Monday, May 31, 2010

Politicians, mining and land mafia ruling roost in A.P.: Naidu

Accusing the ruling Congress of failing to maintain law and order, Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu on Saturday said “political mafia, mining mafia and land mafia” were ruling the roost in Andhra Pradesh.

“There is no security for people in the state because of the political mafia while the mining mafia has been plundering precious national wealth,” he told the valedictory session of the TDP’s three-day meet at Gandipet near here.

Naidu alleged that the police was being misused by the ruling party to serve its vested political interests.

He said the so-called safety and security committee in the state headed by Rajya Sabha member K.V.P. Ramachandra Raohas has failed to do anything. “It should be disbanded forthwith,” he said.

The TDP chief strongly condemned the growing attacks on his party cadre by the ruling party. “We shall not tolerate these attacks and resist them by all means,” he said.

Mr. Naidu said no one could stop the TDP’s victory in any election in future. “But we want the Election Commission to do away with the Electronic Voting Machines and revert to the ballot paper system. EVMs can be used to rig the election and manipulate the result in favour of a particular party,” he said.

Earlier, film star and TDP founder-president N.T. Rama Rao’s son Nandamuri Balakrishna foresaw the possibility of mid-term elections in the state soon due to bickering within the ruling party.

“Be geared up for Assembly elections, not four years later but anytime soon,” said Mr. Balakrishna, who was one of the attractions at the ‘Mahanadu’ on the final day.

The TDP would return to power and Mr. Chandrababu would become Chief Minister whenever elections are held, he said.

Young star and Mr. Balakrishna’s nephew NTR Junior said he would work for the party “till the last drop of my blood.”

“My aim is to restore glory to the party and bring it back to power. I appeal to the party president to give due prominence to youth and women,” he said.

The three-day annual conference culminated with the unanimous re-election of Mr. Naidu as the TDP president for the 15th year in a row.

Gates Foundation grants $ 5 mn for tobacco control

Public Health Foundation of India has been awarded $ 5 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to strengthen the National Tobacco Control Program on pilot basis in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

These two States have been selected for the pilot project as they are the largest producers and consumers of tobacco.

The program will be subsequently scaled up across India.

Geeta Kiran, joint Director of Medical Education said that this is a three year programe aimed at taking up community campaign against tobacco use. The foundation will create awareness in Indian languages and will also be working with beedi and cigarette industries.

Tobacco farmers would be informed about the alternative crops or alternative livelihood available to them, she added.

While six districts in Andhra Pradesh will be covered under the Pilot project including three in coastal Andhra Pradesh, two in Telangana and one in Rayalseema, five districts will be covered in Gujarat.

Dr. Srikrishna Ramachandra, professor at Indian Institute of Public Health said that currently the usage of tobacco is between 15 and 19 per cent among men and less than 5 percent among woman which includes use of tobacco related products, passive smoking. Despite warnings, there is hardly any effect on smokers, he said.

Naidu re-elected TDP chief

Nara Chandrababu Naidu was re-elected president of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) unanimously for the seventh time in a row on the concluding day of ‘Mahanadu' here on Saturday. The process of election that commenced on Friday was completed this afternoon, though it was a mere formality.

In his concluding speech, Mr. Naidu thanked the party delegates for re-electing him and giving him another opportunity to serve the party. He promised to spend equal time for the party and the people and pledged to protect every party worker, stating that it was because of the committed activists the party was so close to people.

There was a historic necessity to bring TDP back in power as “problems cloud the State every time Congress returned to power,” he said and pointed out that the present situation was an example.

The TDP chief claimed that manipulation of voting was possible in electronic voting machines (EVMs) and sought a nationwide debate on the issue as 14 political parties had already expressed reservations over the EVMs. He demanded that the State government hold party-based and direct elections to local bodies.

Speaking on the resolution relating to law and order in the State earlier, Mr. Naidu demanded scrapping of the Committee on Public Security headed by K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao as it had failed to take stock of the situation.

Alleging that Congress government was behind the murder of TDP activists during the last six years he said: “Had the previous TDP government thought on the same lines, no Congress man would have been alive.”

He blamed political mafia for the violent incidents at Mahabubabad in Warangal district on Friday and felt lack of freedom in functioning was incapacitating the police.

Coming down heavily on ‘Jalayagnam', the TDP chief said it was difficult to complete the projects taken up even in the next three decades.

He demanded that the government announce Polavaram and Pranahita-Chevella as national projects.

EAMCET: bid to leak medical paper thwarted

An audacious attempt to ‘leak' the medical paper of EAMCET was thwarted by officials on Sunday. This also led to the arrest a few persons involved in the racket apart from some aspirants.

Candidates involved in the episode were picked up from KSRM Engineering College centre in Kadapa and GPR Engineering College in Kurnool when they tried to enter their allotted examination centres with microphones stitched to their shirt collars.
Medicos involved?

“About 150 persons have been picked up so far by the police and it was found that some medical college students were involved,” a senior official said. Initial enquiries revealed that the ‘beneficiaries' were willing to pay up to Rs. 5 lakh if their attempt proved to be successful.

The Andhra Pradesh State Council for Higher Education (APSCHE) Chairman, K.C. Reddy, EAMCET-2010 Chairman D.N. Reddy and Convener N.V. Ramana Rao assured students there was no leak of the paper and they need not worry on that count.

At a press conference, they said few complaints were received on Saturday evening about a possible paper leak and the police were alerted immediately. The police did an excellent job of tracking the people behind the racket and also the students overnight. And when these students turned up for the medical stream of the exam, they were picked up and four microphones confiscated.

Jagan leaves for Delhi as high command asks him to stop Yatra

Congress MP Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, who has invited the displeasure of high command over his ‘Odarpu Yatra’, today left for New Delhi where he is expected to meet top party leaders.

Mr. Jagan, who has defied the high command’s directive not to undertake the yatra, is expected to meet senior leaders over the issue, sources said.

Congress Core Committee member and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had made it clear yesterday that Jagan should call off his yatra as per the high command’s directive.

The Congress central leadership had asked Mr. Jagan not to go ahead with his ‘Odarpu Yatra’ in Telangana in view of the surcharged atmosphere in the region.

Defying the directive, Mr. Jagan, however, embarked on the yatra on May 28. The tour was to console the families of those who allegedly committed suicide or died of shock over the death of his father Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

Violence took place at Mahabubabad railway station ahead of Jagan’s arrival, as Telangana supporters, who were opposing his visit, threw stones and clashed with the police.

Mr. Jagan would attend a meeting of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance during his stay in Delhi, the sources added.

Bangladesh blocks Facebook

Bangladesh has blocked social networking website Facebook over caricatures of Prophet Mohammed and “obnoxious” images of the Muslim-majority country's leaders, an official said on Sunday.

The move came after Pakistan banned access to Facebook, video website YouTube and 1,200 web pages over a row about “blasphemous” content on the Internet.

Facebook was blocked in Bangladesh late on Saturday, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) said.

The move was ordered as cartoons of the Mohammed on the popular website “hurt the religious sentiments of the country's Muslim population,” said BTRC acting chairman Hasan Mahmud Delwar.

“Some links in the website also contained obnoxious images of our leaders, including the father of the nation, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and the leader of the Opposition.” He said Facebook would be re-opened once Bangladesh had permanently blocked the offending pages.

The country's anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said it had arrested one man over the images of political leaders. “A special intelligence team arrested him and he has been charged with spreading malice,” senior RAB official Enamul Kabir said.

He said the arrested man used at least six Facebook accounts to post the images, but officials declined to give details of the depictions, which were not immediately showing up on the site on Sunday.

On Friday, thousands of Bangladeshis took to the streets of the capital Dhaka, demanding that the government ban Facebook over what they called “anti-Islamic propaganda.”

The protests were triggered by an “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” campaign on Facebook, which its anonymous promoters said was in defence of the freedom of expression. Muslims regard all depictions of Islam's founding prophet as blasphemous. “Drawing caricatures of Prophet Mohammed is an attack on Islam and extremely humiliating for Islam,” Dhaka protest organiser A.T.M. Hemayet Uddin told thousands of cheering supporters.

In a counter-demonstration, Dhaka University students held a rally on the campus late on Saturday, urging authorities to lift the Facebook block immediately, according to the Daily Star.

Pakistan has restored access to YouTube, but Facebook and 1,200 web pages remain blocked.

Last year, Bangladesh also blocked YouTube for several days after the website hosted a recording of an angry dispute between Ms. Hasina and Army officers over a deadly military mutiny.

Bangladesh has nearly one million Facebook account holders — a sixth of all Internet users, according to the BTRC. Ms. Hasina and Opposition leader Khaleda Zia have fan pages on Facebook.

Anil Ambani treks to Tirumala

The Reliance Dhirubhai Ambani Group chairman Anil Ambani prayed at the famous temple town of Lord Venkateswara in the wee hours of Sunday.

Anil who arrived in Tirupati on Saturday night, reached Tirumala by foot while his wife Tina Ambani and other family members motored to the temple along the ghat road.

Avoids media

Mr. Anil Ambani who reached the temple town at 1.30 a.m in the morning avoided talking to the waiting media persons.

Later, he participated in the ‘Suprabhatam'- an early morning ritual performed inside the temple and offered his prayers to the presiding deity along with his family members. This is his first visit to the hill temple after entering into a truce with his elder brother Mukesh Ambani recently.

For the first time, Anil stayed overnight at his elder brother's plush guesthouse at Tirumala and flew back to Mumbai after the darshan.

Tropical storm kills 83 in Central America

The death toll in Central America from landslides and flooding triggered by the year’s first tropical storm surged to 83, as authorities struggled to clear roads of debris and reach cut-off communities.

Torrential rains that have pounded an area stretching from southern Mexico nearly to Nicaragua eased somewhat, as rivers continued to rise and word filtered out from isolated areas of more deaths in landslides.

In Guatemala, 73 people were killed as rains unleashed lethal landslides across the country, according to government disaster relief spokesman David de Leon.

Tropical Storm Agatha made landfall near the nation’s border with Mexico with winds up to 75 kph on Saturday and was dissipating rapidly yesterday over the mountains of western Guatemala.

