Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thanks DC, now the Worlds: Saina

A rousing reception got Hyderabad shuttler Saina Nehwal emotional as she arrived at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport here on Tuesday.

Saina, who returned to the city with three titles in three weeks — Indian Open Grand Prix Gold, Singapore Open Super Series and Indonesia Open Super Series — was eager to get home before she addressed the media at the Pullela Gopichand Academy.

“There are a lot of people I wish to thank for my achievements. Gopichand (sir) has always been there behind every success. It is still hard to believe that I am world No.3,” said Saina.

“In such a short span, he made me a top player,” said the 20-year-old of her coach, adding, “I would like to thank Deccan Chronicle for their support since August. It’s almost a year and I am really greatful to them for recognising my talent. I am really lucky and blessed.” Saina spoke on a variety of topics. Excerpts:

On her ranking: I am very happy to reach the top 3 but it’s time I start working more hard and winning more tournaments rather than concentrate on ranking.

Being World No.3 does not give me permission to skip practice or stop training. In fact, I will be training more rigourously now.

On the hat-trick: This feat is special because I don’t know when I will again win three in a row in three weeks. Last year was special because it was my first Super Series title.

On the gruelling schedule: It was very hectic for me. I was physically tired but my mental strength got me going. I am happy to have lived up to every one’s expectation. The motivation level goes up after every victory. Now, I have to stay focused and keep the momentum going.

The toughest one: The Indonesian Open. It was the last of three. So obviously I was tired. But again, when I look back, I think I had a really good time in every match I played, I’ll cherish all the 15 wins in the last three weeks.

On the upcoming events: Now, I’ll concentrate on the World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. All I know is that I will have to give 100 per cent from my side. I will improve on my weak areas especially considering the weak points of other top players who I have played before. However, one cannot keep winning all tournaments. What is more important for me is that I remain injury-free.

Motivating factor: Making the quarterfinals of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Since then I started believing that I can do it. I can even say that I have overcome the Chinese threat. I am no more worried. In fact, India is doing much better with the number of players performing well on the international circuit.

International players will have a different opinion about India now. Jwala (Gutta) and V. Diju did very well at the Indian Open, Kashyap reached the semifinals, Guru Sai Dutt was in the quarterfinals. So, it would not be wrong to say we are emerging as a strong force.

Badminton is getting recognition. There is a lot of talent here. I was amazed to see so many kids at the summer camp this season. There are so many who now follow the sport. I am once again thankful to Deccan Chronicle for promoting badminton apart from cricket.

On being a youth icon: There are so many youngsters who look up to me. Many follow my game too. Kids from the academy and elsewhere draw inspiration from me. So there are a lot of expectation to meet.

On being compared with cricketers and badminton great Prakash Padukone: I would take that as a compliment but it is not right to compare. I am happy with what I have achieved for my state and country and hope to continue winning more titles.

2-hr power cuts back as supply plummets

Daily two-hour power cuts are back in the city less than a month after they were withdrawn, and will continue indefinitely.

In the last couple of days, there have been power shutdowns in areas under 10 to 15 sub-stations at a time every one hour. The power cuts have become inevitable as there is a shortage of 120 mw every one hour.

The power shortage is mainly due to technical problems in the Kothagudem and Vijayawada thermal power stations.

The demand for power from the agriculture sector, too, has shot up during the ongoing kharif season. And the city's insatiable demand for power has increased from 19 million units in the first week of June to over 25 million units from June 26.

“There is no option but to take load relief. If we (central Discom) do not do so then power supply will be stopped from the 132 kv sub-station in order maintain frequency,” the Central Discom chief general manager (Metro Zone), Mr Sharat Chandra, told this correspondent.

Local problems have exacerbated the situation, such as the collapse of the 220 kv line tower due to blasting work for the Outer Ring Road at Shamirpet a week ago. On Monday, due to a cable fault at Nampally sub-station, several areas around exhibition grounds, Nampally, AC Guards, VN Colony and Shantinagar went without power.

Power supply is also switched off for as long as four hours at a stretch when trees have to be trimmed, something that really tests the patience of the long-suffering public.

CBI: Raju is faking his illness

The CBI has expressed doubts about the medical reports submitted by the Nizams Institute of Medical Sciences on the Satyam prime accused, Mr B. Ramalinga Raju, and has sought an independent opinion by a panel of doctors on his health condition.

The investigation agency filed a memo making this request in the 21st Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate court that is now hearing the Satyam case.

“His condition is not as bad as being projected in the Nims reports,” said the CBI special counsel, Mr K. Surender. “We have filed a memo that Raju is meeting people at Nims but is not appearing in court. Another petition regarding video linkage between court and Nims is also pending,”

Following this, the court directed the NIMS authorities to file a fresh report on health condition of Mr Raju by July 1, clarifying whether he is fit to appear in the court. Raju has been admitted in NIMS since September 2009 and is reportedly undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C.

The CBI has been arguing that Raju’s refusal to appear is causing abnormal delay in the trial of the case. The court had earlier ordered for the clubbing of three charge-sheets in the case.

Diesel decontrol certain, says PM

Fuel pricing reforms will go ahead full throttle notwithstanding opposition from the BJP-led NDA and the UPA partners. After petrol, retail prices of kerosene will be deregulated to trim the deficit and restore fiscal balance. Cooking gas and kerosene will continue to be subsidised.

“Petrol prices have been set free, the same is going to be done to diesel prices,” Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, asserted.

Briefing reporters aboard Air India One on the way to Frankfurt after participating in the G-20 summit in Toronto, Dr Singh said, “We have taken due care to ensure that the poorer sections are affected the least possible and (will) keep under regulation the prices of kerosene and LPG.”

Last Friday, the UPA government deregulated and increased petrol prices by Rs 3.50 per litre. Simultaneously, diesel and kerosene was made dearer by Rs 2 and Rs 3 per litre respectively and the cooking gas subsidy was reduced by Rs 35 per cylinder.

The NDA, and UPA allies like the Trinamul Congress and DMK, have opposed the increase.

26 CRPF men die in Maoist ambush

In the third such major attack in three months which took the paramilitary force by surprise, suspected Maoists killed 26 jawans of a CRPF road opening team and injured 15 others in an ambush at Dhorai in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district on Tuesday, the police said.

Rescue teams reached the spot late in the evening and the toll may go up, police said. A 66-member CRPF team was returning to camp when at least 90 Maoist insurgents attacked them at Jhargahati, a thickly forested area, 32 km from the district headquarters town of Narayanpur. The ambush was laid on the basis of prior information, police sources said. The Bastar IGP, Mr T.J. Longkumar, said: “The spot is surrounded by difficult terrain and forests. Reinforcements have been rushed from nearby areas. An IAF helicopter was used to transport the injured jawans.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

AP threatens college closure over fee issue

The state government on Monday warned that professional colleges would face closure if they harass students over the non-payment of fees which has to be reimbursed by the government.

The managements of professional colleges hit back at the government , calling it “shameless” for issuing such threats when it owed them Rs 2,000 crore. They alleged that it was trying to scrap the scheme after gaining political mileage from last year’s Assembly elections.

The college managements have also refuted the government’s claim that it has released Rs 500 crore and alleged that the funds were diverted to other schemes.

“The government’s claim that it released Rs 500 crore so far is totally false. We have not received a single paisa. It has diverted the funds meant for students to Jalayagnam contractors. It has no sincerity or sympathy towards poor students,” said Mr N. Ramesh, representative of Consortium of Engineering Colleges Managements Association.

Meanwhile, the BJP state president, Mr G. Kishen Reddy, began a fast-unto-death demanding that the government release funds. However, the police took him into preventive custody and shifted him to Gandhi Hospital.

The Backward Classes leader, Mr R. Krishnaiah, is continuing his fast.

The higher education minister, Mr D. Sridhar Babu and the technical education minister, Mr M. Venkatarama, said the government would take stringent action against professional colleges if students are denied hall tickets for exams or for attendance.

“Every eligible student’s fees will be reimbursed even if it runs into hundreds of crores. The Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, has made a promise in this regard and there is no need to worry,” Mr Sridhar Babu said.

