families for letting their children join service in the most difficult and challenging border.

With a glint of pride in their eyes and armed with INSAS rifles, 209 women personnel on Friday joined the ranks of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to guard the Sino-Indian frontier, which Union Home Minister P. Chidamabaram termed as “one of the most difficult and challenging borders.”

Calling it a “historic event”, Mr. Chidambaram, who took the salute of the first women constable’s contingent of the force at the basic training centre here, said with this passing out parade, the women will be able to “regulate international trade between India and China at Nathu La and Sherathung trade markets besides escorting the Kailash Mansarovar Yatris.”

The new contingent will also be used to provide security to vital installations, rescue and relief operations including disaster management, perception management and psychological operations in border villages and during festivals, public meetings and agitations.

Mr. Chidamabaram congratulated the families of the women, “especially their parents for taking a bold decision to let them join a force entrusted with guarding one of the most difficult and challenging borders of India.”

Marching to the tunes of ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaye Jaa...’, the women staged an impressive parade as they became the first combat counterparts to their male colleagues in the 48 years of the history of the force.

Mr. Chidambaram said, "It is always a proud moment when you are the first. These 209 woman constables will always cherish this day even as today is written in golden letters in the history of the ITBP."

He lauded the women, who took the oath of duty dressed in blue beret caps and khaki uniforms, for "successfully completing the rigorous and gruelling training schedule of 44 weeks."

The women, drawn form various States of the country, started their training in February last year and are now adept in unarmed combat, weapon firing, commando tactics, map reading and other security-related drills.

ITBP Director General Vikram Srivastava said the women personnel would be further trained in counter-insurgency and jungle warfare and a Quick Reaction Team (QRT) and a Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad will also be formed in order to raise an independent women's battalion.

The women contingent took their oath before the tricolour besides the force's insignia and an array of weapons like Light Machine Guns, Under Barrel Grenade Launchers, INSAS rifles and rocket launchers.

The 50,000 personnel-strong Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) guards the 3,488-km long Sino-Indian border. It is also protecting the Indian embassy in Afghanistan and securing VIPs.

Haldiram proprietor Prabhu Shankar Agarwal and four others sentenced to life

Haldiram Bhujiawala proprietor Prabhu Shankar Agarwal was on Friday sentenced to life imprisonment along with four others by a fast track court for conspiring to kill a tea stall owner, whose shop came in the way of a food plaza he was building.

Judge Tapan Sen of the Bankshall Court awarded the sentence to Agarwal, history-sheeters Gopal Tiwari, Arun Khandelwal, Manoj Sharma and Raju Sonkar under Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) besides 10 years rigorous prison terms under section 307/34 (attempt to murder/common intention).

Tiwari was also found guilty under the Arms Act and sentenced to seven years in one section and three years in another. All the sentences would run concurrently, the judge said in his order.

Agarwal, owner of the multi-crore food and confectionery chain, which has outlets in many cities and also in London and elsewhere, had failed to persuade tea stall owner Satyanarayan Sharma in Burrabazar area here to move out as the shop would spoil the facade of the food plaza he was constructing.

His hired goons had then raided the shop looking for Satyanarayan, but not finding him, shot his nephew Pramod Sharma, injuring him seriously on March 30, 2005.

Earlier, Agarwal pleaded for mercy before the judge stating that thousands of his employees and their families depended on him and his incarceration would hamper his business and put their livelihood in jeopardy.

The judge then asked Agarwal whether his business was affected when he was jailed earlier for 45 days. Agarwal conceded that it did.

The other four convicts also prayed for mercy.

The prosecution had stated that Satyanarayan had been threatened by the accused a few days before the attack.

Agarwal, who was in London to open his first overseas food plaza at the time of the attack, was arrested when he returned home two months later.

Agarwal was arrested at IGI Airport in New Delhi as soon as he landed and was handed over to Kolkata Police.

Tiwari was arrested from Hyderabad where he was hiding while the other accused persons were arrested here.

All of the them were released on bail later.

The prosecution, during trial, submitted that Tiwari and his henchmen had embarked on the murder bid at the behest of Agarwal.

All the five had surrendered to the police on Wednesday, when the court pronounced them guilty.

A.R.Rahman to compose music for Karunanidhi’s poem

Oscar winner A.R. Rahman will compose music for a poem penned by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

The poem will be the theme song for the World Tamil Classical Conference to be held at Coimbatore in June.

The music composer met Mr. Karunanidhi at his residence and sought his advice in this regard, an official press release said.

Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, Sun network group head Kalanidhi Maran, Kanimozhi, MP, renowned lyricist Javed Akhtar and singer Bombay Jayashree were present during the meeting.

Auto-driver Samson "Hey auto!"

Auto-driver Samson is different. He has a website, a legion of happy customers and even turns on the meter. Something that's as rare as wearing pullovers in Chennai.

Ka-ching! Ah, the sweet sound of the auto meter. Something that's as rare as wearing pullovers in Chennai. What's even rarer is riding around town with an auto driver, who has a website of his own. That's Samson for you, a cheerful 38-year-old auto driver, with around 18 years of experience and to his credit. “My clients from all over the world tell me I am probably the only auto driver in Asia with a website,” he beams.

Parked opposite the Taj Coromandel hotel, Samson has become the hot favourite of tourists, especially those who stay at the hotel. “Even before some of my customers land in Chennai, they call me or send me an email with details about their stay here and book me for those days,” he explains. His website has obviously helped him build contacts. Even before the website happened, Samson had an email id. A Japanese tourist was so impressed with him that for the entire month that she stayed in the city, she couldn't think of anybody but Samson to take her around. “M'am used to check her emails. I wanted an id too. So she created one for me. It was of great help and I made it a point to check my mails twice a week,” he says.

One day, as he sat at an internet centre, checking his mails, he stumbled upon an online ad about websites. Being an enterprising person, he decided to have one too. Yet another satisfied customer, Chris Pug, a crew member from British Airways created the site for him as a token of gratitude for his excellent service. Tuktuk, Tuktaxi and many suggestions later, Samson was finally satisfied with Tuktastic. “It sounds like fantastic, an attribute to my auto and service, so this had to be the fitting title,” he smiles.
Simply surf is an interesting website with an introduction to Samson, and links to places to eat, drink, shop, a link that allows one to advertise on his auto and a page dedicated to his auto buddies who step in when a big group of people want to travel. The best thing about them is they are ‘tourist- friendly autos,' and won't fleece you. For example, a ride to Mammallapuram and back in Samson's auto will cost you Rs.700. Of course, you won't have the comforts of an AC. And as Samson says on his website, “It may seem a long way in a tuk-tuk but there is nothing better than cruising down the open roads out of town with the warm breeze on your face.”

So why aren't other autos tourist-friendly as well? Samson shrugs. Then with a smile adds, “Let's not discuss meters.” But I am persistent. He relents. “Very often after dropping a customer, autos aren't allowed to wait at a spot. Chances are that he may not find a sawari and will have to drive around. Fuel is expensive, there are other expenditures and we get paid on a per day basis…,” he explains.

Few of his friends land up there showing him recently clicked photographs and asking for his opinion. Clearly he seems to be a hit with them too. And why not? Especially when he has created email ids for them on his laptop. That's right! “A Dutch client was very happy with me and gifted me the laptop.” And Samson is not just net-savvy, he even talks about Facebook and Twitter, has an id in Orkut and a fairly good command over English. “Conversing with my foreign clients has helped a great deal in improving my language. I only studied till Standard VII, you know? I bought myself a dictionary to learn more words,” he adds.