In El Salvador, President Mauricio Funes warned that the danger had not yet passed and reported nine deaths.

“Although the storm appears to be diminishing in intensity, the situation across the country remains critical,” Mr. Funes said.

In Honduras, one death was linked to the weather, and a fishing boat was missing off the Pacific coast with eight aboard.

The US National Hurricane Centre in Miami warned that remnants of the storm were expected to deliver 25 to 50 centimetres of rain over southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and parts of El Salvador.

Attempt on life of Ravishankar

An unidentified gunman made an attempt on the life of Sri Sri Ravishankar, Art of Living founder, on the premises of his ashram here on Sunday evening.

The assailant missed the target and injured one Vinay, who was standing near the Guruji, police said. He was injured on the thigh.

The incident occurred after the culmination of a mega Satsang on the Art of Living campus on Kanakapura Road, in which about 8,000 people participated. Police said the Guruji was safe.

Police suspect the miscreant used a .22 revolver. However, neither the weapon nor the assailant was traced until midnight.

Karnataka Home Minister V.S. Acharya told reporters that security at the ashram had been tightened and Inspector-General (Central range) Kamal Pant had been asked to rush to the spot. The Minister, however, denied that anyone was injured in the incident.

The Talaghattapura police have closed all the gates of the ashram complex and are frisking and screening all visitors.

PTI reports:

After the incident, the 54-year-old Guruji said: “I am absolutely safe.”

Ashram spokesperson Charu told PTI that the incident took place around 6.15 p.m. She said the Guruji was undeterred by the incident and returned at 7 p.m. to address his followers.

Congress welcomes Soren’s resignation

Welcoming Shibu Soren’s resignation, the Congress tonight said it was proper that the JMM chief did not seek floor test having failed to muster majority.

“It is proper that Shibu Soren resigned after knowing he had no majority. It is always good to put in papers instead of going to house without majority,” the leader of opposition, Rajendra Prasad Singh of the Congress, told PTI over phone.

“If our high command directs us to initiate government formation we will go ahead, if not we won’t,” he said when asked whether the Congress would take initiative for formation of government after Soren’s resignation.

He said the party would meet tomorrow and held discussions with pre-poll ally Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantric).

Rohit ton powers India to win

Rohit Sharma hammered his second successive ODI century as India crushed Sri Lanka by seven wickets in its second match and put its campaign back on track in the cricket tri-series here on Sunday.

Chasing 243, India made a rather slow start and lost both its openers inside 10 overs before one-down Virat Kohli (82) and Rohit (101 not out) resurrected the innings to help India romp home with 6.3 overs to spare at the Queens Sports Club.

Earlier, the tidy Indian bowlers produced a disciplined effort to bundle out Sri Lanka for 242 after captain Suresh Raina had opted to field.

Sunday's win also marked Raina's first victory as captain.

Coming together in the 10th over, Kohli and Rohit added 154 runs from 168 balls for the third wicket to take the game away from Sri Lanka.

Rohit, who hit 114 against Zimbabwe in India's first match though for a lost cause, hit six fours and two sixes in his unbeaten 100-ball knock, his second ODI century in his 44th match.

He got superb support from Kohli whose 82 came from 92 balls with the help of four boundaries.

After opening bowler Nuwan Kulasekara and Ajantha Mendis achieved early success by removing Murali Vijay (14) and Dinesh Karthik (18) respectively, the Sri Lankan bowlers were left high and dry with Kohli and Rohit stamping their authority.

The duo initially dealt mostly in singles with occasional boundaries before opening up later on. They also did not allow the asking rate to jump over five.

Rohit took 60 balls to reach his fifty which came of a single off Mendis in the 28th over and Kohli reached his seventh half-century an over later with a single off Dilhara Fernando.

Kohli, however, perished in the 38th over while trying to finish the game early. He came down the track to play a lofted shot off a Suraj Randiv delivery only to hole out to long-on fielder Fernando.

When Kohli fell, India needed just 42 runs from more than 12 overs and Rohit ensured that it wrapped up the match without any hiccup.

Rohit took a four off Mendis in the 43rd over to reach his second successive ODI century while Raina hit the winning runs in the next over.

India, which lost its opening match against Zimbabwe on Friday, plays the host again in its next match on Thursday at the Harare Sports Club.

Sri Lanka: U. Tharanga (run out) 1 (2b), T. Dilshan (run out) 61 (84b, 4x4, 1x6), T. Samaraweera st. Karthik b Ojha 19 (24b, 2x4), A. Mathews b Yadav 75 (95b, 2x4, 2x6), C. Kapugedera c Vijay b Jadeja 20 (48b), C. Silva lbw b Jadeja 5 (5b, 1x4), T. Perera c Raina b Ojha 32 (23b, 2x4, 1x6), N. Kulasekara b Dinda 19 (14b, 1x4, 1x6), S. Randiv (run out) 1 (2b), D. Fernando (not out) 0 (0b), A. Mendis b Dinda 2 (2b); Extras (b-1, lb-3, w-3): 7; Total (in 49.5 overs): 242.

Fall of wickets: 1-8, 2-39, 3-97, 4-150, 5-156, 6-204, 7-226, 8-239, 9-240.

India bowling: Yadav 10-1-61-1, Dinda 9.5-0-44-2, Ojha 10-0-44-2, Mishra 10-0-40-0, Jadeja 10-1-49-2.

India: D. Kartik c sub b Mendis 18 (26b, 3x4), M. Vijay lbw b Kulasekara 14 (20b, 1x4), V. Kohli c Fernando b Randiv 82 (92b, 4x4), Rohit Sharma (not out) 101 (100b, 6x4, 2x6), S. Raina (not out) 24 (23b, 3x4); Extras (lb-1, w-3): 4; Total (for three wkts. in 43.3 overs): 243.

Fall of wickets: 1-28, 2-47, 3-201.

Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 9-1-34-1, Fernando 8.3-0-58-0, Mendis 10-0-64-1, Randiv 9-0-51-1, Perera 7-0-35-0.

Shibu Soren resigns

Three-time Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren resigned on Sunday night after failing to get the support of Congress and its ally Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (P) ahead of Monday’s trust vote in the assembly that may pave the way for a spell of President’s rule in the state.

The beleaguered chief minister, who has only 25 MLAs behind him in the 82—member house, submitted the letter to Governor M. O. H. Farooq shortly after 10 pm at Raj Bhavan. Mr. Soren needs to muster strength of 42 to sail through the trust vote.

Mr. Farooq asked Mr. Soren to continue as caretaker Chief Minster till further arrangement, the principal secretary to Governor, Sudhir Tripathi said.

66—year—old Soren’s resignation came after he and his deputy Sudesh Mahto failed to woo the BJP back into the fold ever since the 18—member BJP along with 2 from JD(U) withdrew support to his five—month—old government on May 24.

“We appealed to all parties and MLAs to rise above party lines and vote in favour of Guruji (Soren) and avert President’s rule or mid—term polls. But when we learnt that all the parties have resolved to vote against the government, we decided that Guruji should put in his papers,” AJSU President and Deputy Chief Minister Sudesh Mahto and Agriculture minister Hemlal Murmu told newsmen.

JMM legislative party leader and Soren’s son Hemant Soren, said “We tried our best and appealed to all parties. If Guruji’s remaining as CM was a hurdle, that has been removed now.”

“We will see what better alternative is on cards,” the leaders said when asked about the JMM/AJSU’s future course of action.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

T-trouble returns to haunt Eamcet

Eamcet is headed for fresh trouble in the wake of the volatile situation in the state following the arrest of the Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, on Friday.
JNTU-Hyderabad had made all the arrangements for the smooth conduct of Eamcet to be held on May 30, but the call for a ‘Telangana bandh’ given by the Telangana Political Joint Action Committee on May 29, a day ahead of the exam, is worrying exam officials.
Eamcet is a common exam conducted across the state simultaneously in over 5,000 centres on a single day. Any disruption in even one centre means the exam will have to be cancelled throughout the state.
The officials are praying that the bandh goes off peacefully and no fresh violence breaks out in any part of the state on Saturday.
The Eamcet convener, Prof. Ramana Rao, said there is no change in the exam schedule as of now and it will be held on Sunday as scheduled.
“We have already sent the entire exam material and staff to all the centres in the districts. We are ready to conduct the exam on Sunday,” Prof. Rao said.
Eamcet is already delayed by two weeks this year due to student agitations in support and against bifurcation of the state in December last year.
The exam is usually held by May 15 every year, but was postponed to May 30 this year.
Any further delay would affect admissions for engineering, medical and pharmacy courses in the ensuing academic year.

Panel to probe firing by Surekha gunmen

The gunmen of Mr Jagan’s loyalists, Ms Konda Sureka and Mr Konda Murali, retaliated and started firing indiscriminately injuring 12 persons. One of them, Bondakola Paul Raju, 20, has slipped into coma at MGM Hospital.
Late in the evening, the Warangal Range DIG, Mr Jitender, constituted a committee headed by the Yellandu (Khammam) DSP, Mr Tirupathi Reddy, to carry out a probe into the indiscriminate firing by the gunmen.
Meanwhile, Jagan’s train was halted for more than two hours at Vangapally station in Nalgonda district to prevent further violence.
The Chief Minister, Mr Rosaiah, was briefed about the developments at Mahbubabad and on his instructions, the Bhongir DSP, Mr Narayana Rao, with a heavy police contingent, reached Vangapally station around 12.30 pm, entered the C-1 coach of the train and told Mr Jagan that he was being taken into preventive custody.
Though Mr Jagan protested initially, he was pacified by the DCP (Task Force), Mr Kamalasan Reddy, and was taken to Bhongir police station and later to Hyderabad.
Mr Jagan, talking to mediapersons after coming out of the train, alleged that the Telangana Rashtra Samiti was indulging in “murder”’ politics and had indulged in an act of terror in the Mahbubabad railway station.
He alleged that senior TRS and Telangana Joint Action Committee leaders including Mr Harish Rao, Mr Etela Rajender and Prof. Kodandaram, had come to Mahabubabad to foment trouble.
“Is it not my responsibility to visit the families of those who died of shock after the death of my father in a copter crash?” Mr Jagan asked in a choked voice, while lashing out at the TRS for its objection to his tour. “Have I ever spoken one word on politics during my earlier tours?”