He said the fast undertaken by the two political leaders is more of a “political game”. The Telugu Desam, too, is trying to take political advantage of the situation, the minister alleged.

Accused: Girl’s mom involved

Adding a twist to the sensational Naga Vaishnavi murder case, Morla Srinu, one of the accused, alleged that the girl’s mother, Ms Narmada Devi, the Pedana MLA, Mr Jogi Ramesh, and a senior DCP were involved in the murder.

He was produced in court in Vijayawada on Monday amid tight security. After attending court, Srinu started making the allegations against Ms Narmada Devi and Mr Ramesh.

In February, Naga Vaishnavi, 10, was kidnapped and burnt in a furnace in Guntur. Her father Palagani Prabhakara Rao, a Vijayawada-based businessman, died of cardiac arrest after the incident.

Rao had two wives, Ms Venkateswaramma and Ms Narmada Devi, the mother of the victim. The murder was attributed to a quarrel for property. The killers’ plan to murder Vaishnavi’s brother did not come off.

The police arrested P. Venkatarao Goud, brother of Ms Venkateswaramma, and his aides, Morla Srinivas and Jagadish, for the murder. They were produced in court on Monday.

Ms Narmada Devi denied the allegations and asked that the culprits behind the murder of her daughter to be punished immediately.

Mr Ramesh denied the allegations and asked why Srinu would not have informed the police if his allegation was true.

State halts recruitment to DSC posts

The state government has decided to halt the DSC teacher recruitment process scheduled on June 29 and 30 in the wake of AP Administrative Tribunal's directions on Monday to implement GO No. 28, which gives priority to D.Ed candidates over B.Ed candidates for appointment as secondary grade teachers.

However, the government has issued appointment letters to 3,000 teachers by then on Monday, the first day of counselling. It has decided to postpone the counselling scheduled for next two days to enable it to prepare a fresh merit list as per APAT orders.

Earlier, the AP Administrative Tribunal on Monday directed the state government to reserve 30 per cent of the vacancies for DEd candidates in the ongoing counselling of DSC 2008 candidates for selection to the post of Secondary Grade Teacher.

The tribunal was dealing with a petition filed by Mr V. Saidulu, an aspirant of the SGT post. The petitioner sought a direction to declare that he is entitled to be selected and appointed to the post of SGT. He urged the court to declare the action of the respondents in not reserving 30 per cent in SGT posts in accordance with the Rule 7 of GO Ms No 28, issued on January 29, 2009, as illegal.

Mr A. Satya Prasad, additional advocate general, told the tribunal that any amendment brought after the notification will not have any retrospective affect.

Sonia lays foundation of Rohtang tunnel near Manali

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who is also heading the National Advisory Council, on Monday laid the foundation of the 8.8-km-long Rohtang tunnel at Dhundi near the famous tourist resort of Manali.

While addressing a public gathering at Solang Nallah later, Ms. Gandhi said the idea of the tunnel was conceived by late Rajiv Gandhi and even the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during his regime, inaugurated the approach road to the tunnel site from the South Portal.

Praising the efforts of Border Roads Organisation in constructing the tunnel, she said the tunnel would provide all-weather connectivity for the civilians and armed forces personnel and an alternative link to the residents living on the border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu Kashmir.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Defence Minister A. K. Antony, Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju, Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh and Leader of the Opposition in the Himachal Assembly, Vidya Stokes, were also present on the occasion.

The idea of constructing a tunnel beneath the Rohtang Pass at 13,000 feet was envisaged in 1983 and its construction received an impetus after the Kargil conflict.

It was to be made as an all-weather alternative strategic route to Ladakh from Manali in Himachal Pradesh.
Avalanche protection

On May 26, 2002, after the detailed feasibility study in 1987, Mr. Vajpayee laid the foundation of the access road to the tunnel costing Rs.180 crore and the access road to south portal tunnel site was completed in 2005.

About 18 avalanche protection structures have been erected on it.
By 2015

The Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the tunnel project in September 2009 at a cost of about Rs.1,495 crore.

The tunnelling would be completed in 2015 and that would reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by at least 48 km, said the BRO sources.
High altitude

More than six to seven feet of snow is reported from the high altitude (13,044 ft.) Rohtang Pass during winter and it remains closed for six to eight months.
Another tunnel

The BRO is also studying the feasibility of constructing a tunnel beneath the Shinkula Pass (15,920 ft.).

It has to conduct a feasibility study for construction of a tunnel beneath this pass that would reduce the present distance of 470 km between Manali and Leh by 100 km, they said.

IIM-A to establish city unit

IIM-Ahmedabad, one of the leading B-schools of the country, has decided to set up a full-fledged campus in city. The decision was taken after the institute’s strategic committee gave its approval during its meeting held on June 24.

It was former chief minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, who had invited the IIMA to the city and had also offered 150 acres of land and Rs 100 crore interest-free loan to the institute.

After Mr K. Rosaiah took over, he too wrote to Dr Vijaypat Singhania, chairman, Board of Governors, and reiterated the government’s support for setting up a “seamless campus”. He said that the campus would give a decisive advantage to management students who would get exposure to new sectors as the city hosts the vibrant IT hub, the Biotech Valley and the pharma industry. Sources said that institute authorities have told the state officials about the decision.

US seeks more info from China on its nuke deal with Pak

The US has sought more information from China on its agreement to supply two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, saying the deal would need an agreement of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. "We as a first step are looking for more information from China as to what it is potentially proposing," State Department spokesman, Mr P.J. Crowley, told reporters at his daily press briefing. He was responding to a question on last week's meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in New Zealand, wherein China informed the group about its decision to supply two additional nuclear power plants to Pakistan. "We did raise the issue during last week's Nuclear Suppliers Group. We continue to seek information from China regarding its future plans," Crowley said. He said there was no unanimous consensus at the meeting of the NSG, which operates by consensus. "We have a view that this initiative as it goes forward would need the agreement of the Nuclear Suppliers Group," Mr Crowley said.

Curfew imposed in Kashmir's Sopore, Baramulla

Curfew was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir's Sopore and Baramulla towns and vehicular traffic was restricted in old city areas of summer capital Srinagar on Tuesday, a day after two youths were killed in widespread violence.
Additional security men have been deployed in Sopore and Baramulla towns to restore order there, police said.
Vehicular and pedestrian movement was not allowed in five police station areas of Khanyar, Rainawari, Nowhatta, M.R. Gunj and Safa Kadal to tackle separatist violence here.
Traffic intersections in the old city areas were also blocked with coils of razor fitted wire.
"Preventive restrictions are in force in old city areas to protect civilian life and property from anti-social elements," a senior police officer told IANS.
"Nobody will be allowed to create a law and order situation that would endanger civilian life and property. Parents have been advised to remain vigilant against miscreants who use their wards to generate violence," the police officer said. Reports from Baramulla and Sopore towns indicate that curfew was being strictly enforced there. Separatist leaders of both the hardline and the moderate Hurriyat groups have called for a two-day shutdown across the Valley to protest security force excesses. In uptown areas of Srinagar city, shops, public transport, banks, educational institutions remained closed as tension was palpable here because of Monday's incidents of violence. Tajamul Ahmad Bhat, 17, and Tauqeer Ahmad Rather, 15, were killed during mob violence in Baramulla district on Monday.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Central Health Council meeting on July 9

Meet likely to endorse proposed National Council for Human Resources in Health

Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry is likely to convene a meeting on July 9 of the Central Council of Health and Family Welfare where Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad is expected to seek endorsement of the proposed National Council for Human Resources in Health to retain medical education as well as regulation of professional practice in health sector.