As we talk he tells me his aim is not to just eat, drink, make merry and die. He wants to do something more. He believes if given a sponsor he can find a way of making vehicles run on water. I raise an eyebrow and he notices it through his rear-view mirror. “It's possible I can try,” he says nonchalantly. His mobile phone beeps again. “Hello sir! Yes, I will come in 20 minutes,” he tells the caller. Yet another client awaiting his service.

So I stop my questions, sit back and bid goodbye to the worries of haggling, as Samson drops me at my destination.

3G: Auction put off to next fiscal

The government has postponed auction of spectrum for 3G telephony to the next fiscal. The auction was expected to bring in Rs 35,000 crore to the exchequer.

According to senior officials in the Department of Telecom, Law Minister Veerappa Moily, who is a member of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), has opined that the auction should he held when the spectrum is available.

Telecom Minister A. Raja could not be contacted immediately for his comments. Officials, however, said that the auction is expected to take place in August-September this year.

The Ministry of Defence had agreed to vacate the spectrum only during middle of this year.

The EGoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, had decided to allow four private telecom firms for the next generation mobile telephone services (3G) and had made a provision for garnering up to Rs 35,000 crore from the sale of airwaves in the current fiscal.

The postponement of 3G spectrum auction to 2010-11 is likely to have some impact on the government’s finances and the fiscal deficit which is pegged at 6.8 per cent of the GDP.

The EGoM on 3G spectrum held several meetings in the past two months showing urgency to hold auction for the airwaves despite differences between ministries of telecom and defence over the number of blocks to be suctioned.

The EGoM had also decided that spectrum would be alloted to the winners simultaneously in August to maintain a level-playing field and the same was endorsed by all the members, including the Law Minister, sources said.

Last week, the government had also allowed prospective 3G bidders to raise funds from domestic markets, which could later be refinanced through debts raised abroad making it easier for the firms to arrange finances.

The external commercial borrowings (ECBs) norms were relaxed considering the short window available between the date of application for the 3G auction and the date of payment by successful bidders.

Sources also said that some of the leading Indian telecom firms were pushing for 3G spectrum auction to next financial year in view of the global slowdown and increased competition which have put pressure on their revenues.

Asked to name the companies who had approached the government to postpone the auction to next fiscal, sources declined to give details.

The two telecom PSUs (BSNL and MTNL) have been given the 3G spectrum and both are offering services across the country with MTNL in two metros of Delhi and Mumbai and BSNL in rest of India.

AP gets Rs. 364.17 cr for micro irrigation projects

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) on Friday said that it has sanctioned Rs. 364.17 crore to Andhra Pradesh for fifth Phase of 22 micro irrigation projects in the State.

The micro irrigation projects, sanctioned under Rural Infrastructure Development Fund by the project sanctioning committee in a meeting held in Mumbai on January 25, would be implemented by Horticulture Department of the State in all 22 districts, NABARD said in a statement.

The project envisages 1.5 lakh hectares of land to be irrigated under micro irrigation system. It is estimated to provide recurring employment of 33,390 mandays and non-recurring employment of 106.86 mandays, it said.

K. V. Raghavulu, Chief General Manager said that with this the cumulative sanction to the State has gone up to Rs. 1132.78 crore in this fiscal.

Arrival of deities heralds Medaram jatara

The arrival of most revered tribal deity Samakka is all that hundreds and thousands of devotees waited for.

They all held their breath for that benign moment and it finally came.

As the tribal priests descended the Chilakalgutta hillocks carrying the deity, Superintendent of Police Shah Nawaz Qasim and his men fired bullets into the air heralding the arrival of the deity into Medaram village. Carrying a vermilion casket and a bamboo pole considered as the deity and possessed by magic powers, the priests sprinted towards the altar. The devotees jostled and vied to touch them.

Offering sacrifices

The ardent devotees swayed in a trance, some hurled fowls into the air offering a sacrifice to the deity while scores of others rolled on the mud road leading to the altar allowing the tribal priests to walk over them.

Some devotees sprinkled the blood of animals into air they just sacrificed against the racing tribal priests and those accompanying them in a show of their reverence.

The spectacle raked a chill in the flesh of onlookers.

The roar of hundreds of buses carrying pilgrims into the forest was relentless. It was this hour, the devotees look forward when both Samakka and Sarakka adorn the altar at Medaram village which is believed as most auspicious, hence the unending stream.

Serpentine queues

All through the night, the devotees soaked in the chill inching forward in serpentine queues to reach up to the altar.

Those who have been waiting for Samakka too to arrive have camped in surrounding rice fields and amidst bushes in the forest.

Thick fog

They slept in the open enduring the cool winds and thick fog that enveloped the whole area.

Meanwhile, the pilgrims who had earlier fulfilled their vows slowly began leaving the village.

The temporary APSRTC bus stand that had come up for the jatara burst with the multitude of pilgrims on their return journey.

The jatara comes to an end on Saturday when the deities will be taken back by the priests.

Chidambaram’s statement makes no impact in Osmania

Osmania University, the hotbed of Telangana agitation, was devoid of any activity even as the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s announcement on a committee for Telangana led to discussions among political circles.

Except the students sitting on the relay hunger strike in front of Arts College and a few hanging around the lawns there was no reaction from the agitating students till the evening much to the disappointment of media men.

It was only towards the evening that students gathered in groups and discussed the announcement details as media gathered there.

The non-reaction from students could be attributed to the fact that many members of students JAC are busy in the padayatra in the Telangana areas while a few others are in jail.

‘Not acceptable’

A member of the JAC, Rajesh later told The Hindu that the announcement lacked clarity and was not acceptable to students.

He said the move of Central government was against the wishes of Telangana people and all public representatives should stick to the deadline on resignations to reject Mr. Chidambaram’s announcement. He blamed the MLAs and MPs for failing to put pressure on the Central Government.

Mr. Rajesh alleged that the Government was provoking students booking attempt-to-murder cases against JAC leaders and supporters for participating in agitations.

The teachers JAC also reacted strongly on the announcement.

Gali Vinod Kumar of teachers JAC said the proposed committee should look into finalising the norms for creating Telangana rather than eliciting opinions from different sections.

He demanded that the decision should come in a time-frame acceptable to Telangana people.

Congress leaders hail Chidambaram statement

Telangana Congress MLAs are a relieved lot as the pressure for resigning from the Assembly to honour the Joint Aaction Committee (JAC) deadline is off their minds after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram’s statement on constituting a panel on Telangana.

Equally satisfied are the Andhra and Rayalaseema Congress leaders, who feel the panel will give them an opportunity to forcefully put forward their views against bifurcation. They hope to cash in on the panel’s constitution to fearlessly raise its reservations on the separate statehood issue.

APCC president D. Srinivas said all political parties should welcome the initiative and extend cooperation so that the process is completed at the earliest. “Political parties should not precipitate the issue.”

Further he said: “In my view, formation of a committee on such a sensitive problem with eminent people is not an easy task because one should be prepared to associate with such a task. In spite of all this, the Home Minister’s announcement should satisfy people of the State.”

Senior Congress leaders K. Jana Reddy and R. Damodar Reddy exuded confidence that separate State would become a reality in six or seven months.