OU postpones todays exams

Rumours that a student had died in police firing in Mahabubabad on Friday sparked student protests and rallies on the Osmania University campus. Telangana activists and Congress workers had clashed over the Congress MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s Odarpu yatra and a student was reported to be killed in the police firing that followed.
A bandh call has been given by the Telangana Political Joint Action Committee on May 29.
In view of the bandh, the Osmania University has postponed the MBA fourth semester and BCA second semester examinations scheduled for Saturday.
The agitation only died down in the evening when the police confirmed that no one had died.
Protesting the police firing, students took out a series of rallies all through the day, pelted stones at malls and restaurants and forced shops to close down in Tarnaka.
“About a hundred students went on a rally from OU towards Tarnaka. They burnt the effigy of Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy and the MLA, Ms Konda Surekha. We took a few of them into custody,” said a police official on duty.
Paramilitary forces, the Rapid Action Force and local police were deployed on the Osmania University campus as the authorities feared a replay of the violence that had erupted over the Telangana issue three months ago.
The ABVP leader, Mr J. Kalyan, said, “Criminal cases must be booked against him for flaring up tension in the region. He has pledged his support for United Andhra Pradesh while a separate state is the demand from the people there. How can the government let him tour the region?”

Asin’s fine balancing act

Very few stars can manage to a successful career in two different industries but Bollywood newbie and South superstar Asin is doing that with remarkable ease.
Reveals an industry source, “Barely two films old in Bollywood and the actress has already worked with both Salman and Aamir. Not only that she has the best projects down South too. On the endorsement front too Asin has impressive brands to her credit.
Asin has an impressive lineup of films this year — Vipul Shah’s untitled film opposite John Abraham, Anees Bazmee’s film Ready with Salman Khan and Kavalkaran with Vijay in the South
It takes a lot to juggle shooting schedules, script readings and photo shoots, and to do with simultaneously for another industry itself makes Asin deserve a pat on her back.
Friends of the actress say that Asin’s work ethics are admirable. “She has been working round the clock and her co-stars swear by her punctuality. Despite travelling back and forth, she manages to reach her locations on time hence she is known as Miss Punctuality often on her sets.”

Mahanadu to chalk out action plan

The three-day Mahanadu, the annual delegates conference of the TDP, began here on Thursday with its president N. Chandrababu Naidu declaring that an action plan would be chalked out to launch a struggle against the anti-people policies of the Central and State governments.
Inaugurating the event, organised at the sprawling Telugu Vijayam at Gandipet after a gap 16 years, he said that any programme which was launched from this venue had ended in success. The details of the action plan would be finalised at the Mahanadu. With the party for the first time appointing area in-charges, they too were invited to the meet, swelling the number of participants by several thousands.
Party sources said Mr. Naidu was keen on utilising the event to enthuse the cadres to win back the confidence of all sections by taking up agitations on people's problems and regaining the glory of the organisation. It was a sea of yellow as all roads leading to the venue were decorated with buntings, festoons and hoardings carrying pictures of Mr. Naidu, his son Lokesh and other TDP leaders.
Accusing the UPA government at the Centre and the Congress regime in the State of deceiving people, he said both the dispensations were steeped in corruption, totally neglected farmers and failed to deliver welfare programmes for weaker sections.
Dubbing the CBI as ‘Congress Bureau of Investigation', the TDP president accused the UPA government of using the investigation agency to blackmail political rivals and surviving in power.
Rise in income
Although the income of the Centre increased steeply due to higher collections of income tax, netting of Rs.67,000 crore through auction of 3G spectrum, the government was planning to sell ‘navaratnas', unable to take up welfare schemes.
While the State progressed and income went up due to the development programmes initiated during TDP rule, it witnessed deceleration under the present government. The Congress promised many impractical schemes to garner votes and cited how the total cost of irrigation projects under Jalayagnam had escalated to a whopping Rs. 3 lakh crore.

Security beefed up over Telangana bandh call

Andhra Pradesh Police have said all preventive measures have been put in place to avoid any untoward incident in the wake of the bandh call given by the Telangana Joint Action Committee (T-JAC) in the Telangana region on Saturday.
“Police are making all necessary arrangements to prevent agitators from indulging in violence during (Saturday’s) bandh in the Telangana region,” DGP R.R. Girish Kumar told reporters here.
Twenty four people, including eight policemen, were on Friday injured in violence that broke out during a tour of Congress MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy to Telangana, following which he was taken into preventive custody forcing him to abandon his week-long ‘Odarpu yatra’ which was to begin from Mahbubabad in Warangal district.
Holding Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy responsible for the violence in Warangal, the T-JAC has called for the bandh in 10 districts of the Telangana region.
The DGP said pro-Telangana activists resorted to road blockades in Warangal and Nalgonda besides pelting stones on shops near Osmania University campus here.
Pro-Telangana activists took out a rally from Osmania University campus towards Tarnaka area and forcibly tried to close shops in the area, the DGP said.
At some places they also threw stones and tried to damage shops, but the police intervened and ensured safety of the private properties, he said.
Similarly, protesting the detention of Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy, his followers in Tirupati and Kadapa staged road blockades and reportedly set two bogies of Padmavathi Express on fire.
In Kadapa district, Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy’s loyalists observed bandh and resorted to road blockades and demonstrations, police said.

Jagan to resume tour to Telangana after by-elections

Congress MP from Kadapa Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy on Friday asserted that he would resume his tour of Telangana districts as part of the “Odarpu Yatra” after the by-elections to 12 Assembly seats.
Talking to reporters here after he was escorted back by the police in wake of his arrest in Wangapally in Nalgonda district, Mr. Reddy said there was no going back on his promise of continuing his yatra.
The MP said what he could understand from today's incidents was that the TRS was afraid of his tour because of the impending by-elections. “Let the fear haunt them, I will certainly visit Telangana districts after the by-elections,” he said.
Undeterred by the violent incidents that rocked Mahabubabad in Warangal district and other parts of the State, Mr. Jagan told reporters that he would not be cowed down by the threats held out by the pro-Telangana forces particularly, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.
Justifying his decision to tour Warangal to call on the families of those persons, who died after untimely death of his father, Mr. Jagan said the TRS had needlessly politicised his tour. “I never said it is political visit. I wanted to call on the families who lost their dear ones. Why should it hurt the TRS?” he said.

'Fulfilling promise'

He maintained that he was fulfilling the promise he had made at Pavurallagutta that he would visit all the families of those who died of shock. “The Telangana issue was not there when I had made this promise. It is strange that the TRS objects to my visit now,” he said. He also made a fervent appeal to his supporters and the Congress workers to observe restraint. “As soon as I realised that some Congress workers indulged in violence, upset over my arrest, I appealed to them to remain calm,” he remarked.
Keywords: TelanganaCongress
Congress MP from Kadapa Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy on Friday asserted that he would resume his tour of Telangana districts as part of the “Odarpu Yatra” after the by-elections to 12 Assembly seats.
Talking to reporters here after he was escorted back by the police in wake of his arrest in Wangapally in Nalgonda district, Mr. Reddy said there was no going back on his promise of continuing his yatra.
The MP said what he could understand from today's incidents was that the TRS was afraid of his tour because of the impending by-elections. “Let the fear haunt them, I will certainly visit Telangana districts after the by-elections,” he said.
Undeterred by the violent incidents that rocked Mahabubabad in Warangal district and other parts of the State, Mr. Jagan told reporters that he would not be cowed down by the threats held out by the pro-Telangana forces particularly, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.
Justifying his decision to tour Warangal to call on the families of those persons, who died after untimely death of his father, Mr. Jagan said the TRS had needlessly politicised his tour. “I never said it is political visit. I wanted to call on the families who lost their dear ones. Why should it hurt the TRS?” he said.

'Fulfilling promise'

He maintained that he was fulfilling the promise he had made at Pavurallagutta that he would visit all the families of those who died of shock. “The Telangana issue was not there when I had made this promise. It is strange that the TRS objects to my visit now,” he said. He also made a fervent appeal to his supporters and the Congress workers to observe restraint. “As soon as I realised that some Congress workers indulged in violence, upset over my arrest, I appealed to them to remain calm,” he remarked.

Air passenger wakes up to find deserted plane

A passenger on board a US flight dozed off and on waking up found herself locked inside an empty plane.
Ginger McGuire, 36, fell asleep on a United Express flight to Philadelphia, and has claimed she woke up to find she was locked inside the plane alone. She said she will sue the airlines for “false imprisonment” as the staff failed to wake her up on arrival, Daily Mail reported on Friday.
Ms. McGuire walked up and down the plane aisle for around 15 minutes until a locked door opened and police demanded identification.
“Waking up to an empty airplane and not being able to get out — it was very horrifying,” Ms. McGuire was quoted as saying.
She has filed a lawsuit against United and Trans States, alleging negligence, false imprisonment and distress.
“For a crew to leave her there and lock her is beyond a gross abuse,” her lawyer Geoffrey Fieger said.
Ms. McGuire said she fell asleep after a long trip that stretched from Detroit to suburban Washington before arriving in Philadelphia.