The Central Health Council that is represented by all State Health Ministers, health-related statutory bodies and research institutions is being convened just after the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) — the highest advisory body to the Centre and States on education — gave its go-ahead to the draft National Commission on Higher Education and Research (NCHER) Bill proposed by a task force constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Overarching commission

The draft seeks to establish an overarching NCHER subsuming all education-related functions of all statutory councils, including the Medical Council of India, Dental Council of India, the Nursing Council and other institutions related to medical education. The draft NCHER Bill proposes that all regulation in professional practice in medical and allied field of health sector should be in the domain of the proposed National Council for Human Resources in Health.
Turf war

While the turf war over medical education has been on for a while now, the Prime Minister's Office has written to senior officers of both the Ministries that medical education would remain with the Health and Family Welfare Ministry. On the other hand, the Union Human Resource Development Ministry has been saying that the NCHER was based on the lines of the Yashpal Committee and the National Knowledge Commission recommendations.
Sibal's stand

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal has recently taken the stand that the draft Bill was the “property” of the task force and any final decision would be taken by the government after inter-ministerial consultations. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has also started State consultations on the proposed National Council on Human Resource for Health.

President Pratibha Patil in her joint address to Parliament last year had announced setting up of the two councils but somewhere down the line it was realised that the two had some overlapping areas.

Information access portal to bring youth, government closer

A comprehensive information access portal that will bridge the gap between Indian youth and the government machinery will be developed soon, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sports Pratik Patil said on Sunday.

“Youth have the potential to initiate change, but they are often disconnected from systems that have the power to bring into effect those changes,” Mr. Patil said, speaking to The Hindu while heading a 100-member youth delegation to China that returned on Sunday.

The Minister said “total integrated software” would be developed within a year and that the portal would serve as a youth database.

Any person in the 18-35 age-group will be able to sign up to the service by submitting a set of details to establish proof of identity. Email alerts about all government schemes, scholarships and programmes that fit the profile will be automatically generated.

The portal, which will be available in all official Indian languages, will also host a platform through which youth can ask queries and send suggestions. They will be forwarded to the relevant Ministry and follow-up action will be taken, Mr. Patil said.

He added that discussions were on with Indian industry to share employment-related details of youth who register on the site to address the “manpower-shortage and unemployment gap.”

Accompanying delegates from various fields of excellence — including a number of national youth award winners — on the second leg of a 10-day youth exchange visit to China, Mr. Patil called for greater cooperation between the two countries in fields such as higher education and information technology.

At an interactive session between Indian and Chinese youth at the Sichuan International Studies University on Saturday, Li Keyong, president of the University, said: “When most people think of China, it is Shanghai and Beijing that comes to their mind. A greater understanding of the complexities of the hinterland of China is required, and youth delegations serve as a very good platform.”

The delegates hopped from Shanghai to Hefei and finally to Chongqing and visited sites such as the Shanghai World Expo and the world heritage rock carvings site at Dazu.

To mark the 60th year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, a ‘Festival of India' will be organised in China shortly, beginning with an Indian film festival in Chongqing in the second week of July.

India, Canada sign civil nuclear deal

Breaking new grounds in their bilateral relationship, India and Canada on Sunday signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement and strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the first Indian Head of the Government to visit Canada after I.K. Gujral’s trip here 16 years ago, and his counterpart Stephen Harper hailed the signature of the nuclear agreement after their one-on-one and delegation level talks that will provide for cooperation in civil nuclear energy including import of uranium and equipment from Canada.

The civil nuclear agreement was signed by Srikumar Banerjee, Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy and Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon in the presence of the two Prime Ministers.

The deal also envisages cooperation in fields of nuclear waste management and radiation safety.

The agreement assumes significance in the context of Canada’s strong attitude in the past when it slapped sanctions against India after the Pokhran I and II tests in 1974 and 1998 respectively.

A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting said the two Prime Ministers committed themselves to the ratification of the agreement and completion of all remaining steps necessary to ensure its early implementation.

They underscored the potential for mutually beneficial civil nuclear cooperation and trade.

At a joint interaction with the media in the company of Mr. Harper, Dr. Singh said that civil nuclear cooperation agreement that the two countries have signed “breaks new grounds” in the history of bilateral cooperation in the sector.

“It reflects the change in International realities and will open new doors for mutually beneficial cooperation in nuclear technology,” he said.

Kanishka anniversary

The two Prime Ministers solemnly observed the occasion of the 25th anniversary of bombing of Air India flight 182 ’Kanishka’ on June 23, 1985 that killed 329 people on board.

Only a few days ago, Mr. Harper apologised to the families of the victims of the disaster for “institutional failures” of the government and promised some form of compensation to them.

In his remarks to the media, the Dr. Singh made a reference to his Canada visit coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the Kanishka aircrash.

“This terrible disaster and the suffering it has led to will forever remain a stark reminder of the need for all of us to work unitedly to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. The victims of this tragedy deserve full justice,” he said.

The two leaders, in the joint statement, strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and agreed to direct their respective governments toward greater cooperation in counter-terrorism and security related matters.”

Reiterating the need for intensifying global cooperation in combating international terrorism, they called for an early conclusion and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism within the UN framework.

Bilateral trade

Dr. Singh said he and Mr. Harper have today added fresh vitality and content to bilateral cooperation.

“We have identified renewable energy, clean technologies, and energy efficiency as other priority areas of cooperation. The newly-constituted Canada-India Energy Forum has already begun its work and has our full support. We have also decided to focus on mining and agriculture as the other priority areas of cooperation,” he said.

The Prime Minister said that two countries have reaffirmed their resolved to achieve the annual bilateral trade target of $15 billion within the next five years and to encourage two-way flow of investments.

The submission of report of joint study group to study the feasibility of a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement marks an important step in bringing the two economies close together.

“We have directed our officials to examine the report and expedite the next steps,” he said.

Dr. Singh said he was convinced that a strong India-Canada partnership will facilitate solutions to global challenges such as energy and food security, sustainable development, climate change and the fight against extremism and poverty.

“Towards this end, we have agreed to promote and maintain a high level dialogue between India and Canada, he said.

Two leaders committed to expanding a range of activities and institutional frameworks that will contribute to the shared goal of increasing bilateral trade to $15 billion in next five years.

They also announced their commitment to an annual dialogue on trade and investment between Canada’s Minister for International Trade and Indian Commerce and Industry Minister.

They welcomed the conclusion of negotiations of social security agreement and looked forward to its early signing followed by ratification and implementation.

Later speaking at a banquet hosted in honour by Mr. Harper, Dr. Singh said “India and Canada shared much in common. “We are separated by distance but we are united in our values. We both cherish our freedom, our democratic way of life, our pluralism and our spirit of tolerance.”

Recalling late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visit to Canada 37 years ago, he referred to her statement that “Greatest achievement of Canadian people was not the high economic standards they had attained but the fact that it is regarded as a nation of friends that had shown interest in expanding business ties with India.”

Dr. Singh said growing number of Canadian investors we coming to India in areas like telecommunications, environment, energy, financial services and transportation.

Indian investment in Canada has increased ten folds in last decade. “These are all very encouraging signs.”

Indian diaspora

The Prime Minister praised Canada’s ability to welcome and assimilate peoples from across the world and noted that Indian origin community in Canada today numbered approximately 1.1 million.

The community constitutes a bridge between the two countries and remained strong and unshakable even in the most difficult circumstances, he said.

Dr. Singh also announced that the government organise a year long festival of India in Canada in 2011 to show case rich cultural and art heritage and promote greater tourism and travel.

T leaders in other parties waste: KCR

The TRS chief, Mr K. Chandrasekar Rao, launched a scathing attack on leaders from Telangana region, describing them as “shameless and spineless” characters.

Calling Telangana leaders of all other parties as “waste” Mr Rao pointed out that because of these leaders the Telangana movement failed to achieve separate statehood despite huge public participation after the Union home minister’s announcement on December 9 last year.

Mr Rao also pinned the blame for the hardships of Telangana people on these leaders.

Speaking at the Telangana students wing membership programme at Telangana Bhavan, Mr Rao recalled that Coastal and Rayalaseema region leaders acted in unison while submitting resignations but Telangana public representatives, fearing their respective party leadership, backtracked from their decision to resign.

“The coastal leaders worked with a single agenda to stop the bifurcation of the state where as Telangana leaders are useless, shameless and spineless,” said Mr Rao. “Nobody can stop the Telangana state after December. Even the smart leaders,” declared Mr Rao while promising the students gathered a “Golden Telangana”.