Mr. Jana Reddy said there was no need for any further agitations and appealed for peace and tranquillity.

Rajahmundry MP Vundavalli Arunkumar said the panel would be set up to look into the problems confronted during bifurcation of the State.

Rosaiah inaugurates centenary celebrations of Tenali

Chief Minister K. Rosaiah on Thursday inaugurated the centenary celebrations of Tenali Municipality, often taking a walk down memory lane and remembering the glorious tryst the town had with the literary, social and political movements.

Mr. Rosaiah unveiled the centenary pylon, inaugurated the statue of Tenali Ramakrishna in front of the municipal office and laid the foundation stone for a new market complex to be built with a cost of Rs.6 crore. The Chief Minister was felicitated in a special civic reception by ministers, MLAs, councillors and personalities of the town.

On his maiden visit to Tenali, which he claimed as his birth place, Mr. Rosaiah appeared modest and reminisced of his younger days at the public meeting held at specially erected pandal opposite Municipal Office, ‘when he walked through lanes and by-lanes of the town on foot.’ The town was known as a cradle of drama particularly Harikatha, when organisers used to come calling to Tenali and invite Harikatha artistes.

Complimenting Deputy Speaker and local MLA Nadendla Manohar for his coordinated approach towards development of the town, Mr. Rosaiah underlined the importance of planned development. He gave his nod for undertaking a UGD scheme at a cost of Rs.100 crores with Centre’s assistance. The narrow roads needed to be widened, he said, and sought the support of the people.

Mr. Rosaiah often remembered late Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and reiterated that it would be the primary responsibility of the Government to continue the welfare schemes launched by YSR, particularly Rajiv Arogyasri and SHG loans aimed at women empowerment.

The Chief Minister also reminded the audience of the historical role played by the freedom fighters hailing from Tenali and the seven martyrs who have laid down life for freedom.

The town was clearly in a festive mood on Thursday. The main lanes were lit up and a vibrant cultural fiesta welcomed the gathering. Cultural troupes drawn from various districts, including the koya dance troupes from Khammam, chakke bhajana from Prakasam and guravaiahulu from Tenali added colour to the celebrations. Students too performed a series of cultural programmes.

Union Minister of State for Textile P. Lakshmi, M.P R. Sambasiva Rao, Ministers P.Subhash Chandra Bose, K. Lakshminarayana, D.M. Vara Prasad, M. Venkata Ramana, G. venkat Reddy were present. Municipal Chairperson D. Seethamahalakshmi, District Collector B. Ramajaneyulu, IG KRM Kishore Kumar and S.P Shankha Brata Bagchi were also present.

Williams sisters win 4th Australian Open doubles title

The mighty Williams sisters — Venus and Serena — won the women’s doubles title at the Austrlian Open for the fourth time on Friday after beating Zimbabwe’s Cara Black and America’s Liezel Huber 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

Venus and Serena are the reigning Aussie Open champs, having beaten Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova and Japanese Ai Sugiyama in last year’s women’s doubles finale. The super sisters now own 11 major doubles titles, three of which came last year.

Indian sentenced to death in Malaysia

A 48-year-old Indian was on Friday sentenced to death by a Malaysian court for drug trafficking.
Athiseshan Singaram was sentenced to be hanged after he was found guilty of trafficking 25 kg of ketamine at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) two years ago.
Judicial Commissioner Mohd Yazid Mustafa passed the death sentence on Athiseshan after ruling that the prosecution had proven the case beyond doubt, Bernama news agency reported.
He said the defence was on denial mode but evidence from the prosecution witnesses clearly showed that Athiseshan constantly held the bag containing the drug and knew about its contents at all times.
Athiseshan was found guilty of committing the offence at the customs examination counter of the airport on July 26, 2008

South Korean leader says he’s ready to meet Kim

South Korea’s president says he is willing to meet North Korea’s leader this year to discuss its nuclear weapons programme despite a recent flare-up in border tensions.
President Lee Myung-bak made the comment in an interview aired on Friday, as North Korea fired artillery for a third day during military exercises near its disputed western sea border with the South.
The firing, which on Wednesday prompted return artillery fire by the South, has caused no reported casualties or damage. It comes amid mixed signs from the communist North, which has recently appeared more keen to engage the South in dialogue after ballistic missile and nuclear tests last year drew U.N. sanctions, while still threatening its rival.
Mr. Lee’s two liberal predecessors held talks with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Il in 2000 and 2007. Mr. Lee has taken a tougher approach towards North Korea since taking office in 2008, worsening bilateral relations, but has indicated several times he is willing to meet Mr. Kim.
“I am always ready to meet with Chairman Kim Jong Il,” Mr. Lee told the BBC, according to a text released by his office.
“There is no reason not to meet (him) even within this year” if it promotes peace on the Korean peninsula and North Korea’s nuclear disarmament, he said.
South Korean news media reported last year the two countries had held a series of secret meetings to discuss a possible summit, but failed to breach wide differences.
Mr. Lee told the BBC that the health of Mr. Kim - who turns 68 next month and is believed to have suffered a stroke in 2008 - has improved. He also said that while North Korea is facing serious economic difficulties, it is not on the verge of collapse.
His comments came as North Korea fired about 20 artillery rounds into its western waters, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said, adding that the military was closely monitoring the North Korean drills which Pyongyang says are part of an annual exercise. The North has designated two no-sail zones in the area, including some South Korean-held waters, through March 29.
The western sea border has been a constant source of tension between the two Koreas. Their navies fought a skirmish in November that left one North Korean sailor dead and three others wounded, and engaged in bloodier battles in the area in 1999 and 2002.
Mr. Lee said this week’s artillery shelling could be an attempt by North Korea to emphasize that the peninsula remains a war zone and push for a peace treaty formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War. That conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, leaving the peninsula technically at war.
North Korea is said to believe a peace treaty with the U.S. would provide security and status, help ensure the survival of its government, and give it a stronger hand against rival South Korea.
South Korea and the United States have insisted that North Korea must return to nuclear disarmament talks it quit last year before any treaty can be concluded.
Mr. Lee also said North Korea’s strategy of delaying a resolution of the nuclear impasse would not work. He said the North is not abandoning its nuclear programs but rather is offering gestures for dialogue aimed at avoiding economic difficulties under the U.N. sanctions imposed last year.
North Korea argues it was compelled to develop nuclear weapons to cope with a military threat from the U.S., and has demanded a peace treaty and the lifting of sanctions before it rejoins the nuclear talks.

Indian media & entertainment industry to touch Rs. 1.15 lakh cr mark by 2012

The Indian media and entertainment industry is poised to touch Rs. 1,15,700 crore by 2012, driven by increased advertising spend.
“The Indian media and entertainment industry is growing at a pace of 19 per cent per annum. It is expected to touch Rs. 1,157 billion by 2012,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni said at the 16th International BES EXPO 2010.
She added that television viewership is also expected to grow to 132 million over the same period of time from 115 million viewers in 2007.
With rising consumer spends, advertising revenues for broadcasters has also seen a surge over the last few years.
This, along with relaxation of the FDI norms, has resulted in a spurt of TV channels, including niche channels.
Technologies like Direct To Home (DTH) and IPTV have also contributed to the growth of the sector.

It is cheaper to offshore jobs

The U.S. President Barack Obama, on Thursday, said that he would end tax breaks to American firms that shipped jobs out of the country.

Will India, which is known as the world’s back-office, suffer the most by this move?