Security beefed up over Telangana bandh call

Andhra Pradesh Police have said all preventive measures have been put in place to avoid any untoward incident in the wake of the bandh call given by the Telangana Joint Action Committee (T-JAC) in the Telangana region on Saturday.
“Police are making all necessary arrangements to prevent agitators from indulging in violence during (Saturday’s) bandh in the Telangana region,” DGP R.R. Girish Kumar told reporters here.
Twenty four people, including eight policemen, were on Friday injured in violence that broke out during a tour of Congress MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy to Telangana, following which he was taken into preventive custody forcing him to abandon his week-long ‘Odarpu yatra’ which was to begin from Mahbubabad in Warangal district.
Holding Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy responsible for the violence in Warangal, the T-JAC has called for the bandh in 10 districts of the Telangana region.
The DGP said pro-Telangana activists resorted to road blockades in Warangal and Nalgonda besides pelting stones on shops near Osmania University campus here.
Pro-Telangana activists took out a rally from Osmania University campus towards Tarnaka area and forcibly tried to close shops in the area, the DGP said.
At some places they also threw stones and tried to damage shops, but the police intervened and ensured safety of the private properties, he said.
Similarly, protesting the detention of Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy, his followers in Tirupati and Kadapa staged road blockades and reportedly set two bogies of Padmavathi Express on fire.
In Kadapa district, Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy’s loyalists observed bandh and resorted to road blockades and demonstrations, police said.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Jagan arrested, 1 dead at condolence yatra in Warangal

One person died in the police firing at Mahbubabad railway station as T- activists and Congress workers clashed over the Congress MP from Kadapa, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy's, Odarpu yatra. Trouble began when T-activists and Congress workers started
pelting stones at one another. Following the violence Mr Jagan was taken into police custody on Friday at Vangapally. Protesting against the police firing, the students from T-JAC have called for a Telangana bandh on Saturday. On Friday Mr Jagan made a move for the yatra which aims at consoling the families of those who died following the sudden demise of his father Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy in a chopper crash last year.

Warangal developments force SCR to cancel and divert trains

The South Central Railway has cancelled some trains and curtailed operation of some trains in view of the tense situation in Telangana districts, following the clash between police and agitations in Mahabubabad town of Warangal district.

Following are the details of trains cancelled or partially cancelled:

Tr.No.2706 Secunderabad-Guntur express will run up to Kazipet and back as Tr.No.2705, Tr.No. 7406 Adilabad-Tirupati Krishna express will run up to Kazipet and return back as Tr.No.7405 exp. Tr.No. 7035 Secunderabad-Sirpur Khagnagar express will run up to Kazipet and return back as Tr.No 7036 exp. Tr.No. 0752 Secunderabad- Manchiryal special will run up to Kazipet and return back as Empty rake.

Tr.No. 323 Bhadrachalam-Sirpur Khagnagar passenger now at Yelgur will be terminated at Yelgur and rake will be moved to Kazipet. Tr.No. 2713 Vijayawada-Secunderabad Satavahana express now at Kesamudram will return to Vijawayada Tr.No.2714. Tr.No. 7201 Guntur-Secunderabad Golconda express now at Dornakal will return back from Dornakal to Guntur Tr.No. 7202.

Tr.No. 357 Bhadrachallem - Kazipet now at Chimalpahad will return back. Tr.No. 7234 Sirpur Khagnagar-Secunderabad Bhagyanagar express now at Ghanapur will run upto Kazipet and return back as Tr.No.7233.

Tr.No. 7405 Tirupati-Adilabad Krishna express will run up to Vijayawada and return back as Tr.No. 7406 from Vijayawada – Tirupati.

Tr.No. 338 Vijayawada-Kazipet passenger stands cancelled on 28-5-10.

Tr.No. 322 Sirpur Town- Kazipet passenger will also be cancelled on 28-5-10.

Rail track blast kills 65, injures 200 in West Bengal

Sixty-five passengers of a Maharashtra-bound express train were killed early Friday and 200 injured in a suspected Maoist attack which led to derailment of 13 coaches that were hit by a goods train coming from the opposite direction.

The bodies of the passengers were removed from the mangled remains of the ill-fated coaches of the Howrah-Kurla Lokmanya Tilak Gyaneshwari Super Deluxe Express and the injured taken out with the help of gas cutters, a South Eastern Railway (SER) spokesman said.

“65 bodies have been recovered. The toll could go up,” West Bengal Home Secretary Samar Ghosh said.

The incident occurred at 1:30 am when the train was running between Khemasoli and Sardiya stations, about 135 k.m. from here, South Eastern Railway officials said.

'Fishplates were found removed': IGP

In Kolkata, Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Surojit Karpurokayastha said that according to preliminary investigation, fish plates were found removed at the derailment site.

Earlier, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said the derailment followed a blast apparently triggered by Maoists who are observing a ‘black week’

“We suspect Maoist hand behind the blast,” Member (Traffic) Railway Board Vivek Sahai said.

He said the driver of the train heard a loud explosion after which the train derailed. Railways are investigating if the tracks were tampered with, he said.

Five of the 13 derailed coaches fell on an adjacent track and were hit by a goods train coming from the opposite direction, Additional Superintendent of Police, Jhargram, Mukesh Kumar, said.

IAF choppers airlift injured

Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service at the accident spot to airlift some of the injured to the hospitals.

Ms. Banerjee, who reached the accident spot, said a patrol engine had passed through the area half an hour earlier, but the timing of the blast proved disastrous with a portion of the line being blown away.

She announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of each of the dead and Rs 1 lakh for the injured.

This is the second Maoist attack on civilians this month. Naxals had blown up a civilian bus in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on May 17, killing at least 36 people, including 12 Special Police Officers.

Five coaches hit by goods train

SER PRO Soumitra Majumdar said the train that was hit on Friday had 24 coaches. After the explosion, 13 including 10 sleeper coaches, derailed of which five were hit by the goods train coming on the opposite track.

An unreserved coach, the pantry car and luggage van also derailed, he said.

Passengers belongings lay strewn scattered on the tracks.

Angry passengers said the first signs of relief came only around 5 am, three-and-a-half hours after the incident.

Nine of the coaches which were not damaged in the blast took the injured and the other passengers to Kharagpur where they were admitted to hospital.

Anti-Maoist forces were at the spot and assisting the police and rescue personnel in extricating the bodies from four badly damaged sleeper coaches: S-5, S-6, S-7 and S-8.

West Bengal Government to bear cost of treatment

West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee has asked State Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta to immediately rush to Sardiha, the site of the accident.

“I have been asked by the Chief Minister to rush to the accident site with six special rescue teams and three mobile ambulances,” Mr. Dasgupta told PTI before leaving for the accident spot on Friday morning.

The State government would bear the treatment cost of the injured passengers, Chief Minister’s secretariat sources said.

“State government has already rushed preliminary rescue teams with doctors and ambulances and more will follow,” the sources said.

Senior railway officials including Railway Board Chairman S.S. Khurana and DG RPF rushed to the spot.

A relief train left Kharagpur with a team of 12 doctors and 20 paramedics as also two doctors from the Kalaikunda airbase, the officials said.


Helplines have been set up at Kharagpur — (0322) 255751 and 255735 and Howrah — (033) 26382217, besides a toll free number 10722.

Helplines have also been set up at Tatanagar (0657) 2290324, 2290074, 2290382, at Rourkela (0661) 2511155, Chakradharpur (06587) 238072 and Jharsuguda (06445) 270977.

“The S-5 and S-6 coaches bore the maximum brunt of the impact,” Palash Ganti, a passenger, said.

Ganti, who was travelling in the B1 coach, said when he looked out of the window he found that half of the coaches had derailed and a goods train on the opposite tracks hitting them.

“At first, we thought Maoists have attacked to loot the train. When the accident happened no RPF personnel were present on the train,” said another passenger.

Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy arrested

Congress MP from Kadapa Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy was on Friday afternoon taken into preventive custody to pre-empt his visit to Mahabubad in Warangal district.

Defying the Congress high command's directive, Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy had boarded the Inter-City Express train in Secunderabad in the morning to proceed to Mahabubabad, a commercial town in the Telangana heartland. He was to begin the second leg of his “odarpu yatra” (tour to console families of those who ended their lives in the wake of his father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy's death last September).

AICC general secretary Veerappa Moily had called up Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy on Thursday and asked him to cancel his tour as it would inflame passions once again in the Telangana region.

Hardly had the train travelled about 70 km, it was detained near a wayside railway station, Vangapalli, in Nalgonda district by the police. Even as the train waited for three hours, clashes broke out between Telangana activists and Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy's supporters in Mahabubabad culminating in police firing.

As the situation threatened to get out of hand, police entered the coach in which Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy and informed him about their decision to take him into custody. He was escorted to a waiting vehicle by Additional DCP (Task Force), Hyderabad, V.B. Kamalahasan Reddy and DSP of Bhongir R. Narayan Rao. A case was registered against the MP in Yadagirigutta police station.

Talking to reporters, Mr. Jaganmohan Reddy termed his arrest as a conspiracy, part of which his train was deliberately detained at the railway station. "I will not sit quiet after this. I will undertake my yatra later," he added.

Ballmer sees big role for India in ‘cloud services'

Microsoft Corporation on Thursday said India would play an important role in its overall cloud services strategy. “India will not only see a surge in consumption of cloud services, driving growth in domestic IT usage, but companies all over the world will look to India to support their transition to cloud computing. Microsoft is committed to helping businesses both in India and across the world maximise business value by leveraging the benefits that the cloud offers,” Microsoft Corporation CEO Steve Ballmer said while talking to journalists here.

Mr. Ballmer pointed out that many IT firms, including NIIT, Cognizant and CDC Software, besides Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc), would be creating solutions and train manpower based on its cloud computing platform, Windows Azure.

Cloud computing refers to Internet-based computing where applications and software are accessed over the Internet, resulting results in reduced IT costs. Today, Microsoft's cloud infrastructure supports over 100-crore customers and two-crore businesses globally.

Sharing results of a study by global management consultants Zinnov, Mr. Ballmer said India had the potential to emerge as the global competency centre for cloud services. According to the study, the global cloud computing market is expected to cross $70 billion by 2015. As a result of the growing demand for independent software vendors, developers and system integrators, additional three-lakh jobs related to cloud services are estimated to be created in India over the next five years. Over 4,000 applications have already been built on the Windows Azure platform by India.

While NIIT will be training over one-lakh students on Windows Azure over the next three years, Cognizant has already announced the creation of a vertically aligned set of industry frameworks and pre-built solution accelerators to enable implementation, migration and management of cloud-enabled application portfolios built on Azure for clients both in India and abroad. Similarly, CDC Software has announced the global roll-out of its flagship product ‘CDC Respond' (a complaint and feedback management application for banking and government sectors) on Windows Azure, while IISc is building a large-scale application on Windows Azure to study the basic resource allocation constructs and strategies required for addressing enterprise needs on the cloud.