AP logs in to Facebook, IT rolls into Vijayawada

The proposal of international IT giants to buy 3.91 lakh square feet of office space in Hyderabad has raised hopes of fresh investments into the state,

The proposals of Facebook India online services, Invesco and Accenture have been cleared by the Development Commissioner of IT SEZs. Facebook will set up its office in the Raheja Mindspace special economic zone, and will launch its incubator facility in two months. The Hyderabad office will be the first office of the social networking giant in Asia.

The expansion projects of Accenture and Invesco have also been cleared. Five IT SEZs cleared by the Development Commissioner are expected to create about 5,000 new IT jobs this year.

The IT revolution, which was hitherto limited to Hyderabad city, is slowly making inroads into Tier-II and III cities and towns. L& recently completed an IT SEZ in Vijayawada on 30 acres. More than 2 lakh square feet of space in this SEZ has been purchased by Chennai-based IT companies.

Indemax, Tektracks, Galla IT services and Exranet Software have entered into agreements with the government to set up their centres in Vijayawada.

“Vijayawada is being preferred as an alternative location because of its strategic location and the cost advantage in terms of physical infrastructure and human resources,” said Ms K. Ratnaprabha, principal secretary, IT & Communications department.

Warangal, Visakhapatnam and Tirupati have also received several enquiries in the last two months.

This surge has surprised real estate developers too. Infrastructure providers like Raheja and Divyasree have sold more than 32 lakh square feet of office space mostly to IT companies.

10 bound for Tirupati perish in road mishap

Ten people, who were on their way to Tirupati, died in an accident after the vehicle in which they were travelling rammed into a granite-laden lorry at Pocharam village on NH-9. The area falls under the Patancheru police station limits.

The victims (three families) were identified based on the vehicle registration number and other documents found on them. Members of the first family were Sunil Yadram Alwar, 42, his wife Alka, 35, their daughter Ashwini, 17, and their nephew, Ananta Anil, 19.

The second family included Ramesh, 40, his wife Surekha, 36, and their son Amul, 15. The third family comprised Haridas Atmaram Kale, 47, his wife, Sunita, 40, and their daughter, Bhagyasree, 18. All the victims were residents of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, and Sunil Yadram Alwar, Ramesh and Haridas Atmaram Kale, were partners in Ganesh Industries, an automobile spare parts industry located at Ahmednagar.

The Patancheru police said that at about 4 pm on Saturday, they had set off in a Scorpio to Tirupati, and the accident occurred at around 2 am at Pocharam village.

College managements deny plot, want government to release fee

The Consortium of Engineering College Managements Association (CECMA) strongly condemned the statement made by the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, that college managements are conspiring against the government by aiding and abetting the agitation taken up by the BC leader, Mr R. Krishnaiah, over the non-reimbursement of fees to students.

Officials of the CECMA said that the college managements have nothing do with Mr Krishnaiah’s agitation as he was fighting on behalf of the students and wanted the government to release the fee arrears amounting to more than Rs 2,000 crore.

“It’s unfortunate that the CM has made such baseless allegations against us. He should realise that it’s the failure of the government in releasing funds that led to this situation. The government promised to release Rs 1,000 crore by June but we have not received a single paisa so far. Ignoring that, the CM is now trying to put the blame on college managements for his government’s failure,” said the general secretary of the CECMA, Dr P. Rajeshwar Reddy. The CECMA represents over 600 engineering colleges in the state.

Mr Reddy also said that the colleges are extending their complete co-operation to the government even though the latter has not released funds for the past one year. “Many colleges are on the verge of closure owing to financial crisis as they did not receive the fee reimbursements. Despite this, we never troubled any student and allowed them to appear for the final exams. Instead of appreciating this, the government is threatening us,” said Dr Reddy.

The CECMA also came down heavily on some ministers and MLAs for regularly issuing public threats to colleges over the fee reimbursement issue.

“Some ministers said they are releasing funds to colleges even though some lack the requisite faculty and infrastructure. This is a lie as all our institutions are recognised by the AICTE, the state and the affiliating universities. The state can act against any college that does not adhere to rules, but it cannot blame us for their failure to reimburse fees,” stated Dr Reddy.

Meanwhile, Mr K. Rosaiah again appealed to all political parties not to politicise the issue and accused the parties of resorting to misinformation campaigns despite knowing the government’s efforts in this regard.

Bhansali full of praise for Abhishek’s acting

Raavan may have crashed at the box office and while critics feel that the film failed due to Abhishek Bachchan’s unconvincing performance, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is all praises for the actor. According to sources, Bhansali has never worked with Abhishek but has worked with Aishwarya in two films, and with Amitabh Bachchan in Black. In fact, Bhansali’s next film, Guzarish, has Ash in the lead role.

However, Bhansali liked Abhishek’s performance more than Aishwarya’s in Raavan. He even called Abhishek after he saw the film and applauded his performance. Abhishek, of course, was on cloud nine after getting such a call from Bhansali, especially since he was disappointed with the film’s lacklustre opening.

PM warns against exit of economic stimulus

The withdrawal of economic stimulus packages by advanced countries like France, Germany and Great Britain may lead to double-digit recession, warned the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh.

Without naming the troika, the Prime Minister said, “Contractionary policies, if followed by many
industrialised countries simultaneously, could provoke a double-dip recession”.

Addressing G-20 leaders of key emerging and advanced countries, the Prime Minister pointed to great risks in destabilising fragile recovery and deflation vis-à-vis inflation.

He prescribed a measured and calibrated exit from stimulus measures by developed countries that face “fiscal stress” and deficits. For countries like the US, where the markets have been nervous, he prescribed fiscal consolidation as the way forward.

The UK’s Tory-LibDem coalition government has already announced an aggressive package of steep cuts in budget spending, mopping up funds by taxing banking transactions.

The Prime Minister warned the developed countries from resorting to protectionist policies or imposing trade barriers with an adverse impact on revival in demand for goods and services in developing countries.

Super Saina scores hat-trick

It’s been a "Super" week for Saina Nehwal. After last week’s win at the Singapore Open Super Series, she defeated Japan’s Sayaka Sato on Sunday to defend the Indonesian Open Super Series in Jakarta, thus completing a hat-trick of titles. The week was also special as she also broke through the top three of world badminton rankings.

The Hyderabadi shuttler defeated Sato 21-19, 13-21, 21-11 in the 45-minute encounter
thus successfully defended her crown and adding her third Super Series title to her kitty.

Her two earlier wins were the Indian Open Grand Prix Gold event on June 13 in Chennai
and the Singapore Open Super Series title on June 20.

Though a bit restrained earlier in the week when she was ranked World No. 3 (she
wanted to win the Indonesian Open before celebrating), the Arjuna and Padma Sri
recipient seemed at last ready to bask in the glory.

"It’s a superb feeling - indeed an achievement to cherish always... becoming World No. 3, defending my Indonesian Open Super Series title, winning the Singapore Open Super Series and Indian Open - it’s reason enough to celebrate," Saina told this
newspaper from Jakarta on Sunday.

"I am eager to come home so that I can share these precious moments with my family
too," the 20-year-old said adding, "It has been three long very tiring weeks for me as I
have been playing these tournaments one after another. However, ending with a victory
motivates you to do better."

Did she miss the Chinese? "No comments," Saina laughed but then added, "That was an
advantage for me since the psychology is different when you are against a Chinese
player. But again, that does not mean that victory is all yours. You have to play your
best because you never know what determination and tactics your opponent is going to adopt."

The champion’s parents - Dr Harvir Singh and Usha Rani - were delighted with their
daughter’s latest victory.

"Saina has done us proud. With God’s grace, we hope she brings laurels to the country,"
Dr Singh said.

"I was really tensed when she was down in the second game. But she easily overcame
the hiccup in the third one," added Ms Usha.

National chief coach Pullela Gopichand was extremely proud of his ward. "It is a great
victory for Saina. Many aspire but only few are able to scale these heights. Saina is
hard-working and she really deserves it," he said adding, "Her focus now will be the
World Championships (August), the Commonwealth Games (October) and the Asian

"Now, looking at her achievements, I can say she definitely has it in her to get the gold
at the Olympics," Gopichand said.