According to software services industry body Nasscom, the IT sector accounts for 5.8 per cent of India’s gross domestic product in 2008-09, up from 1.2 per cent in 1997-98.

Though the objective of the move is to arrest the flow of jobs out of America, industry sources aren’t quite sure if the move will have the desired impact? If the U.S. Government disallows offshoring costs as expenses in the books of the U.S. companies, it will increase the cost of offshoring by 35 to 40 per cent for the U.S. firms.
Cost competitiveness

The on-site or onshore cost of a starting level engineer in an IT company is about $50 to 60 an hour. The correspondent cost for the same job if done offshore either in India or China works out to around $25-30 an hour. Assuming that the U.S. Government actually disallows offshore payments as expenses, then the cost of offshoring will go up. Industry experts estimate that the offshoring cost in that event could go up to $35-45. Still it is cheaper for the U.S. companies to offshore jobs to locations such as India or China.

Industry sources aver that the move could at best result in stoppage of fresh flow of transitional works from the U.S. into India and other countries which do offshoring. However, they are of the view that it will not result in any pull-back of jobs already shipped out of the U.S. Nevertheless, they agreed that the move could trigger some hard bargaining by the U.S. companies to hammer down offshoring prices, which could impact the top line and bottomline of IT companies in India and China which are America-centric in their businesses. Industry observers predict that Obama’s move may prod the Indian IT firms to look beyond the U.S. and explore business opportunities in Europe and elsewhere.
Commercial decisions

According to Ameet Nivsarker, Vice-President of Nasscom, the move is all about the American companies which have set up their outfits in lower tax areas and booking profits. In any case, the tax difference between India and the U.S. is very minimal. According to Chief Financial Officer of Hinduja Gobal Solutions Ltd., Anand Vora, “companies outsourcing are doing it based on financial implications and cost structures. The decisions are commercial and based on economic implications.”

Higher vegetable prices push up food inflation

After dipping marginally for a few weeks in a row, food inflation changed tack yet again to move up to 17.40 per cent for the week ended January 16 from 16.81 per cent in the previous week, mainly on account of higher prices of eggs and vegetables.

The official data on wholesale prices of primary food articles and fuels, coming as it did a day ahead of the third quarterly review of credit policy on Friday, dashed all hopes of any early respite from high food inflation which had touched its 10-year peak of close to 20 per cent in December last.

In the event, although the current bout of food inflation is more of a supply-side problem, the Reserve Bank of India is likely to signal a further monetary tightening by hiking some of the key policy rates to suck out excess liquidity and thereby rein inflation.

The general expectation among analysts is that the apex bank would raise the cash reserve ratio (CRR) — the chunk of deposits that banks are mandated to park with the RBI — by at least 50 basis points so as to suck out more than Rs.20,000 crore from the money in circulation. Alongside, there could also be a marginal increase of about 25 basis points in the repo (short-term lending to banks by RBI) and reverse repo (short term borrowing) rates to signal a staggered exit from the soft money policy.

Such a step is deemed necessary as there are chances of the high food inflation seeping into the manufacturing and other sectors and thereby lead to a surge in overall inflation.

Brett Lee condemns attacks on Indians in Australia

In the wake of continuing attacks on Indian students in Australia, pace bowler Brett Lee has come out strongly in condemning the violent acts and reiterated that his country was a very safe and wonderful place.

“We Australians are a multi-culture society with people from different races. I know there are some issues and I am very sad. I am working very closely with the authorities in Australia in this regard.”

Second home

He did not think the attacks on Indian students were racist in nature. “That is not the case. Whether it is Sydney, Perth or Melbourne, Australia is a place where everyone feels comfortable. We, Australians, welcome Indians with open arms much the same way I am welcomed here. I’ve said it in the past that, in many ways, India is a second home for me,” he said.

Lee dismissed the security concerns expressed by some sections of the media in Australia and said, “We are guided on security everyday by experts. It’s for the authorities to ensure that everything is fine.” He also added that he was not afraid of playing in Mumbai in the background of the threat issued by the Shiv Sena.

In the capital as brand ambassador for the Pearls group of companies, the Australian speedster said, “The way I am treated by the people of this country, it is always a very humbling experience.”

Recovering from an elbow surgery, Lee sounded confident of playing the third edition of IPL. “I feel great and so far my recovery is on schedule,” said the Kings XI Punjab speedster who was required to use a brace for eight weeks following the surgery.

On some of the Australians and Pakistani cricketers being ignored in the recent IPL auction, Lee said, “There will be cricket happening around that time (Australia is scheduled to tour New Zealand till end of March) so some of the Australians would not have been able to make it.

“If IPL is about the best players playing against those from different cultures, it would have been great to have players from Pakistan.”

When asked what he thought about a section of the media questioning India’s worthiness of being the number one Test team, he said, “It is very harsh (not to acknowledge India as the top-ranked team).”

Amar Singh must quit Rajya Sabha: Mohan Singh

The Samajwadi Party (SP) on Thursday mounted pressure on the former general secretary, Amar Singh, to resign his Rajya Sabha seat. He was re-elected to the Rajya Sabha on the SP ticket in November 2008.

Speaking to journalists, the new party spokesman, Mohan Singh, said that Mr. Amar Singh, who has resigned from key party posts, must give up his Rajya Sabha seat on moral grounds. “If not, then the party will find a way out [for him to do so].”

When informed that he had reportedly refused to do so, Mr. Mohan Singh retorted, “There is a limit to being shameless. He has been teaching everybody a lesson on morality but after his refusal to quit it has now become clear who is moral and who is not. His political aim is to remain in some post through some party. Politics is not his real motive.”

Mr. Mohan Singh, who has replaced Mr. Amar Singh in all party posts, said the party wanted Mr. Amar Singh to resign. Asked if the party president Mulayam Singh too wanted it, he said, “the party wants it and Mr. Mulayam Singh is part of the party.”

(However, when The Hindu asked Mr. Mulayam Singh, who was in Delhi for Janeshwar Mishra’s condolence meeting, he declined to say anything on the subject.)

On the new office-bearers, Mr. Mohan Singh said, “The party is back to its socialist moorings and any distortions that had crept in would be rectified.”

Meanwhile on Thursday, the party announced the appointment of the former Minister, Rasheed Masood, as national vice-president. The former Minister, Ata-Ur-Rehman and the former MLA, Suneelam, were appointed as secretaries.

Two jawans killed in J&K encounter

Two jawans were killed in a fierce gunbattle between militants and troops in Kishtwar district early Friday.

Acting on a tip off, troops of 11 Rashtriya Rifles launched a search operation in Sondar forest belt in Taksham area of the district, nearly 300 km from here, a senior army official said.

During the search, militants fired on the troops and threw grenades, he said, adding the encounter took place as troops fired back.

In the gunbattle, two jawans were killed, the official said.

iPad sets off excitement

After months of speculation, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced on Wednesday night what the U.S. technology company Apple hopes will be the coolest device on the planet: a slender tablet computer called the iPad.

For all the hoopla surrounding it, however, the question is whether the iPad can achieve anything close to the success of the iPhone, which transformed the cellphone and forced the industry to race to catch up.

Apple is positioning the device, some versions of which will be commercially available in March, as a pioneer in a new genre of computing, somewhere between a laptop and a smartphone. “The bar is pretty high,” Mr. Jobs said.