Hundred in Chennai after 26/11 my best : Sachin

Batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar rated the century he scored in Chennai against England that helped India chase 387 runs in the fourth innings soon after the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai as the best of his career.

“It was not about the Test match but about something, which happened two weeks before that. Something that had happened in Mumbai. It was difficult to prepare for a Test (under those circumstances). It was gracious of England to come here,” Tendulkar said.

“There were all sorts of talks around and then suddenly all our focus was on the match. England dominated the match for almost four days before Virendra Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir brought us back into it,” he recounted.

“Generally when we win, it is the groundsmen who run to congratulate us, but on that day the groundswomen rushed to congratulate us. It was just because of something that had numbed the nation,” he said.

“By no means India winning a Test match could compensate the lives lost. But for our team, we had succeeded in bringing a fraction of a smile on the faces of the people. That is why the hundred in Chennai Test match will be the best (of my career),” he said.

He scored an unbeaten 100 as India upset all calculations to score an unlikely six-wicket victory over England while chasing a target of 387.

Manmohan announces Rs 2 lakh solatium

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has expressed grief over the death of Gyaneswari Express passengers and announces Rs 2 lakh to the relatives of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for each of those seriously injured.

At least 20 passengers were killed and 150 injured when suspected Maoists blasted rail tracks in West Midnapore district early Friday derailing 13 coaches of a Mumbai-bound express train which rammed into three bogies of a goods train.

Balayya skips Mahanadu

The Telugu Desam president, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu, on Thursday said he would fight to get reservations for backward castes, women and minorities in legislative bodies.

In his inaugural address at the party’s three-day annual meet — Mahanadu — at Telugu Vijayam premises at Gandipet on the city outskirts, Mr Naidu asked his party workers to join him in this fight.

Extending indirect support to the Yadav trio in their approach to the quota for women, Mr Naidu declared that TD would fight along with other political parties to achieve this.

In his hour-long speech, Mr Naidu lashed out at the ruling Congress and said it was responsible for the rampant corruption and inefficiency in the state.

“The TD made the state proud with several infrastructure and IT projects, but the Congress only brought notoriety,” he said. No political party in the state could take on the Congress except the TD, he said, and praised party workers for their support despite being out of power.

More than 15,000 party delegates attended the 29th Mahanadu inaugural meet, but the NTR family members kept away from the session. It is learnt that actors Junior NTR and Balakrishna are going to Karamchedu village in Prakasam district on Friday to attend a meeting called by another son-in-law of NTR, Mr D. Venkateswara Rao, skipping the Mahanadu.

At the same time, Mr Naidu is making all efforts to convince them to attend the Mahanadu at least on May 29, the last day. Interestingly, Mr Lokesh Naidu also did not turn up at the meeting though the party cadre was hoping to see him in the backdrop of the TD chief’s comment that he would not stop his son from taking up a political career.

Jagan defies diktat, firm on yatra

Defying the diktat of the Congress high command, the Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, has decided to go ahead with his tour of Warangal district to console the families of those who died after the demise of his father, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

Though negotiations between Mr Reddy and the party leaders were continuing even late at night, it is learnt that he is adamant about undertaking the tour at the time of going to press. He will take the InterCity Express to Mahbubabad, about 200 km from here, at 7.45 am on Friday, if he does not change his mind. There is a likelihood that he may be arrested.

On Thursday morning, the Congress leader and Union minister, Mr Veerappa Moily, talked to Mr Reddy and asked him to postpone the tour. He told the Kadapa MP that he was talking on behalf of the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

Mr Moily seems to have told Mr Jagan that the high command was aware of the sentiments attached to the yatra, but cautioned that it would be better to postpone it because of the strong opposition it had triggered from pro-Telangana sections. However, Mr Jagan reportedly told Mr Moily that he could not postpone the tour as it had been announced.

Later, Mr Moily met Mr Jagan's mentor, Dr K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, who was in Delhi, and asked him to convince the MP to postpone the tour. Mr Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president, also spoke to Dr Rao and Mr Reddy.

Dr Rao arrived from Delhi on Thursday evening and tried to persuade Mr Reddy from undertaking the tour. But he did not succeed.

As of now, things are headed for a political showdown between Mr Reddy and the state government. Sources said that the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, was insistent on implementing the high command diktat and had instructed police officers to take necessary steps.

This means Mr Reddy might be taken into custody by police on the contention he had no permission to conduct a tour and the law and order situation in Warangal was not conducive.Sources said intelligence wing had informed the state government about the movement of some Maoist dalams in the district and about plans by some Telangana groups to stall the tour.

After talking to Mr Jagan, Mr Moily and Mr Patel also informed the high command decision to Mr Rosaiah and the PCC chief, Mr Srinivas, and urged them to see to it that the yatra was postponed.

Following this, Mr Rosaiah also called up Mr Jagan over phone and conveyed the high command advice. But the Kadapa MP said it was not fair to ask him to postpone the tour.

“I don’t understand what sin I am committing,” he reportedly told the Chief Minister. “Do you think the Congress will benefit from postponement of my tour?”

Mr Rosaiah, who later addressed the media in connection with another issue, said that Mr Jagan had not sought permission from the police for the yatra. To a question, he said the party high command would take care of the situation.

The Chief Minister also held an informal cabinet meeting and told ministers what transpired between him and Mr Jagan and also what the high command wished for.

In a deft move, he made the ministers endorse the high command decision and deputed the home minister, Ms Sabita Indra Reddy, and the agriculture minister, Mr N. Raghuveera Reddy, to meet Mr Jagan and convince him against going on tour. They met him but he did not relent.

Later both the ministers held a high level meeting with the DGP, Mr R.R. Girish Kumar, the intelligence chief, Mr Mahender Reddy, and other police officers. They again left for Mr Reddy’s residence at 8 pm and were closeted with him.

Mr Rosaiah, who left for Ongole, told mediapersons there that the high command had not approved of Mr Jagan's tour. “In case there will be a tour, the law and order machinery will take care of things,” he said.

Chiru accepts Sonia invite, meet may change AP political scenario

In a major political development, the Praja Rajyam chief, Mr Chiranjeevi, has accepted an invitation from the Congress president, Ms Sonia Gandhi, to meet her on May 29 for talks on the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections.

The former MP, Mr C. Ramachandraiah, told this correspondent on Thursday night that he had spoken to Mr Chiranjeevi who is in Mumbai and the latter had confirmed that he got an invite from Mr Veerappa Moily, AP Congress in charge and union minister, and had agreed to meet Mrs Gandhi.

It was not clear whether Mrs Gandhi will be seeking his support to enable the Congress bag four of the five seats in the Rajya Sabha elections, or whether she would allot a seat to the Praja Rajyam from its quota, keeping in view the future needs of the ruling party which has a slender majority in the House.

The development also comes in the backdrop of Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy defying the party diktat and insisting on touring Warangal district to console families of those who died in the aftermath of the death of his father, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, in September last year. Telangana groups are opposed to Mr Jagan’s tour since he is a staunch supporter of United AP.

There is speculation in the Congress that in case the over-ambitious Mr Jagan rocks the boat and floats a regional outfit with his supporters, the Congress can have the support of the Praja Rajyam’s charismatic leader, Mr Chiranjeevi, and his 18 MLAs.

The Congress has a slender majority with 157 MLAs in a House of 294. With resignations from 12 MLAs (TRS 10, TD 1, BJP 1) during the pro-Telangana agitation, the effective strength of the House is 282.

In fact when the AP Congress chief, Mr D. Srinivas, tried to have a tie-up with the Praja Rajyam for the local municipal polls, the Jagan group had scuttled it.

A few days ago Mr Chiranjeevi had said his party would field its own candidate for the RS polls, and would seek support from Congress and the MIM (Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) to garner the required 43 votes. PR has been more anti-Telugu Desam from the beginning.

Speculation was rife some time ago that Mr Chiranjeevi was not averse to a merger with the Congress. Mr K. Rosaiah, had an hour-long meeting with Mr Chiranjeevi in Tirupati, soon after taking over as Chief Minister, wherein he proposed that the PR chief support his government or merge the party with the Congress. Mr Chiranjeevi apparently told him that he would consider the offer.

There has been no activity in Mr Chiranjeevi’s party except for his undertaking some tours in districts. Also, a number of former Telugu Desam leaders have left the Praja Rajyam and rejoined the parent party.

Several PR MLAs have openly suggested a merger with the Congress since they feel it would give Mr Chiranjeevi a key role in state politics.

65 die as train derails after suspected Maoists sabotage

At least 65 people were killed and over 150 injured early on Friday when the engine and 13 coaches of a Mumbai-bound
passenger train derailed and were hit by a speeding goods train in West Bengal, officials said.
They said 20 bodies had been recovered from the derailed and badly damaged coaches of the Howrah-Kurla Gyaneshwari Super Deluxe Express.
As soon as the engine and 13 coaches fell on the adjoining track, rudely shaking the sleeping passengers, at least five derailed bogies were hit by the speeding goods train
coming from the opposite direction.
Shrieks of injured passengers tore through the night as they feverishly tried to escape from the mangled coaches. Shocked train passengers stumbled out of the bogies and
they frantically looked for their near ones.
In Delhi, a railway official didn't rule out sabotage by Maoist guerrillas, but he said deaths were mainly caused by the goods train hitting five coaches of the passenger train. "We suspect it is a case of sabotage. The driver (of the passenger train) has reported to have heard a large sound. There was definite tinkering with the tracks," the member railway board, Mr Vivek Sahai told reporters.
Sahai said 20 passengers were dead and 104 injured. He said a light engine and three trains had passed on the track earlier. "It is unfortunate that Gyaneshwar Express got
hit." He said the railways had sounded a red alert in five states — Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal — in the wake of Maoists observing black week since the past midnight.
In Kolkata, the Director General of Police, Mr Bhupinder Singh told IANS that the train ran off the track at 1.30 a.m. as a portion of the tracks as well as fish plates were found to have been removed near Jhargram, about 155 km from the West Bengal capital. Initial reports indicated that a huge blast was to blame for the derailment, but it was not
officially confirmed. "There could have been a blast. But the train derailed primarily because of the missing
fishplates and rail tracks," Mr Singh said. Villagers and railway officials frantically tried to rescue passengers still trapped in the fallen bogies. "We heard a loud, screeching noise of the train braking and the coaches derailing," said a shocked passenger who survived the accident. A man who rushed to help the injured said: "Initially, no security staff in the train helped.
Only public came to the help of the passengers. We rushed to try and save people."
No one has claimed responsibility for the sabotage, but it is suspected to be the handiwork of Maoist guerrillas active in the region.
Officials say they have recovered posters of Maoists and the Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCPA), a group of tribal agitators having close links with Leftist
rebels in West Midnapore.
The Indian Air Force and other security agencies have launched a massive rescue operation for hundreds of people believed to be trapped in the damaged and tilted coaches of the train.
A Chetak and one Mi-17 helicopter has been sent to help in the rescue effort at the site,
Wing Commander Mahesh Upasni, an IAF spokesperson told IANS. "CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) personnel have rushed to the area," an official at
the accident site said. The injured passengers were taken to the nearest major town Kharagpur and elsewhere in West Midnapore district. Many of those wounded are believed to be in a serious condition.
Four second class sleepers - S3, S4, S5 and S6 - were badly mutilated, with rescuers fearing that most of the passengers trapped inside could be gravely injured. The condition of the crew of the goods train was not immediately known.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Facebook overhauls privacy settings