PM rules out n-material being used for 'unintended purpose'

The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on Monday ruled out the possibility of nuclear material or equipment supplied to India under civil nuclear cooperation agreements being used for "any unintended purpose." "Nuclear material supplied to India will be fully safeguarded in terms of agreement signed with IAEA. We have fool-proof system of export controls. "We have complete civilian control and there is no scope whatsoever for any nuclear material or equipment being supplied going for any unintended purpose," Dr Singh told a joint press conference with his Canadian counterpart, Mr Stephen Harper after the two countries signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. He was responding to a question whether there were enough safeguards to prevent nuclear material coming to India under such agreements being used for any weapons programme. India already has civil nuclear agreements with eight countries like the US, France and Russia. Replying to questions, Mr Harper said Canada, which had imposed sanctions on India after the Pokhran-I and Pokhran-II atomic tests in 1974 (RPT) 1974 and 1998, cannot live in the past. "In relation to the nuclear cooperation, we have received all the reasons that we were looking. It is a good agreement. We got much more important reasons because we cannot live in the past of 1970s," Mr Harper said. He said India is a "powerhouse that is going to play a very important role in the world. "We are determined to develop cooperation not only for the sake of our industry, but it is also an agreement which is a symbol of our relationship," he said.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Saina smashes into 3rd place

Time for three cheers? “Not yet,” said city shuttler Saina Nehwal, keeping her emotions in control after breaking into the top three of world badminton, the rankings of which were released on Thursday.

“I am glad to be in the top three but the three cheers can wait until Sunday — as I aim to complete a hat-trick of titles,” Saina, who won the Indian Open Grand Prix Gold event in Chennai earlier this month and the Singapore Open Super Series last Sunday, told this newspaper from Jakarta.

She is currently participating in the Indonesian Open. On Thursday the defending champion def-eated Bulgaria’s Petya Nedelcheva 21-12, 21-17 to advance into the quarterfinals.

Her latest ranking notwithstanding, the Hyderabad shuttler has her feet firmly on the ground. “It was only when I won two consecutive titles recently that I realised I could climb up the rankings. Before that it (improving the rankings) did not feature in my plans because I was concentrating on playing fewer tournaments this year and focussing more on my training,” Saina said.

“Previously, my performance was limited to quarters and semi-finals but winning titles has made me more confident. However, with the No. 3 rank there will be more pressure and expectations to be met,” added the Arjuna and Padmashree recipient.

IPL owners for hike in pay cap

Reduced to being spectators in the last three months with the cricket board busy sorting out the Indian Premier League (IPL) mess that followed Lalit Modi’s suspension, the franchise owners finally got an opportunity to put forth their views on Thursday.

In their first meeting with the BCCI’s top brass without the suspended IPL chairman in Mumbai, the franchisees demanded, among other things, that the IPL increase the salary cap available to them in the players’ auction later this year, and that the current format of the tournament is not tinkered with.

With the addition of two new teams — Pune and Kochi — from the next season, the 60-game event will become a 94-game one.

The board had initially planned to reduce the number of games by splitting the teams into two groups, with a total of 68 matches. But most of the franchisees say they want the existing format of home and away games to be retained.

“The franchisees are of the view that the current format should be retained, with one home game and one away,” Royal Challengers Bangalore owner Vijay Mallya said after the meeting, which was attended by BCCI president, Mr Shashank Manohar and IPL interim chief Chirayu Amin.

“There were suggestions to restrict the schedule to 10 matches (per franchise). But our view is that we would like the earlier format to continue... Our revenues will take a hit if the number of games are decreased,” he added.

The owners also suggested that all players should go into the auction pool (no player is retained), and that the salary cap be raised to $9 million from $7 million.

Terror, Kashmir top India, Pak dialogue

India and Pakistan agreed on Thursday to narrow their differences and take more confidence-building measures on issues ranging from terrorism, humanitarian matters and Jammu and Kashmir in an effort to bridge the “trust deficit”.

The foreign secretaries, Ms Nirupama Rao and Mr Salman Bashir, in a marked change from the acrimony seen in bilateral encounters since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, held “cordial and constructive” talks here Thursday in a bid to “understand each other’s position and concerns.”

The home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, will travel to Islamabad on Friday on a two-day visit, when he is expected to press for a probe on Lashkar-e-Tayyaba founder Hafiz Saeed, believed to be the mastermind behind the 26/11 attack, and seek voice samples of handlers of the Mumbai attackers. Mr Chidambaram, who is primarily going for the Saarc home ministers’ conference on Saturday, will meet the Pakistan’s interior minister, Mr Rehman Malik, soon after reaching Islamabad.

Ms Nirupama Rao, the first senior Indian official to visit Pakistan since 26/11, said at a joint press conference with Mr Bashir: “Both countries should emphasise on reviving the disrupted dialogue process. We discussed modalities for restoring of trust and agreed that the dialogue process is the only way forward.”

Thursday, June 24, 2010

India look to hit back in final

It was a similar story for India and Sri Lanka before the hosts proved how formidable they are in these conditions on Tuesday. In more ways than one, the Asia Cup is the channel in build up to the World Cup and the hosts are proving to be better in tactics and execution.

Yet, the form book is no guarantee. In the last 12 months India and Sri Lanka have met 13 times, with both sides winning six each and the Kotla pitch proving spoilsport on the other. The last two cup finals have also been shared.

India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was not ready to dwell too much on the defeat in the last league game. “This result will not hamper our chances in the final. It will be a fresh start. This match gave us a chance to test our bench strength and I am happy with their performance,” said Dhoni.

Once that was decided, Dhoni should have also blooded R. Ashwin and Saurabh Tiwary. The off-spinner has got one game in four series while Tiwary would have done better playing for India ‘A’ in England rather than cool his heels here.

Kumar Sangakkara did his side a huge favour by chasing under lights. Mentally the Lankan seem to be in better shape.

“To bat second was planned in advance. The replacements did extremely well. It’s a cup final and we are going to hit the ground running,” said Sangakkara.

The hosts for the final will probably fall back on the tried and trusted duo of Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan.

The wicket here has played true. Assistance to seamers has added to the quality of cricket. The bat has not dominated wholly and that is reason enough for both camps to believe that the toss is not going to be all important.

The Indian middle order has not been consistent. Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma not clicking as a unit is adding to the pressure.

The SL camp was, however, guarded against complacency. “I am sure the boys will understand that we are not going to have a hat-trick and two crucial run-outs going our way in every game. India are a strong side and we have to be on top of our game to get the better of them.

“In the last Asia Cup final Sanath Jayasuriya and Ajanta Mendis came up with special performances, other players will have to put their hands up this time,” noted Sangakkara.

India’s bowling combination might require a re-think. Ashish Nehra has not been on top of his fitness. However, Dhoni confirmed that Nehra was fully fit and available for selection. Ashok Dinda proved easy fodder and if Nehra is unable to make the cut, the team will be a medium pacer short.

Mahi’s men go fishing!

After the team management had decided to give the players a day off (optional practice), Dhoni and Co. went fishing on the lake that surrounds the team hotel. Some members also utilised the free time to shop in the outskirts of the town near Kandy for artefacts. The reserve players attended practice.

India-Sri Lanka stats

* The day/night final will be the 15th between the two teams in ODI’s. Sri Lanka have won seven and India six in 14 previous finals played between the two teamsm while one match was abandoned due to rain.
* The Islanders have won three and lost two in five final matches played against India in Asia Cup.
* India Blue have won just two finals in last 12 limited overs tournaments.
* Head-to-head in ODI’s India leads Sri Lanka with 65 wins, 48 losses with remaining 11 matches ending without a result

Harper apologises for Kanishka blast

The Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Stephen Harper, will convey a heartfelt message on Wednesday to families of the victims of the Kanishka bombings on the 25th anniversary of the worst terror attack in the country's history.

“Some wounds are too deep to be healed even by the remedy of time,” Mr Harper wrote in his speech which he prepared for the occasion.

“We are sorry,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) said quoting the Prime Minister.