With a thickness of just 1.25 cm and weighing 680 gm, the device will vividly display books, newspapers, websites and videos on a 24.3-cm glass touchscreen. Giving media companies another way to sell content, it may herald a new era for publishing.

But the iPad, costing $499 to $829 (about Rs.23,250 to Rs.38,600), lacks some features common in laptops and phones. To its instant critics, it was little more than an oversize iPod Touch. A camera is absent, and Flash, the software that handles video and animation on the Web, does not work on the device.

The event, in typical Apple style, was tightly scripted and heavy on theatrics. Mr. Jobs presented the iPad to an enthusiastic crowd of around 800 employees, business partners and journalists. It was only his second public appearance since an absence last year for health reasons. He posited that the iPad was the best device for certain kinds of computing such as browsing the Web, reading e-books and playing video.

The iPad “is so much more intimate than a laptop, and it’s so much more capable than a smartphone with its gorgeous screen,” he said.

One question is whether there is enough room for another device in the cluttered lives of consumers. “I think this will appeal to the Apple acolytes, but this is essentially just a really big iPod Touch,” said an analyst. He expects the iPad to cannibalise the sales of other Apple products. He said book-lovers would continue to opt for lighter, cheaper e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, while people looking for a small Web-ready computer would go for netbooks. — New York Times News Service

Kalam advised caution on Padma awards

A January 2004 “secret” note from President Abdul Kalam to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee advised extra caution in the selection of Padma awardees “to ensure that no adverse reaction takes place in regard to conferring of these prestigious awards.”

The note, accessed recently by Right to Information activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal, assumes relevance in the context of the controversial award of Padma Bhushan to American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal. In his note, Mr. Kalam referred to “some criticism” at the time of the 2003 Padma awards, and emphasised the need to be “extra careful” in deciding “these prestigious awards.”

Mr. Kalam laid down important criteria for the selection of Padma recipients. Among them: There should be “no adverse reports” against the selected candidates “from any of the investigation agencies/organisations,” and no person should be selected for the award “except on the recommendation of the Awards Committee.”
Cases against Chatwal

The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday admitted that between 1992 and 1994, the CBI had registered five cases against Mr. Chatwal and some bank officials for “conniving with the intention to defraud Bank of Baroda and Bank of India.” It, nonetheless, maintained that there was “nothing adverse on record” against Mr. Chatwal because of the five cases, three were closed by the CBI itself while the court discharged Mr. Chatwal in the other two.

Mr. Agarwal filed a batch of six RTI applications on Padma awards with the Home Ministry between June 2007 and January 2009. Dissatisfied with the response, he went in appeal to the Central Information Commission, and managed to lay his hands on a host of crucial documents. One of them was Mr. Kalam’s note. Another was the “secret” report of the K.R. Narayanan (then Vice-President) High Level Review Committee that examined the guidelines for the Padma awards.
Panel recommendation

The committee, which met between July and October 1996, noted that Padma Bhushan was only to be awarded for “exceptional and distinguished service.” It was emphatic that “no Padma award should be conferred except on the recommendation of the Awards Committee.” It sought strict adherence to guidelines and advised that October 1 be observed as the deadline for receiving recommendations.
Final authority

However, in its replies to Mr. Agarwal, the Home Ministry insisted that there was no fixed date for receiving recommendations. It admitted that some of the 2004 awardees had been finalised after the scheduled meetings of the Awards Committee, and that approval for these were taken on telephone. The Home Ministry also held the Prime Minister to be the final authority in deciding the awardees. It said he was entitled to delete the names approved by the Awards Committee.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jr NTR Marriage Fixed

Young tiger Jr NTR marriage has been fixed with Narni girl Lakshmi Pranathi who is studying inter second year. It is said that marriage will be on may.

Vodafone launches ‘033’ a film’s content and music on a mobile platform

Vodafone Essar, one of India’s leading cellular services providers, has for the first time in the Bengali film industry launched a film’s content and music on a mobile platform.

Vodafone customers will be able to enjoy music and digital content of Birsa Dasgupta’s film ‘033’, even before it is available in retail stores.

Speaking on the association, Sridhar Rao, CEO, Vodafone Essar East Limited “Contemporary Bengali films have gained widespread popularity in recent times for its fresh music and novel approach to narrating a story. ‘033’ is one such film whose appeal is sure to extend to a wide range of audiences.”

The music and content will be available Jan 27-March 27.

Joy Ganguly, Director, Moxie Group said, “The music and mobile content for ‘033’ is launched on a mobile platform by Vodafone for the first time before the CDs hit the stands. This is a first of its type of launch in Bengal.”

The film, produced by NDTV Imagine Picture Company & Moxie Group, will hit the theatres on March 5.

‘033’ is the code for the city of Kolkata and the film is a tribute to music as a metaphor of changing times and emotions for young people in the city. The star cast includes well-known Tollywood faces Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Swastika Mukherjee, Parambrata Chatterjee, and Madhabi Mukherjee.

Sania Mirza's engagement called off

Tennis star Sania Mirza's family has reportedly called off her engagement to Mohammad Sohrab Mirza. Sania got engaged to long time friend Mohammad in Hyderabad in July 2009.
According to a media report, she confirmed it saying, "We were friends for half a decade, but found ourselves incompatible during our engagement period. I wish Sohrab the best in life".
Sania's father Imran, who coaches and manages her career, called off his daughter's engagement to Sohrab Mirza earlier this week.
Sohrab is currently studying business management in the United Kingdom. Sania, who is in Melbourne, has crashed out of Australian Open.
She will go to Kuala Lumpur on Friday for Fed Cup Asia Oceania Group 2 competition.

ISI agent was a master in love affairs

Dehra Dun, Jan 27 (PTI) Suspected Pakistani ISI agent Asad Ali, arrested from Haridwar, allegedly had a string of relationships with local women apparently to win people''s confidence to extract information regarding cantonment areas. Ali was arrested on January 25 by the Anti-Terrorist Squad from Gangnahar area in Rookree where he was living under the name of Abid Ali, police said, adding he used to supply vital information to Pakistan.
The arrest was carried out when he was sending a courier to Amir Rathor, an ISI officer, in Dubai. The envelope contained maps of Roorkee cantonment area.
Some maps of cantonment areas, a laptop, a pen-drive and other documents were recovered from Ali, DIG Kumbh Alok Sharma said. The ISI agent fell in love with Muskan, a married woman of Kakroli area of Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh.
Later, when Ali shifted his base to Roorkee last year he married Shaista, daughter of Kabir Khan. But few months back, Ali returned to Muskan and was living with her, police said.
In between, Ali had relationships with a couple of more women. By entering into love affairs, Ali had tried to gain confidence of locals in both Muzaffarnagar and Roorkee where whom he took information of army''s cantonment areas.
Ali was staying in India after he flew to Kathmandu via Dhaka from Lahore and later stayed under various false names in different places like Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Lucknow and Bikaner. Police teams are being sent to these places to find out any possible hideouts of the agent and his associates.
Significantly, Ali has been arrested from Haridwar district where maha kumbh mela is presently underway.

Shah Rukh wanted to recruit Pak players

Kolkata Knight Riders have exhausted their quota of foreign cricketers but they would have loved to have Pakistani players in their ranks, co-owner of the IPL franchisee Shah Rukh Khan said.

“We did have a number of them in the first IPL and in the second, no Pakistani player was allowed to play. This year, we don’t have any more slot left. But if we had and they are made available legally, we would have loved to have them,” the actor said.