Social networking site Facebook introduced a new set of privacy controls on Wednesday in an attempt to quell criticism that it was lax about protecting users’ personal information.

The new controls are featured in a streamlined privacy panel that allows users much easier management of who can access their information.

“We believe in privacy. We believe in giving people control,” Facebook founder Marc Zuckerberg said at a press conference to announce the overhaul.

“But more and more, people want to share information. As long as they have good control over that, I think that’s where the world is going”.

The new settings feature a single control that limits who can see the content posted by a Facebook user, and allow users to control who sees their list of friends and their personal pages — information that was previously available to all Facebook users.

“We’ve heard that people want a simple way to take control of their information,” Zuckerberg said. “We looked at a video someone posted about how many steps it took to stop sharing their information, and we thought, ‘Yeah, that’s too much.’“

Facebook is making it easier for users to opt out of instant participation on Facebook’s partner sites. Zuckerberg said users can quickly and easily choose a setting that won’t allow their information to be shared with third-party websites. The sharing of content will also apply to Facebook products launched in the future, he said.

Criticism of Facebook has been building since December, when the company introduced new settings that automatically shared more user information unless users took convoluted steps to opt out. In addition to the company’s official policies, several security snafus allowed friends to snoop on users’ Facebook chats and see which partner websites they had been surfing.

China, U.S. sign eight green technology deals

China and the U.S. have signed eight green energy deals to enhance cooperation in the sector, which experts believe will open doors for imports of high-end technology so far blocked by Washington.

The eight deals include aviation bio fuel, distributed energy systems using natural gas as fuel, smart meters and cellulosic ethanol.

Neither side disclosed the financial details of the deals.

The agreements followed conclusion of high-level strategic and economic dialogue between the two countries attended by among others U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

As the world’s two largest energy consumers, China and the US will also join hands for renewable energy development, said Zhang Guobao, head of National Energy Administration (NEA), adding that China will keep an open mind to develop the renewable energy sector.

The two countries have big potential for collaboration in the area, said Zhang.

“The US has advanced technology, and China has a huge market.”

The US and China will “take every angle” to ensure their cooperation in energy and environment, said US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.

The deals could set examples for global collaboration in increasing energy efficiency and protecting environment, state run China Daily quoted analysts as saying.

Development of renewable energy is a must for China one world’s emitter of green house gases to increase the use of non-fossil energy to 15 per cent of primary energy consumption by 2020, and to reduce carbon intensity by 40 to 45 per cent in 2020 from the 2005 levels.

In the renewable energy sector, China will continue to focus on the development of hydro, wind, solar, and biomass energy, Zhang said.

A series of Chinese and U.S. companies are involved in the eight deals.

“With China’s growing energy needs, our relationship with the CECEP represents a great opportunity to promote sustainable energy development through the optimal use of renewable energy generation with solar power,” said Mark Pinto, executive vice-president and corporate technology officer at Applied Materials.

The deals could also open up doors for high technology to emerging economies like India as U.S. was keen to step up exports in the sector to increase its earnings from exports which in turn could also help create more jobs for Americans.

Analysts said Sino-US cooperation on green energy would set a good example for other countries.

Air India says three days needed to clear backlog after strike

Up to three days would be required to clear a backlog of passengers caused by a strike of ground and maintenance staff, the state-run carrier Air India said on Thursday.

The two-day strike by at least 15,000 employees was called off Wednesday evening after the Delhi High Court gave an order saying the action was illegal.

“It may take up to two and half to three days for Air India to clear the backlog of passengers and return to normal service,” the IANS news agency quoted Air India chairman and managing director Arvind Jadhav as saying.

“Nearly 13,000 passengers were affected due to the strike while 4,000 to 5,000 passengers were stranded, including 600 in Singapore,” Mr. Jhadav said.

More than 140 flights, both domestic and international, were either cancelled or diverted.

Unions called the strike to protest a gag order by management forbidding their leaders from talking to the media over delays in salary payments.

The strike came three days after an Air India flight crashed in the south-western city of Mangalore, killing 158 people.

Soon after the court order Wednesday, the unions called off the strike and asked workers to return to work immediately.

Management, meanwhile, launched a massive crackdown on the unions and several of their leaders were sent letters of termination while others were suspended, a newspaper reported.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said the unions had gone a bit too far and management had been given a free hand to deal with them.

The cash-strapped national carrier has been given 168 million dollars by the government as part of a bail-out package so far and is working on a reorganisation plan.

The airline has a workforce of more than 30,000 people, which, analysts said, needs to be cut in half to make Air India competitive.

Although private airlines were expecting to return to profit in the financial year that began April 1, Air India was expected to report large losses in spite of its restructuring plan.

Threat posed by home-grown terror to be included into strategy

With Al-Qaeda and its affiliates recruiting American citizens to carry out attacks in the country, the U.S. will for the first time include the threat posed by radicalised, home-grown terrorism into its national security strategy.

John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for counter-terrorism and homeland security, said the Obama administration would add combating home-grown terrorism to its new strategy, which will be unveiled tomorrow.

“We’ve seen an increasing number of individuals here in the United States become captivated by extremist activities or causes,” Mr. Brennan said at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

“The president’s national security strategy explicitly recognises the threat to the United States posed by individuals radicalised here at home,” he said.

His comments assume significance in the wake of the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American, for plotting the failed Times Square bombing. He has admitted to attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Waziristan tribal region.

Mr. Brennan said the U.S. has seen a number of people who were inspired by the extremist ideologies or causes.

“(The examples are) Somali Americans from Minnesota travelling to fight in Somalia, the five Virginia men who went to Pakistan seeking terrorist training, David Headley, the Chicago man charged with helping to plan the Mumbai attacks, the Pennsylvania woman, JihadJane, charged with conspiring to murder a Danish cartoonist,” he said.

He also noted that more than 20 individuals in the U.S. have been arrested and charged with terrorism crimes, their plans and plots disrupted since the Obama Administration assumed office in January 2009.

This includes Najibullah Zazi, who planned to attack the New York subway system in what could have been the worst terrorist attack on our soil since 9/11.

Mr. Brennan said the U.S. is at war with Al-Qaeda and its terrorist’s allies, who continue to plot against America and its allies along the border regions and inside of Pakistan.

“The United States of America is at war. We are at war against Al-Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates...That is why he has refocused our efforts on Afghanistan, where Al-Qaeda continues to plot from the tribal regions along the border with Pakistan and inside of Pakistan,” he said.

“We will deny Al-Qaeda and its affiliate’s safe haven. We will secure the world’s most dangerous weapons, especially the nuclear materials that Al-Qaeda seeks and would surely use against us.”

Mr. Brennan said the U.S. was not only delivering severe blows against the leadership of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, but is helping the countries where these organisations have safe havens to build their capacity to provide for their own security and to help them root out the “Al-Qaeda cancer” that has manifested itself within their borders.

He said since the U.S. has made it harder for the terror outfits to recruit they are increasingly relying on recruits with little training.

“We have strengthened our defences against massive, sophisticated attacks on our homeland, so they are attempting attacks with little sophistication, but with very lethal intent,” he argued.

“Knowing that it is harder to penetrate America’s defences, they use the Internet and extremist websites to exhort people already living in the United States to take up arms and launch terrorist attacks from within,” Mr. Brennan said.

“We have seen individuals, including U.S. citizens, armed with their U.S. passports, travel easily to extremist safe havens and return to America, their deadly plans disrupted by coordinated intelligence and law enforcement,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to thwart Faisal Shahzad, accused of attempting to set off the car bomb in Times Square,” Mr. Brennan said.

He said the U.S. has also seen individuals, including American citizens, apparently inspired by Al-Qaeda’s ideology and take matters into their own hands.

“Again, we have disrupted a number of these plots, including individuals in Texas and Illinois charged with planning to blow up buildings,” he said.

Jaya gets Samajwadi seat after dumping Amar Singh

In a tactical move, the Samajwadi Party on Wednesday renominated Ms Jaya Bachchan to the Rajya Sabha.

This was a big surprise as there was widespread speculation that Ms Bachchan would be dropped due to her connection with the expelled leader, Mr Amar Singh.

Her renomination also stunned Mr Singh, who appears to be getting isolated from “old and trusted friends”, particularly the Bachchans.

While Ms Bachchan was said to be abroad, Mr Singh accused the SP chief, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, of “driving a wedge between him and the Bachchans”.

Mr Singh also “congratulated” Jaya Bhabi (Ms Bachchan) “for opting for the party in place of her devar (brother-in-law, or Mr Singh himself).”

The announcement on Ms Bachchan’s renomination was made in Lucknow by the SP’s UP unit chief, Mr Akhilesh Yadav, who is the SP chief’s son.