“Harper will say the destruction of Air India Flight 182 was, and remains, the single worst act of terrorism in Canadian history,” the national broadcaster reported.

“He will describe terrorism as an enemy with a thousand faces, and a hatred that festers in the darkest spots of the human mind,” it added.“This was evil, perpetrated by cowards. Despicable, senseless and vicious,” Mr Harper would say.

Mr Harper had promised to respond positively to the damning report into the 1985 Kanishka bombings, especially on the call for compensation, as the families torn apart by the tragedy said the word “closure” still haunts them.

The final report into the Air India tragedy that killed 329 people recommended ex-gratia payment to families of victims, mostly of Indian-origin, and blamed the Canadian government for its failure to prevent the country's worst terror attack.

Soon after the report's release, Mr Harper met the families and termed the document a “damning indictment of many things that occurred before and after the tragedy”.

“Our government launched this inquiry to bring closure to those who still grieve and to ensure that measures are taken to prevent such a tragedy in the future,” he had said.

Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only person ever convicted in the case, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2003.

Suspected ring-leader Talwinder Singh Parmar died in India in 1991, and the two main surviving suspects — Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri — were both acquitted in March 2005 after a 19-month trial.

Dam spillway lies unrepaired

The urgent repairs suggested for the spillway of the Nagarjuna Sagar dam nine months ago are yet to be undertaken though another monsoon season has started.

Experts are worried that the safety of the dam may be in jeopardy if floods occur before the spillway is repaired.

Part of the spillway and adjoining vents were damaged in the record-level discharge of water from Nagarjuna Sagar during the 2009 floods. The dam safety committee recommended immediate repairs and the irrigation department prepared proposals and also selected some companies to take up the work.

However, the government intervened and cancelled the proposal to hand over the work on nomination and directed the officials to go for short tenders.

But it took the department three months to call short tenders. When the bids were opened, only one company was found to be qualified. But the irrigation officials are now trying to relax the tender conditions again and this has generated another controversy.

All the files related to the issue have now been placed before the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, who will take a final decision on the matter.

"The safety panel recommended immediate action but we have little time left,” said Mr Adityanath Das, secretary of irrigation. “We have asked the panel whether we can take up the work post monsoon.”

With repairs at Srisailam almost completed, the inflows from Almatti, Narayanpur and Jurala will start reaching in July. This has added to the worries about the dam’s safety.

Slipper ad puts Didi in trouble

The railway minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee, appears to have landed in major trouble over an advertisement in which she is shown modelling for a particular brand of rubber slippers (hawai chappals).

A full-page advertisement in a Bengali daily on Monday showed Ms Banerjee walking in her now-famous rubber slippers. The name of the brand — Ajanta Hawai — is mentioned clearly along with the one-line caption in Bengali: “drirpta padakshwep (firm and bright footsteps).”

The Left parties have sought a clarification from the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on the matter and are also looking into moving the Election Commission to examine if a breach of the law has taken place.

Sensing trouble, Ms Banerjee has directed her ministry to investigate how the advertisement appeared, and her close associates claimed that “Didi had no knowledge” of it. The railway ministry has ordered an inquiry, which will be conducted by the Railway Board member-secretary, Mr Shivaji Rakshit.

An FIR has also been lodged at the Parliament Street police station here against the footwear company for having used the minister’s picture without her prior consent. The PMO has sought further information from the ministry.

T-mongers face threat of arrest

The police has decided to keep a close watch on controversial and provocative political workers and arrest them if need be in the wake of the Election Commission ordering stern action against those who try to place restrictions on campaign during by-polls.

The OU students joint action committee and several other outfits had threatened that they will not allow “outsiders” particularly those from Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra to campaign in the Telangana region where the by-polls are being held.

In a stern rebuke, the Chief Electoral Officer, Mr I.V. Subba Rao, said that no such restriction would be allowed and asked the police to take stringent action on those who intimidate.

“Campaigning in any part of the country is one of the basic rights given by the Constitution and nobody can meddle with that right,” he said. “We will not allow that. I am giving clear instructions to the police to take firm action if anybody breaches others’ rights.”

The EC has asked political parties to submit details of campaigners. Each recognised party can give 40 names and the EC will examine those who are controversial and keep a tight vigil on them.

“They will be followed and if necessary bind over cases will be filed against them,” said the director general of police, Mr R.R. Girish Kumar. “If the situation requires we will not hesitate to arrest them.”

District SPs will be given additional powers to seize posters, hoardings and cancel licensed weapons.

Stamp duty cut, land rates hiked

The state has decided to increase the market value of land to offset the imminent loss to the exchequer due to reduction in the stamp duty.

Land values in urban areas will increase between 10 to 20 per cent. Rationalisation of land values in agriculture and rural areas is also proposed. The registration department is hoping to net about Rs 550 crore.

The Centre forced a steep cut in the stamp duty under municipal reforms by threatening to stop release of funds under JNNURM, if the state fails to comply with its direction to reduce stamp duty to 5 per cent.

Area Type Old New
Banjara & Residential Rs 35,000 Rs 40,000
Jubilee Hills Commercial Rs 60,000 Rs 65,000
OU Colony Residential Rs 22,000 Rs 35,000
Kukatpally Residential Rs 25,000 Rs 28,000
Secunderabad Residential Rs 50,000 Rs 60,000
Maredpally Residential Rs 45,000 Rs 48,000

(All rates for high-end ****, in rupees per square yard)

* Flats will face composite rate for land, building.

Old: Rs 600 per sq. ft. for RCC structures plus prevailing land cost for undivided share of land.

New: Composite rate will be Rs 1,500 per sq. ft.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Prez asked to reject Guru's mercy plea

The union home ministry has asked the President, Ms Pratibha Patil's office to reject parliament attack convict Afzal Guru's mercy plea, informed sources said.

Guru is on the death row since 2002 for the 2001 parliament attack. His wife Tabassum filed a mercy petition with the Rashtrapati Bhavan four years ago.

The sources said the mercy petition was sent to the home ministry for its view and it returned the file last week, rejecting the plea because of the heinous nature of the crime.

With the home ministry recommending that the plea be rejected, it is now up to the president to take a call on the fate of Guru, exercising her powers under Article 72 of the constitution.

Army to plan Maoist ops

The Indian Army has agreed to depute some officers of the rank of brigadier and colonel to the Union home ministry to act as military advisers for anti-Naxalite operations and strategy in different states, defence sources confirmed.

The Army agreed to this after refusing to depute major-generals, as it felt officers of such high rank were not needed for such a job.

“The Army has agreed to send brigadiers and colonels as advisers. The home ministry had earlier asked for major-generals, but the Army declined on the ground that major-generals would be too senior for such a task. In any

case, colonels are the cutting edge of the Army and have the maximum field experience in leading counter-insurgency operations and are just right for the job,” a defence source said. “We are waiting for the home ministry to spell out the exact number of officers needed as advisers,” the source added.

14 score zero, pass Eamcet

As many as 14 students who got zero marks in all subjects were declared as qualified in Eamcet this year. Eight of them can also enter engineering colleges as no minimum marks are stipulated for scheduled caste/scheduled tribe students and the state has a copious 2.25 lakh seats to offer.

For the general category, the total marks in Eamcet is 160 and the qualifying mark is 25 per cent of the total which means students should score 40 marks for qualifying.

Interestingly, it is pretty difficult to get zero marks in Eamcet. The 14 students could easily have scored nearly 30 marks even if they had chosen to blurb a single option among A,B,C, and D for all questions. This year, the pattern of exam was such that the students could have got 30 to 32 marks for selecting the ‘A’ option for every question, 40 to 42 marks if they selected ‘B', 40 for ‘C’ and 30 for ‘D’. But the 14 students did not even bother to try their luck even in that manner.

The eight students in the engineering stream and six in the medical stream were so lazy that they did not even bother to blurb options in OMR answer sheet and handed over blank papers to invigilators after sitting in the exam centre for full three hours as they are sure that under the SC/ST quota they are bound to get a seat.