“We had one slot this year and we took Shane Bond, because we needed a fast bowler. We would have loved to have any player from any country, which would boost our team,” Shah Rukh said.

Lamenting the snub that the Pakistani player received in the January 19 auction, Shah Rukh said they should have been welcomed.

“If there was any issue, that could have been solved in a fairly, nice manner. I believe my country stands for democracy and goodness and we should invite everyone.

“I never involve myself in politics — in films or in sports. We are a wonderful democratic, a happy secular country and that’s how it should be,” he said.

The power of Medaram

The power of faith. It has turned Medaram, a tiny and sleepy village in the forest of Eturunagaram into a lively and vibrant place where millions of people have converged for the famous Sammakka Sarakka jatara.

It is the power of faith that changed the shape of this village where everything becomes colossal even if it is for a short while. The ever increasing pilgrims occupy every inch of space.

There are brand new transformers supplying uninterrupted power, a rarity. Water gushes out of taps and a brand new sprawling APS RTC bus stand has come up in the forest apart from a helipad for VIPs that has replaced the bamboo fields.

Needless to say, even the debris left behind is unimaginable.

Simply, the tribal festival is a sight with its sheer size and the spiritual belief of the pilgrims. As plumes of red dust rise unhurriedly, women believed to be possessed by the Goddess dance in a trance. People set up jungle camps everywhere, eat and drink and doze off in the open. When devotees move towards the Jampanna vagu, a small rivulet considered being holy, one is simply pushed ahead without any effort required. Such is the surge of the crowd.

Every two years, tribals of Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Orissa undertake what is nothing short of an odyssey as they travel in bullock carts for days together to reach

Medaram and pay obeisance to the legendary koya tribal saints Sammakka Sarakka who became martyrs fighting the imperial forces of the Kakatiya monarch Pratapa Rudra II, eight centuries ago. The tribals believe that the spirits of the legendary tribal warrior women would descend on Medaram during the jatara.

5 excise staff to be suspended

Assistant Commissioner of Enforcement (Prohibition and Excise) A.V.S. Murthy and five other Excise officials are being placed under suspension for alleged dereliction of duty in curbing the manufacture and sale of illicit liquor, which led to the death of 13 persons in Amalapuram division in the district in the last couple of days. This was stated by Minister for Panchayat Raj Botcha Satyanarayana, who is in-charge of East Godavari district.

Excise Superintendent (Amalapuram) K. Madhusudana Rao, Assistant Excise Superintendent M.V.S.S.N. Murthy, Circle Inspector Ajay Kumar Singh and Sub-Inspector S. Veerabhadra Rao are among those being suspended. Action is sought to be taken against excise CI Ajay Kumar Singh’s predecessor S.K.D.V. Prasad for failure in discharging the duties properly.

Meanwhile, the condition of nine persons undergoing treatment at the Government General Hospital (GGH) here is stated to be critical. In all, about 220 persons are being taken care of at the GGH. The blood samples of all of them are being sent to the State Forensic Science Laboratory at Hyderabad for analysis. Preliminary investigation indicated the presence of methyl alcohol in the liquor that was illicitly distilled and sold in and around Ambajipeta.

The prime accused P Ramakrishna and his accomplices Rayudu Ravi, Veerababu, Raghava and Ramesh were arrested and charges of murder filed against them in addition to action being taken under the Preventive Detention Act.

The Minister further added that a door–to–door survey of all villages in Amalapuram and Ambajipeta mandals has been ordered to ensure that no person who might have consumed the ID liquor is left to fend for himself. Raids were being conducted throughout the district to prevent recurrence of such incidents.

Centre trying hard to split State: Ashok

P.Ashok Gajapati Raju, TDP Polit Bureau member and MLA, has said 219 MLAs out of 294 in the Assembly had so far resigned after Union Home Minister P. Chidamabaram made a statement on separate statehood for Telengana on December 9. Though the MLAs submitted resignations, then Governor N.D. Tiwari had not felt it as a constitutional crisis but was busy with his other activities that brought disrepute to the gubernatorial post. Yet, the Centre is trying hard to split the State. There was need to begin stir once again for the unified State, he felt. The hidden agenda of both the State and Central governments would put people to hardship in the near future. Already following corrupt practices of the Ministers and present unrest industrialists had been looking towards other states for investments.

Expressing concern over rising prices of essential commodities that burdened the poor and middle classes, he said at the district committee meeting of the party on Wednesday, the government instead of making efforts to control soaring prices slapped additional taxes on all items. As a responsible Opposition party there was need to fight against the government for the welfare of people, he added.

Party observer and State general secretary B. Umamaheswara Rao doubted whether or not the government existed in the state. He called upon the party men to launch an agitation on soaring prices and demanded Chief Minister K. Rosaiah to order Vigilance sleuths to conduct raids on hoarders to control prices. Party district convenor and MLA Kolla Lalitha Kumari and party leaders Gadde Babu Rao, Y. Ramana Murty, R.P. Banj Deo, Sobha Hymavathi, G. Sandhya Rani and D. Jagadish participated.

Basu’s brain to be preserved for study

Doctors at the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research (IPGMER) here began the dissection of the body of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu on Wednesday and have taken measures to preserve his brain for the purpose of carrying out medical research.

“We will be dissecting his body over the coming days and whichever organs are found to be in a suitable condition will be preserved,” said Dr. Asis Kumar Datta, the head of the department of anatomy.
“Not badly affected”

On being asked if his brain had been affected by the septicaemia, (leading to multiple organ failure which caused Jyoti Basu’s death), Dr. Datta said that only a dissection of the brain will reveal if there was any damage caused by the infection, but from the outside it doesn’t seem to have been too badly affected.

“So far we have preserved it in an intact state, in case it is required in future for carrying out medical research,” he said, adding that it was being preserved in a solution of alcohol and glycerine.

The 95-year-old Jyoti Basu, who passed away at a city hospital on January 17, after being critically ill for 11 days, had pledged his body for medical research.
“No request received”

IPGMER Director Dr. Pradip Mitra said the institute did not receive any request from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) at Bangalore for handing over the brain of Jyoti Basu for the purpose of conducting research.

A few days after his death, Dr. S.K. Shankar, Professor and Head of Neuropathology at NIMHANS said the institute was keen on conducting research on Jyoti Basu’s brain, as a nonagenarian’s is always of interest to neuro-scientists, keen to study age-related and associated neurodegenerative changes.

While the Marxist veteran’s body was donated on January 19 amid a last farewell by multitudes of people, his eyes were taken away within the stipulated time at the hospital, where he stayed since being admitted with pneumonia on January 1.

Dubai opens plant to produce drug for cancer patients

A high-tech facility was inaugurated here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to manufacture a drug required in PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan for cancer patients.

The drug, Flurodeoxglucose (FDG), has a short shelf life of only 10 hours. Therefore, importing it into the UAE was a cumbersome process.

To conduct a PET scan, the patient needs to be injected with a dose of FDG.

The PET scan is considered better than the regular scans as it can detect cancer early.

“Previously we needed to import this injection from countries like Holland, but the short shelf life of the product was always a challenge,” said Qadhi Saeed Al Murooshid, director general of Dubai Health Authority.

“Now it will be manufactured in Dubai and will be an hour away from the major hospitals that require this drug for various oncological, cardiovascular and neurological conditions,” WAM news agency quoted him as saying Wednesday.