Ms Bachchan’s term was scheduled to end on July 4. This will, technically, be Ms Bachchan’s third term in the Upper House. She had cut off her links with Mr Amar Singh by staying away from his ‘Kshatriya rally’, which was attended by a few loyalists including Ms Jayaprada who were subsequently expelled.

Inter-caste lovers stoned to death

A couple was stoned to death for their inter-caste love affair in what is perhaps the first ‘honour killing’ in the state.

The bodies of Sunkari Srinivas, 25, who belongs to the Scheduled Castes, and Swapna Reddy, 22, were found on the outskirts of Krishnajiwadi village of Tadwai mandal in Nizamabad district.

The bodies bore injuries caused by stone pelting, the police said. It is likely that the couple died on the spot.

Fearing objections from their community elders, the couple had eloped four months ago. Srinivas and Swapna returned on Wednesday to try and convince the their elders. Their bodies were discovered by locals late in the night who immediately informed the Tadwai police.

The Tadwai police sub-inspector, Mr V. Vijay Kumar, went to the place along with a team as tension began mounting.

Eyewitness alleged that the relatives of Swapna had killed the couple.

Speaking to this newspaper, the superintendent of police, Mr K. Venkatesh-wara Rao, confirmed that the couple had been stoned to death. He said police was investigating the circumstances of the couple’s murder.

Jagan followers firm on Warangal yatra

The Congress high command has not yet decided whether to allow the Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, to undertake his ‘Vodarpu’ tour in Warangal to console families of those who died after the demise of his father, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

The tour is scheduled to start from May 28 and there is deep division among Telangana Congress leaders on whether it should be allowed or not.

Mr Jagan was closeted with his loyalists on Wednesday and also contacted his political mentor, Dr K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, who had met AICC leaders, Mr Veerappa Moily and Mr Ahmed Patel, to get their green signal for the tour.

Sources said both the leaders are expected to brief the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, after which the high command will reveal its stance.

An AICC functionary told this correspondent that the high command was displeased that the state leadership allowed the issue to become a major controversy. “We are in a Catch 22 situation,” said the leader.

Meanwhile, an MLA from Guntur and a supporter of Mr Jagan, said that if the tour was prevented, the Kadapa MP would lose face. “If the high command yields to this kind of threats, no leader from Coastal and Raayalaseema areas will be able to tour Telangana region in the future,” he said.

At the same time, some Congress MPs and a few MLAs from Telangana region have even threatened to resign if the tour is allowed to take place “against the wishes of Telangana people.”

Meanwhile, Yadagiri, a labourer of Butchannapet mandal of Warangal district, committed suicide on Wednesday, allegedly saddened by the objection of some leaders to Mr Jagan’s tour.

Kalahasti gopuram collapses

The five-centuries-old Rajagopuram built by the emperor Sri Krishna Devaraya near the Srikalahasti temple collapsed late on Wednesday evening, creating panic among the local populace.

The main temple at Srikalahasti was not affected by the collapse of the 135-feet gopuram.

Eyewitnesses said a huge structure from the top of the gopuram fell on the ground with a huge thud at 8.05 pm. Within a minute the whole structure collapsed and turned into a pile of rubble.

Though local people said they saw two security guards sitting under the gopuram, it is not certain whether there has been loss of life. Two women last seen in the spot were yet to return home. There are also reports that more than 200 monkeys could have been buried in the debris.

“Nothing can be said for sure until we remove the debris which is 20 feet high,” said a police officer.

Nearby shopkeepers had noticed a huge crack extending from the bottom to the top of the gopuram during the last three days. It is believed that the rains that followed Cyclone Laila further weakened its structure.

Luckily, on Tuesday evening, temple authorities, with the help of the local police, evacuated the shopkeepers from the vicinity and declared 150-metre radius as danger zone. If this had not been done, there would have been a major disaster.

People thronged the area after news of the gopuram’s fall spread, creating a major traffic jam. Soon power went off, adding to the chaos. Terming the collapse a bad omen, women all over the town two lamps (pramidhas) in front of their houses. Some agama pundits seconded the view.

But for most of the populace, the collapse of the gopuram was more of a sad event. At a time when the entire state is celebrating the 500th coronation year of the emperor, his dream structure has been dashed to pieces.

The gopuram had been in trouble for over a decade with stones and clay falling off from the structure. A few years ago, a tourist was killed when a stone fell on him. Though civil society groups had complained about the tower’s condition, the temple authorities did nothing except undertaking minor repairs. The neglected gopuram had become a shelter for tramps, sadhus and monkeys.

The gopuram, with seven stories, was built in 1516 and stood to the right side of the temple and was a testimony to the grandeur of the Vijayanagara Kings. Till three decades ago, it was the practice of devotees to pass through it after taking the bath in Swarnamukhi River.

A researcher from the SV University said that Srikrishna Devaraya built the monumental structure to mark his victory over the rival kings of the Gajapathi dynasty. “Unlike the other gopurams found in South India, it was built with clay,” he said.

The bronze statue of the emperor was erected at the base of the gopuram last year.

Interestingly, the statue, just 10 feet away from the structure, did not suffer any damage and the debris now lies at the emperor’s feet.

7 AP students in top 10 IIT-JEE ranks

Even for a state whose students are known to do well in the IIT Joint Entrance Exam, it was a thunderbolt. Seven students from AP figured swamped the top 10 ranks nationwide, including the topper, Mr Anumula Jithendar Reddy, a cricket-loving film buff.

This is the first time ever that a student from the state has topped the IIT-JEE. This is also the first time that so many students from one state have hogged the top 10 ranks.

Of the 2,610 students who qualified from the IIT-Madras zone, 2,095 were from AP.

With 9,059 seats being available in 15 IITs nationwide, students from AP will get 22 per cent. Which means that every fourth student joining the IIT this year will be from AP. Other AP top rankers were Mr Uday K. Shah (second rank), Mr Madhu Kiran Penuganchuprolu (4th), Mr K. Saathvik (6th), Mr Janardhan Reddy (7th), Mr Ch Nikhil Sabareesh (8th) and Mr G. Neeraj Gopal (9th).

While the first, second, fourth, eighth and ninth ranks went to Narayana Group students, a Ramaiah Coaching Insititute student bagged the sixth and a Sri Chaitanya Group student the seventh ranks.

“Keep your cool. Study the subjects with interest and the rest will follow,” was Mr Jithendar Reddy’s advise to students.

A total of 13,105 candidates cleared the IIT-JEE for the 9,509 seats on offer. Of the 1.13 lakh girls who took the exam, 1,476 qualified with Aakanksha Tushar Sarda topping with the 18th rank.

2 Uday K. Shah. Son of a local trader,
He wants to join IIT Mumbai

4 P. Madhu, Kiran A native of Vijayawada

6 K. Saathvik, A Mahbubnagar, native,
He wants to join IIT Kanpur

7 Janardhan Reddy, A Hyderabadi, wants to join IIT Mumbai

8 Ch. Nikhil Sabareesh, Ch. Nikhil Sabareesha city boy,
He wants to join IIT Kharagpur

9 G. Neeraj Gopal, A Vizagite, wants to join IIT Kanpur

Facts & Figures

Total students appeared 4.6 lakh
Total students from AP 50,000
Students qualified from AP 2,095
Total Girls qualified 1,476

Taking the lion’s share

With 9,059 seats available in 15 IITs nationwide, AP students will get 22%, meaning every 4th student joining the IIT this year will be from AP.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

KCR warns of repercussions

The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) president, Mr K. Chandrasekar Rao, on Tuesday threatened repeat of incidents that shook the Telangana region in last December, if the Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, carried on with his proposed visit in the region. Talking to the media here, the TRS chief warned of serious consequences if the proposed tour was not cancelled.

He found fault with the state government for not stopping Mr Jagan though the situation was not conducive for such a tour.

“Just to give a few lakh rupees, the government is spending nearly Rs 30 crore for providing security to Mr Jagan. Let him call the affected families to Hyderabad and handover the money. It is not correct to allow him to tour the region,” KCR said.

He asked his partymen to organise protest rallies and dharnas to stop Mr Jagan from entering the region. He dared the government to go ahead and give protection to the “young” leader hurting people’s sentiments.

“Warangal people already made it clear by participating in a bandh,” he said.

Congress in a fix over Jagan’s Warangal tour

The Congress high command is in a dilemma over the proposed five-day tour by the Kadapa MP, Mr Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, in Warangal district from May 28.

Mr Jagan has planned the tour to console families of those who died following the tragic demise of his father, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

On Tuesday, party leaders from Telangana region met the union minister and state Congress affairs in-charge, Mr Veerappa Moily, and told him that Mr Jagan’s tour would spoil the peaceful atmosphere in the region. According to them, Mr Jagan had angered people of Telangana by supporting the united state cause.

Telangana organisations, including the Joint Action Committee, have already opposed his tour and have threatened to disrupt it. A protest bandh was also observed in Warangal district on Tuesday.

However, the MP, Dr K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, a mentor of Mr Jagan, also met Mr Moily and told him that YSR’s son had already toured West Godavari and Khammam districts where he received overwhelming public response. There was no truth in the contention that his tour would vitiate the atmosphere in Telangana, said KVP.

On his part, Mr Jagan in a public appeal reiterated that the intention of his tour was only to console the family members of the victims. “It has nothing to do with politics,” he said.

Mr Jagan would start his yatra from Mahaboobabad and would visit 77 families in five days by travelling 1,100 Km.

Meanwhile, the director-general of police, Mr R.R. Girish Kumar, said, Mr Jagan didn’t apply for permission for his tour of Warangal. “So, no decision is taken yet, ” he said.

OU PG entrance test on June 14

The Osmania University (OU) has received 1,05,000 applications for its post-graduate courses this year. With the deadline for the last day to receive applications still open, the university hopes to cross the 1.1 lakh application mark.

More than 20,000 aspirants applied for the Master's course in chemistry, 9,835 for life sciences and more than 5,000 for maths.