Thanks to the Medical Council of India’s stipulation that candidates should get a minimum of 50 per cent marks Eamcet and in BiPC subjects in Intermediate, these students are not eligible for admissions into medical courses.

However, eight of them can get admission in engineering colleges if they want. “We will give ranks to them after giving weight to their intermediate marks,” said an Eamcet official. “They can appear for engineering counselling and claim seats. It is easy to secure seats in engineering colleges since the state has around 2.25 lakh seats in 650 colleges.”

For all you know, these zero graders would be building bridges or designing software a few years from now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bypolls to 10 T seats on July 27

Bypolls to 10 of the 12 vacant Assembly seats from Telangana will be held on July 27, the Election Commission announced on Tuesday, setting the stage for a bitter political battle. Counting of votes would be taken up on July 30 from 8 am.

Byelections will be held to Sirpur, Chennur (SC), Mancherial, Yellareddy, Koratla, Dharmapuri (SC), Huzurabad, Siddipet and Warangal West that were held by the TRS, and Nizamabad (Urban) which was held by the BJP.

Byelections will not be held in the Sircilla and Vemulawada, where election petitions filed by losing candidates in the 2009 polls are pending in the AP High Court.

In Sircilla, Mr Mahender Reddy, a TRS rebel, who lost by 171 votes, has alleged irregularities in counting. In Vemulavala, Mr Adi Srinivas of the Congress contended that the winner, Ch. Ramesh in 2009, was not an Indian citizen. The TRS chief, Mr K. Chandrasekhar Rao, saw a “politically conspiracy” in the EC leaving out these two seats.

The notification would be issued on July 2 and the last day for filing nominations would be July 9. The last date for withdrawal of nominations is July 12. Polling would be held between 7 am to 5 pm on July 27.

Two students mowed down in front of city Kendriya Vidyalaya

The Kendriya Vidyalaya had a bloody opening for the academic year when a DCM van allegedly driven by a drunken man on Monday mowed down two girl students even as police personnel watched in Uppal crossroads at around 3 pm.

The school had opened for the academic year on Monday.

T. Srinitya, 10, a Class VI student, died on the spot, while Akhila, 8, who studied in Class III, succumbed to injuries while undergoing treatment. Several others were injured.

Their blood-soaked schoolbags and books lay strewn on the road after the mishap.

The scene was reminiscent of the accident near St. Ann’s School in Secunderabad a few years ago, where a student of the school was killed on the road.

Police personnel were present on the other side of the Uppal circle, near where the school is located.

There appeared to be no effort to regulate traffic when children are crossing the busy road which connects to the Vijayawada and Warangal highways.

Police tried to palm off the responsibility to the GHMC and school authorities, saying prevention of accidents required “more coordination”.

Eyewitnesses said the recklessly-driven van was coming in from LB Nagar and rammed into the student and parent, moments after they stepped out of the school and were walking across the road near the Ambedkar statue.

Local people caught hold of the driver of a speeding DCM truck and handed him over to the Uppal police.

“He seemed to be drunk,” said an eyewitness. The vehicle was set ablaze.

Srinitya was walking towards her house in Saraswathinagar along with her elder sister, Sri Mega, also a student of the school, when the van hit her.

“The DCM ran over Srinitya, while her sister was flung a few yards away,” said her cousin Bharath who collected her blood-stained books from the road.

“Sri Mega ran all the way to her home and broke down before her mother. Cops were there when it happened”. Srinitya’s father, Mr Gyaneshwar Rao, runs a car rental store in Secunderabad.

Akhila was walking home along with her brother Nikhil and mother Lavanya when the van knocked her down. Lavanya and Nikhil were flung a few yards away in the impact.

The girl’s uncle, Mr Dinesh, said local people rushed her to Kamineni hospital but she died while undergoing treatment. Her friend Anusha’s leg was broken but she is out of danger.

Asked about the inability of police personnel to prevent the slaughter, the Malkajgiri assistant commissioner of police, Ms P.V. Padmaja Reddy, said regulation of traffic required coordination of several agencies including GHMC and traffic wing since heavy vehicles plied in most of the roads in Cyberabad commissionerate.

“The school management has been intimated to work out a system to ensure the safety of the children,” she said. “We are working out alternative arrangements with the departments concerned to prevent such incidents.”

Rs 1,100 cr just to design Pranahita-Chevella project

The Public Accounts Committee made a shocking discovery that a whopping Rs 1,100 crore was to be paid to consultants just to prepare the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Pranahita-Chevella project. Of this, Rs 600 crore had been paid even before work on the project had started.

The PAC, headed by Dr Nagam Janardhan Reddy, which reviewed the progress of the project and payments made, instructed officials not to release the further claim of Rs 500 crore.

Sources said that officials informed the PAC that the cost of the Detailed Project Report was arrived at 3 per cent of the total project cost of Rs 36,000 crore.

Shocked MLAs questioned officials as to how such large payments could be made for preparing the designs alone.

The project is meant to bring water from the Pranahita, a tributary of the Godavari in Adilabad district, to Chevella, 40 km from the city.

“How can you sanction Rs 1,100 crore merely for project design? Is it justified? What about canals and the actual project cost,” Dr Janardhan Reddy reportedly told officials. “What is the yardstick for payment for design cost? We have never heard of such huge payments for designs alone.”

Other PAC members joined him and grilled the officials for approving such exorbitant payments for preparing designs. Dr Janardhan Reddy said he would write to the Chief Minister regarding the exorbitant payments.

Taken aback at the onslaught from the legislators irrigation officials expressed their inability to provide more details and promised to get back to them later.

In the wake of complaints of irregularities in the construction of major irrigation projects, the PAC has decided to meet daily to review each and every project after the Assembly session begins on July 7.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Swine flu shot for risk groups

The government is awaiting the Centre’s approval to vaccinate high-risk groups against swine flu, following a return of the infection in the state.

One person died of swine flu in Visakhapatnam, and four cases of swine flu have been reported in the capital since June 1. The inclement weather has only added to the problem, since the virus thrives in cool weather.

Pregnant women, children and the aged are considered to be highly vulnerable to swine flu infection. Pregnant women are six times more prone to the disease than normal people. In Kerala, where 16 swine flu deaths were reported, nine of the victims were pregnant women.

The Centre has provided 80,400 units of swine flu vaccine. Of these 69,000 units have been distributed to health workers, said Dr K. Subhakar, state coordinator of Swine Flu Nodal Centre.

The state government has obtained permission from the Centre to vaccinate health workers.The vaccine is effective for a year but it has side-effects too.

Health officials have sounded an alert as the onset of monsoon is believed to be the reason behind the fresh cases. The authorities are on high alert in areas bordering Karnataka and Maharashtra, where several swine flu cases were reported during the last few days.

Cracks widen as BJP slams Nitish

The BJP and JD(U) in Bihar’s NDA government on Sunday began drifting towards the brink of separation as two senior BJP ministers defiantly stayed away from the Chief Minister, Mr Nitish Kumar’s public programmes in symbolic protest against his rebuff to the BJP icon, Mr Narendra Modi.

The Deputy Chief Minister, Mr Sushil Kumar Modi, and health minister Mr Nand Kishore Yadav, both of the BJP, refused to participate in Mr Kumar’s ongoing Vishwas Yatra statewide tour a day after the state government controversially returned Rs 5 crores in flood relief aid from the Gujarat government in a unilateral decision without the state BJP’s knowledge.

In Ranchi, meanwhile, the senior BJP leader, Mr Yashwant Sinha, accused Mr Kumar of doing a “childish act”, and went on to add that if the Chief Minister did not want to continue his alliance with the BJP, “let him clearly announce it”.

Saying he failed to understand the logic of returning the Gujarat government’s relief aid, Mr Sinha added: “There is no use of doing this drama.”

The BJP’s central leadership is scheduled to meet in New Delhi on Monday to discuss the party’s differences with the JD(U), where some of its senior Bihar leaders are also likely to be present.

Senior politicians Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav and Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, meanwhile, in a swipe at their BJP-JD(U) rivals, described Mr Kumar’s move to return flood relief aid to Mr Modi as a “political drama” and dared the saffron party to cut off ties “if it has any self-esteem left.”