Apple unveils iPad tablet with onscreen keyboard

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has unveiled the iPad, a tablet-style computer that resembles the iPhone, but larger.

“It's so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone,” Mr. Jobs said on Wednesday at the device's highly anticipated debut in San Francisco.

Mr. Jobs demonstrated how the iPad is used for surfing the Web with Apple's Safari browser. He typed an e-mail using an on-screen keyboard and flipped through photo albums by flicking his finger across the screen.

The CEO says the iPad will also be better for reading books, playing games and watching video than either a laptop or a smart phone.

Now Apple will have to convince consumers, many of whom already have Internet-connected phones, computers and TVs, that that's the case. Tablet computers have existed for a decade, with little success. No price or information on availability was immediately announced.

Indian High Commissioner to meet officials in Queensland

Indian High Commissioner Sujatha Singh is set to hold talks with Queensland’s senior police and community leaders over the ongoing attacks on Indians in this Australian state.

Media reports said Queensland’s political leaders have defended Australia saying it is not a racist country.

The comments came after report of the Indian High Commissioner would attend a meeting with senior police and community leaders in the state.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh said she believed that the country was a very tolerant and encompassing community.

“But racism from time to time does rear its ugly head,” she said.

Brisbane City Council Mayor Campbell Newman also agreed to the view, saying at an Australia Day event that he did not believe Australia was a racist country.

Brat in Jaggubhai hard to do: Shriya

“The brat in Jaggubhai was hard to do,” confesses Shriya Saran, Monisha Jagannathan aka brat in Jaggubhai.

Shriya, who plays the daughter of Sarath Kumar in the movie, says that Jaggubhai is a very special movie to her. Sarath Kumar, lauded for his recent role in Pazhasi Raja, where he more than held his ground against the towering Mammooty, is again moving into unchartered territory with his role as Monisha’s father.

“It was hard to do because Monisha is a little loud, bordering on obnoxious, has not been taught to respect elders, is into drugs and every other conceivable bad habit… in short, she is the complete caricature of a spoilt brat,” narrates Shriya, speaking to The Hindu in the executive lounge of the Taj Mount Road, a little ahead of the movie’s premiere at the Satyam complex.

“See, there was no one around whom I could study and relate to the character. I know no friends who use drugs and so it was an exploratory journey. I used black nail polish and symbols associated with the dark to make it clear where Monisha came from,” she says.

This season, it is not only Monisha that Shriya gives life to. Shriya is also Geetha (in Kutty — which has released and is doing well, according to industry reports) and Anu (Chikku Bhukku — shooting still in progress). So, how are Geetha and Anu different from Monisha?

“Well, Anu is a Madurai Born Confused Desi, who spends a few years in London and comes back with an accent and attitude. Geetha is the girl next door, very sincere and very naïve. The whole world is new to her and it is basically about her finding her love… You know, I was a lost girl in college too and I can relate to that feeling very well,” she laughs.

Is it easy doing a Tamil movie without knowing the language well? “Knowledge of a language definitely helps…I was never good in languages, spelling and past participles, etc. Had a block [in my mind] since then…But I believe, for me, it is more important to have a relationship and understanding with the director. If that is not there, it will show on screen for sure,” she says.

Shriya feels strongly about video piracy and asserts that she will be part of any initiative that the industry or the government undertakes to curb piracy. “It is not about protecting the industry. It’s about protecting our country. The money made out of piracy will end up financing terrorism.”

Shriya is leaving for Kochi on Thursday morning to shoot on her first Malayalam venture Pokkiri Raja in which Mammooty plays the lead.

“I have heard that the audiences in Kerala are unsparing…I hope they accept me,” she adds.

Obama pledges to create jobs in key speech

An embattled President Barack Obama vowed in his first State of the Union address on Wednesday to make job growth his topmost priority, as he looked to reignite his stalling presidency.

Speaking to a before a politician-packed House of Representatives chamber and a television audience of millions, Mr. Obama urged lawmakers to come together around new stimulus spending and short-term economic relief.

Defiant despite stinging setbacks, he said he would not abandon ambitious plans for longer-term fixes to health care, energy, education and more.

“Change has not come fast enough,” Mr. Obama said.

He compared the United States to other nations: “Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse. Meanwhile, China’s not waiting to revamp its economy. Germany’s not waiting. India’s not waiting.”

Mr. Obama looked to use the high-profile speech to change America’s conversation from how his presidency is troubled -- over the messy health care debate, a limping economy and the missteps that led to Christmas Day’s barely averted terrorist attack -- to how he is seizing the reins on the economic worries foremost on Americans’ minds. He spoke to a nation gloomy over double-digit unemployment and federal deficits soaring to a record $1.4 trillion, and to fellow Democrats dispirited about the fallen standing of a president they hoped would carry them through this fall’s midterm congressional elections.

Democrats fear that the fallen standing of the president could hurt them in November’s congressional and gubernatorial elections. Just last week, Republicans scored a stunning victory by winning the Senate seat long held by the late Edward M. Kennedy.

Republicans applauded the president when he entered the chamber, and even craned their necks and welcomed Michelle Obama when she took her seat. But the warm feelings of bipartisanship disappeared early.

Democrats jumped to their feet and roared when Obama said he wanted to impose a new fee on banks, while Republicans sat stone-faced. Democrats stood and applauded when Mr. Obama mentioned the economic stimulus package passed last February. Republicans sat and stared.

The president devoted about two-thirds of his speech to the economy, emphasizing his ideas for restoring job growth, taming budget deficits and changing a polarized Washington “where every day is Election Day.” These concerns are at the roots of voter emotions that drove supporters to Obama but now are turning on him as he governs.

He looked to rescue the health care plan, his top domestic priority. The plan was on the verge of passage, then got derailed after opposition Republicans captured the Massachusetts seat. The United States lacks universal health care.

“Do not walk away from reform,” he implored. “Not now. Not when we are so close.”

In a remarkable shift from past addresses, and notable for a president whose candidacy caught fire over his opposition to the Iraq war, foreign policy was taking a relative back seat.

On national security, Mr. Obama proclaimed some success, saying that “far more” al-Qaeda terrorists were killed under his watch last year in the U.S.-led global fight than in 2008.

Also, hoping to salve growing disappointment in a key constituency, Mr. Obama said he would work with Congress to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. But in a concession to concern among Republicans and in his own party’s right flank, Obama neither made a commitment to suspend the practice in the interim nor issued a firm deadline.

Throughout the speech, Mr. Obama aimed to show he understands Americans’ struggles to pay bills while big banks get bailouts and bonuses. Trying to position himself as a fighter for regular people, he urged Congress to blunt the impact of a Supreme Court decision last week handing corporations greater influence over elections.

“I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities,” he said.

Declaring that “I know the anxieties” of Americans’ struggling to pay the bills while big banks get bailouts and bonuses, Mr. Obama prodded Congress to enact a second stimulus package “without delay,” specifying that it should contain a range of measures to help small businesses and funding for infrastructure projects.

Also, Mr. Obama said he will initiate a $30 billion program to provide money to community banks at low rates. The money would come from balances left in the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund -- a program “about as popular as a root canal” that he made of point of saying “I hated.”

Even before Mr. Obama spoke, many of the proposals the White House revealed in advance were being dismissed -- on the right or the left {mdash} as poorly targeted or too modest to make a difference.