The university clarified that the entrance exam for post-graduate courses is scheduled for June 14 and not June 7 as declared earlier. Results will be declared in the first week of July and classes will start in August.

“We had to change the dates for the entrance exam as it was coinciding with the dates of other entrance tests. This time the competition is very stiff for post-graduate seats. We are offering a new post-graduate diploma in information management for students with a Master’s degree in library science. The details of the entrance examination will be put on the OU website,” said Prof. Tirupati Rao, Vice-Chancellor of the university.

He attributed the university being listed the tenth best in the country according to a survey by AC Neilson and a national weekly, to the increase in the number of fellowships and research posts in the university. He denied that the Telangana agitation and violence had any adverse impact on the image of the university.

“We are introducing several reforms in our examination system and curriculum. We are second only to Delhi University in the number of scholarships and fellowships sanctioned. We are sure we will be in the top five varsities’ slot in the next academic year. Contrary to the image of the OU perceived by a few due to the Telangana agitation, OU has found a place in the top varsities list,” Prof. Rao said.

Gayatri to power up state

Foreign investors seem to be warming up to India’s power sector again, after a long gap. Hyderabad based infrastructure firm Gayatri Projects on Tuesday signed an agreement with Singapore’s Sembcorp to set up a 1,320 mw thermal power plant in Krishnapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The cost of the supercritical power project will be Rs 6,869 crore – which will include an equity investment of Rs 1,718 crore by the two partners. This is the first investment by a foreign firm in India’s power sector in over four years.

Gayatri managing director T V Sandeep Reddy and Sembcorp executive vice-president Tan Cheng Guan signed the JV agreement in the presence of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah, Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Rajya Sabha Member T Subbarami Reddy today. “The first phase of the project will be completed in 40 months,” Mr. Reddy said. The next phase of the project involves setting up another 1,320 mw power capaicty, he added. The entire 2,640 mw capacity would be ready in five years time. The project will help meet part of the growing power needs of the state, Mr. Rosaiah said at the event.

"Sembcorp is the first foreign company to invest in the power sector in India in the last four-and-a-half years," Mr. Shinde said, speaking at the occasion. Although 100 per cent FDI is permitted in the power sector, response of foreign investors has been tepid so far, Mr. Shinde said. “But now we have taken many corrective steps to help the power sector grow, which is restoring confidence among foreign investors," he added.

Gayatri Projects will own a 51 per cent stake in the project, while Sembcorp will hold the remainder. The Singapore based firm would be investing Rs 1,100 crore in the project, Gayatri said in a statement. Sembcorp Utilities is a Singapore based firm with interests in power generation and water supply. Temasak Holdings, the investment arm of Singapore Government, owns a 49.7 per cent stake in the firm.

Jail for molester DG

Former Haryana DGP Shambhu Pratap Singh Rathore is finally in jail for molesting 14-year-old schoolgirl Ruchika Girhotra in August 1990 after a Chandigarh court on Tuesday confirmed his conviction by the trial court and enhanced his original jail term from six to 18 months.

Additional district and sessions judge Gurbir Singh directed the CBI to take him into custody. Exulted Ruchika’s father Subhash Chander Girhotra: “This evil man (who) tormented and drove my daughter to her death is actually being arrested and sent to jail!”

The former DGP tried to avoid jail, saying he had to go to a hospital as he was unwell.

But the judge said the jail authorities would decide on his hospitalisation.

DC, Vizag & I: My, how we have grown!

I was 18 years old when I joined DC in Vizag —I think I was the first local reporter hired. We did a couple of dummy runs of the paper, and then launched it without much fanfare. But practically overnight, it became an important voice in Vizag affairs.

It was an exciting time: Vizag had finally got its first locally-published, English-language daily. It felt like an endorsement for us all, like an acknowledgement that Vizag was no longer a provincial town but a city.

There were three reporters at the launch: Shakeel Ahmed, Amit Mitra and myself. There were only a handful of other English-language journalists in the city, so we felt like an elite group.

The chief of reporters, S.T.G. Sridhar, was a terrific guy. He wrote mainly for Andhra Bhoomi, but gave us a lot of guidance. He was my first teacher in journalism. A great boss, he even gave me time off to court my then girlfriend, now wife, Bipasha!

Because the bureau was so small, there was no room for specialisation: we covered everything. I remember weeks when I did sports stories, political stories, industry pieces, crime stories, movie reviews and even covered the odd Rotary Club meeting.

I didn’t know it at the time, of course, but this was fantastic training for my later career.

I stayed at DC for two-and-a-half years, then moved to Kolkata with Business Standard. In ’91, I moved to Mumbai with BusinessWorld, and after a couple of years they transferred me to Delhi.

In 1995, I moved to Hong Kong with the Far Eastern Economic Review, and then to Time Magazine’s Asian edition. Time sent me all over the world — to Japan, Korea, Australia, Thailand, the US, and even to places like Finland and Sweden. Here, again, the training I had received at DC came good: I covered all sorts of stories. I wrote about the World Cup in Japan and Korea and about the 1999 cricket World Cup (we put Sachin Tendulkar on the cover for the first time.). I wrote about business, about politics, about books. I covered the conflict in Kashmir.

Eventually, I settled on war journalism as a specialisation. I was drawn to the Middle East, and Time sent me to cover the conflict in Palestine. In 2002, with war in Iraq seeming inevitable, the magazine moved me to London, from where I could have better access to the Baghdad. I arrived in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq a few months before the war... and remained for nearly five years!

I then moved to Washington, to cover national security and terrorism.

Now I’m an editor at Time, based in New York. I oversee foreign stories in Time’s domestic editions, and also its Asian and European editions. Every once in a while, I still go out to do some reporting and writing of my own. I try to stay versatile: in the past couple of years, I’ve written about the Taliban in Afghanistan, terrorist threats to New York, about cricket-loving billionaires in Texas, about the Muslim community in Detroit and about new cities being built in the Saudi Arabian desert.

Every now and again, I quietly thank DC, not only for taking a chance on an 18-year-old boy, but also allowing him to try his hand at all sorts of stories. I know my career would have been without that initial freedom to roam.

I don’t get back to Vizag as often as I should: this winter, I will be going home for the first time in several years, to visit my father, my sister and her family. I’m looking forward to it.

Even from afar, I’ve followed the city’s evolution. A quarter of a century after DC’s endorsement of Vizag, it has now become a city of global consequence. It’s amazing: I would never have believed that one day, international cricket would be played there. Or that a call centre would be set up there, giving young people exposure to the world at a very early stage in their careers.

Young people also have more opportunities and places for entertainment. My sister Paripurna tells me there are disco’s in town — when I was growing up, the only chance to do any dancing came around once a year, at the Waltair Club's New Year’s ball!

And DC has been there through all of this, chronicling this evolution and playing a part in it. A great city deserves a great newspaper. Vizag has Deccan Chronicle.

The writer was DC’s first reporter in Vizag. He is presently World Editor, Time magazine

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gold soars to new record of Rs. 18,660

Gold prices soared to an all-time high of Rs. 18,660 per ten grams in the national capital today on aggressive buying by stockists and jewellers for the ongoing marriage season amid a firming global trend.

Prices of the precious metal zoomed by Rs. 260 to Rs 18,660 and ornaments by a similar margin to Rs. 18,510 per ten grams.

Sovereigns also rose by Rs. 75 to Rs. 14,525 per piece of 8 grams.

The current surge surpassed the previous record set on December 3 last year.

The trading sentiment turned bullish after gold climbed in New York as a weaker euro revived demand for a safe haven to park funds. Last week’s decline in gold prices to the lowest level in more than two weeks boosted the investment appeal of the precious metal.

Shifting of funds from melting equity markets to rising bullion for quick gains further fuelled the uptrend, they said. The BSE benchmark Sensex plunged to near a three-month low on account of the eurozone crisis.

The global factors coincide with a boom in all-round buying by jewellers and retailers in domestic markets for the ongoing marriage season.

The price of gold in overseas markets, which normally sets the trend on the domestic front, recorded handsome gains of $ 15.30 to $ 1,192.30 an ounce in New York last evening.

However, silver ready lacked the necessary buying support and fell by Rs. 100 to Rs. 28,950 per kg and weekly-based delivery by Rs. 25 to Rs. 28,635 per kg. Silver coins prices held steady at Rs. 34,400 for buying and Rs. 34,500 for selling of 100 pieces.

Delhi High Court rejects plea on 2G spectrum

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition requesting it to monitor the CBI probe into the alleged role of Union Communications Minister A. Raja in the 2008 sale of 2G spectrum licences.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice M B Lokur dismissed the petition filed by two city-based NGOs, Telecom Watchdog and the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.

“We will not monitor the investigation,” the court said, adding that it would be unfair to not show confidence in the CBI while it was still probing the issue.

In their petition, the NGOs had requested the bench to direct a court-monitored investigation into the 2G spectrum scam for “unearthing the role of Respondent 5 (Raja), senior officers of DoT, and middlemen involved“.

Mr. Raja was expected to take the auction route for allotting the 2G licences to telecom service providers.

“The value of this spectrum has multiplied manifold. The government got a total of only Rs. 9,014 crore as licence fee from these 122 licences, which was much lower than the market price. This has caused an estimated loss of about Rs. 70,000 crore to the exchequer,” the petitioners said.

They further submitted that acting on complaints lodged by the Central Vigilance Commission, the CBI had lodged FIRs against “unknown officers of DoT and unknown private companies“.

The CBI had also raided the premises of DoT and recovered “incriminating evidence” against some influential persons, they added.

“This included a telephone recording by the Directorate of Income Tax between the parties involved and Mr A Raja. The CBI received the CD of this communication in November 2009.

Despite the passage of more than six months, it has not summoned the suspects, nor filed any charge sheet,” it said, adding that a senior CBI official attached to this probe has been transferred.

“It is understood that due to political compulsions and to protect the suspects, the CBI is trying to close the matter without a serious, deep investigation,” they said.

The NGOs further contended that the action of the government “in scuttling the investigation was arbitrary and illegal. The record of the CBI in politically-sensitive cases leaves much to be desired. The rule of law requires a through investigation into this huge scam.”
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