Republicans sought to capitalize on the Democrats’ tough straits with their choice for the traditional Republican response: Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who took his state from Democratic hands two months ago.

Mr. McDonnell, in excerpts of his speech released in advance, said Democratic policies are resulting in an unsustainable level of debt. He said Americans want affordable health care, but they don’t want the government to run it.

“Top-down, one-size-fits-all decision-making should not replace the personal choices of free people in a free market,” Mr. McDonnell said.

In his speech, Mr. Obama hoped to rekindle the energy of his historic election. Though aides worked up until the last minute to whittle it down, it still ran to an hour and nine minutes, with applause, longer than any State of the Union since the Clinton era and surely taxed viewers’ patience.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kasab wants Rane as witness, 26/11 court rejects plea

Seeking to delay the 26/11 trial, Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab on Wednesday sought to call Maharashtra minister Narayan Rane as a defence witness but the special court rejected the plea terming his request as “irrelevant” and concluded the recording of evidence.
Special court judge M L Tahaliyani adjourned the case to February 20 for arguments.
Kasab made the request through his lawyer K P Pawar, who pleaded that Revenue Minister Rane be examined as defence witness as he had made a public statement that some local elements had helped the 26/11 terrorists. Soon after the carnage, Mr. Rane said he knew some politicians who had provided monetary and logistical support to terrorists.
However, when Solapur-based Purushottam Barde filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court seeking an inquiry into his statement, M. Rane, in an affidavit said that he had simply referred to N.N. Vohra committee’s report on criminalisation of politics and not talked about individuals.
Pawar contended that since Kasab was charged with participating in the conspiracy, Mr. Rane’s evidence would throw light on people involved in planning and executing the attacks.
Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam opposed Kasab’s plea saying Rane’s deposition was not relevant to the case.
The judge felt that Mr. Rane’s deposition would not help Kasab in any way and would be a waste of time.

Seven suspected Maoists held

In a major crackdown on the Maoists in the wake of the incident where the ultras had raided a police camp in West Bengal’s Bankura district late on Monday, security forces raided two Maoist hideouts in the State’s Paschim Medinipur district on Wednesday leading to the arrest of seven suspected extremists and seizure of a large cache of arms and ammunitions.
Meanwhile, one of the two Indian Reserve Battalion constables who was suspected to have been abducted by the Maoists during the attack on the police camp on Monday showed up at the Barikul police station near the camp on Wednesday on his own.
Vishal Garg, police superintendent of Bankura, told The Hindu on Wednesday that Ajay Pandey, the constable who returned, will be “questioned about the chain of events that led to his disappearance to his reappearing at the police station.”
The body of the other constable, who went missing with Mr. Pandey, was found inside a dense forest near the camp on Tuesday.
The police superintendent of the Paschim Medinipur district, Manoj Kumar Verma, told The Hindu over telephone: “We were receiving a lot of information about the movement of the Maoist group that had raided the camp in Bankura and were tracking them since Monday. Acting on specific inputs, we organised raids at two locations.”
Fierce exchange of fire took place between the forces and the Maoists in the dense forests at Talpukur in Belpahari and Madhupur in Salboni region during the day, before the ultras were forced to retreat.
Mr. Verma said that two suspected Maoists were arrested from Talpukur and five were arrested from Madhupur. Several firearms, ammunitions, improvised explosive devices and traditional weapons were recovered from both the sites.
Body recovered
He said that a body was also recovered from Talpukur though the police was yet to ascertain the identity of the person, adding that there was a possibility of it being of a Maoist who died during the encounter.
The body of a Trinamool Congress supporter was also found by the banks of the Kansavati river at Jhargram in the Paschim Medinipur district on Wednesday.
Several Maoists posters were also found around Rishi Dolui’s body, that claimed that he was executed for spying on the Maoists on behalf of the police.

Karunanidhi commends Yeddyurappa

Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on Wednesday commended his Karnataka counterpart B.S. Yeddyurappa for organising the 500th anniversary of the coronation of Krishnadevaraya at Hampi.
In a message, Mr Karunanidhi recalled the contributions of the Vijayanagara emperor and how Krishnadevaraya treated people of different faiths impartially and promoted art and culture.
The Chief Minister also recounted the unveiling of statues of Saint Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore and poet Sarvajna in Chennai in August and referred to the participation of Mr Yeddyurappa in the two events.
Addressing a function here, Mr Karunanidhi explained that his party – Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam - had been working for democracy, Tamil society, and Dravidians. His party was together with Congress and Communists to eliminate communalism and enable the deepening of communal harmony.

Telangana: PIL in SC to accept MLAs’ resignation

A petition was on Wednesday moved in the Supreme Court contending that the resignation submitted by the MLAs on the issue of Telangana be deemed to have been accepted by the Speaker of the Andhra Pradesh Assembly.
The petition was mentioned before a Bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan which declined to advance the date of hearing from February 1 as listed by the registry.
The petition filed by former MP M. Narayana Reddy, claimed that it was filed on behalf of the MLAs, cutting across party lines, who resigned on the Telangana issue.
However, only Mr. Reddy has been named as a petitioner.
Senior advocate Subodh Markandeya, who mentioned the PIL on behalf of Mr. Reddy, claimed that MLAs belonging to Telangana irrespective of their political affiliations, submitted their resignations personally to the Speaker, who acknowledged receipt of 139 letters in this regard.
The petitioner claimed that more than 200 MLAs out of the total strength of 294 in the Assembly submitted letters of resignation but the Speaker has neither acted nor sent them to the Assembly Secretariat. The MLAs are from both Telangana and other parts of the state, he added.
He contended that the issue involved important questions of the constitution affecting its basic structure, namely the rights and privileges of the MLAs, their freedom of speech and expression and the dignity of the house.
“The arbitrary stoic silence of the respondent (Speaker of the house) has resulted in gross violation of Article 14, 19(1) (a) and 190 of the constitution,” the PIL said.
The court was told that resignations were submitted to the Speaker on December 10 and 23 last year.

Victorious Rajapaksa calls for unity after landslide win

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has called for all Sri Lankans to work together to rebuild the war-torn nation in the wake of his re-election victory.
Mr. Rajapaksa spoke on Wednesday in his first comments since he was declared the winner in a hard-fought presidential election. His challenger has rejected the results.
He said that no matter who people voted for, he would work as the president of the whole nation.

Undersea Internet cables 'could detect tsunamis'

An Indian-origin researcher has proposed what he claims is a cheaper and effective way of detecting an approaching tsunami, by using undersea Internet cables to sense its electric field.

Monstrous tsunami waves, like the one that killed over 200,000 people in the Indian Ocean in 2004, create an electric field as they form. This field could be sensed by a network of underwater sensors which would be too expensive to build.

However, only five countries own such sensor arrays — the US, Australia, Indonesia, Chile and Thailand —— partly due to the high cost of installation.

Now, Manoj Nair and his team at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, have suggested the cheaper way of using the undersea telecommunications cables to detect tsunami’s electric field, the ‘New Scientist’ reported.

The electric filed is created as electrically charged salts in seawater pass through the Earth’s magnetic field.

Computer modelling by Nair’s team shows that the electric field generated by the tsunami that struck south-east Asia in 2004 induced voltages of up to 500 millivolts. Their calculations show this is big enough to be detected by volt-meters placed at the end of the fibre-optic and copper cables that carpet the floor of the Indian Ocean.
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