In Patna, a pre-scheduled public meeting on Sunday evening where both Mr Kumar and Mr Nand Kishore Yadav were to speak had to be cancelled.

GoM guns for Anderson

The Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal gas tragedy, which held its last meeting here Sunday and will submit its report to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, on Monday, will recommend filing of a curative petition in the Supreme Court to fix criminal liability, seeking extradition of former UCC chief Warren Anderson and cleaning up toxic material from the Bhopal site.

Sources close to the GoM said the curative petition in the Supreme Court would focus mainly on criminal liability of the accused and seek more stringent charges.

The court had earlier diluted the charges against Union Carbide officials — from the IPC section on culpable homicide not amounting to murder to only criminal negligence.

The GoM headed by the home minister, Mr P. Chidambram, which met for the third successive session on Sunday morning, is learnt to have suggested approaching the United States to seek extradition of UCC’s former CEO to face trial in India. The December 2-3, 1984 gas tragedy left over 15,000 dead and thousands maimed.

The GoM is likely to recommend burying of contaminated soil at the site in a scientific manner, putting the onus on the Madhya Pradesh government to carry out the task, with assistance from the Centre.

Briefing reporters, Mr Chidambaram said the GoM had gone into all aspects of the tragedy.

“We covered all subjects we had identified in the beginning. The minutes are being drawn up, and tomorrow the GoM will meet again at 10 am to finalise the minutes and the conclusions. I expect we will be able to send the report to the Prime Minister tomorrow afternoon.”

Sources said the GoM extensively discussed providing additional compensation to victims as the relief so far was inadequate. The recommendations may also include victims’ classification on the basis of health indices like injuries suffered and aftereffects of exposure to poisonous chemicals.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

All RRB exams are postponed

In the wake of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) unearthing a massive recruitment scam, the Railways has postponed the written examinations by all the Railway Recruitment Boards (RRBs) scheduled on June 27. These exams were to be held for the posts of enquiry-cum-reservation clerks and goods guards.

The Railway board has begun a technical audit into the examinations conducted by the various RRBs, including the assistant loco-pilot and assistant station master exams conducted by the Mumbai RRB.

Meanwhile, the CBI still awaits the nod from the Centre to arrest the Mumbai RRB chairman, Mr S.M. Sharma, amidst reports that his house in Mumbai is locked up.

A senior CBI official said, “We have sought the permission for Mr Sharma’s arrest as he is a joint-secretary rank official. As per the Section 6 of Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, we need the permission.”

CBI officials said they have no information about Mr Sharma’s house being locked up. The CBI is probing further into the scam, which, it has turned out, is a “family enterprise” of two top Railways officials — Mr S.M. Sharma and the Raipur additional divisional railway manager, Mr Arun Kumar Jagannadham.

Hunt is on for other accused including agents and sub-agents. CBI teams, which left for various parts of the country, are brining four suspects who were picked up for questioning. Four of the accused — Mr Vivek Bhardwaj, Mr Sharma’s son, Mr A.K. Jagannadham, his son, Mr Srujan and Mr Murthy — have applied for bail.

Meanwhile, Railway officials stated that Mr Sharma has been placed under suspension with immediate effect, until further orders.

Saina clinches Super Series

Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal clinched the second Super Series title of her career by winning the Singapore Open with a straight-game triumph over qualifier Tzu Ying Tai in the finals on Sunday.

Top seed Saina took just 33 minutes to beat Chinese Taipei's Tai 21-18 21-15 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

The world number six, who was the lone Indian left if fray after others crashed out by the semifinal stage, had bagged her maiden Super Series title in June last year when she claimed the top honours at the Indonesian Open.

The in-form Saina came here after winning the India Open Grand Prix Gold title only last week.

In a game that was close to start with, Saina was locked 18-18 with her rival at one stage before edging ahead. Saina had seven smash winners to show against her rival's three in the opening game.

In the second game, Saina displayed a better net game and outwitted her rival in rallies to emerge triumphant. PTI

Saudi Binladin to buy Maytas

Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS), a Mumbai-based infrastructure company that acquired Maytas Infra from the Ramalinga Raju family, has set the stage for transferring ownership of the Hyderabad-based company to Saudi Binladin Group (SBG), a construction conglomerate run by Bakr Bin Laden, the half-brother of the world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

The decision to induct the SBG, however, was formally taken by the Maytas Infra board on Saturday. According to the scheme approved by the IL&FS-dominated Maytas board, the company will issue 1,54,59,133 new shares — 20 per cent post-issue stake — to SBG Projects Investments Ltd, a Mauritius-based arm of SBG, for an undisclosed amount. The new investor will then have to make an open offer to buy an additional 20 per cent. If the open offer is successful, SBG will hold 40 per cent — the highest in the company — and can take over management from IL&FS.

IL&FS replaced the Rajus as promoter of Maytas Infra in September 2009 after it acquired a majority stake by taking over the Ramalinga Raju family’s shares, which were pledged with the institution.

The Raju family, according to sources, will sell its stake in the company after August, when the lock-in norms for the founding promoter’s stake end. According to sources in the company, the deal is worth around Rs 250 crores.

Currently, IL&FS has a 37 per cent in Maytas Infra while the Raju family still holds about 23 per cent. After the issue of shares to the SBG, IL&FS’ stake will be 30 per cent and the Raju family’s stake would fall to around 19 per cent.
This newspaper had reported in November about IL&FS’ plans to induct a strategic investor for infusing funds into Maytas Infra. IL&FS, essentially an infrastructure financing company, also intended to relinquish its management control over Maytas Infra and exit the company on profit.
The Raju family, according to sources, will sell its stake in the company after August, when the lock-in norms for the founding promoter’s stake end.
According to sources in the company, the deal is worth around Rs 250 crores.

Sonia orders probe into Jalayagnam

The Congress High Command has decided to appoint an internal committee to look into the continuous allegations regarding the Polavaram dam and the contractors involved.

The irrigation minister, Mr Ponnala Laxmaiah, returned from New Delhi on Saturday after submitting details on the Polavaram tenders and the progress made till now. He met Mr Ahmed Patel, the political secretary to the Congress president, and few other senior leaders to explain details about the Polavaram project and alternatives suggested by the engineering expert, Mr T. Hanumantha Rao.

Sources close to the minister said that Mrs Sonia Gandhi was upset when she learnt that two contracting agencies had allegedly been paid Rs 250 crore without actually doing any work.

M/S B. Seenaiah and Company and M/S Madhucon Projects, a company owned by Telugu Desam parliamentary party leader, Mr Nama Nageswara Rao, were awarded the project works and paid mobilisation advance during 2005-09. Since both the companies had failed to start the work, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy government had cancelled the work and decided to go for fresh tenders.

The Congress senior leaders in Delhi have apparently expressed their displeasure over the issue and asked Mr Ponnala why the government could not recover the money from the contractors as they had failed to execute the tender.

Sources also revealed that the Governor, Mr E.S.L. Narasimhan, has also submitted a report on the Jalayagnam progress and irrigation experts in the party are studying both Mr Ponnala’s report and the Governor’s report to identify the flaws in the programme.

After returning from New Delhi, Mr Ponnala went to the Chief Minister to update him with the details of his visit. It may be recalled that Mr Ponnala Laxmaiah had himself requested Mr K. Rosaiah to appoint an inquiry committee to probe into the allegation levelled by some of the senior leaders in the Congress. The Chief Minister, however, had declined to act on that request and instead had expressed serious concern that the public criticism by a senior leader would dent the image of the party.

In Friday’s Cabinet meeting, the Chief Minister made it clear that under no circumstances would the Polavaram design be changed and directed other ministers to defend the government stand on the dam.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Japan, US to explore joint project in Okinawa, Hawaii

Japan and the US will explore a joint experimental project of a next-generation “smart grid” power transmission network in Okinawa and Hawaii, the Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said here.

Following the signing of a memorandum of cooperation the same day, a project-finding mission consisting of government officials and experts of both countries is expected to be sent in July or later to the Japanese southwestern prefecture of Okinawa as well as to Hawaii.

Okinawa and Hawaii are common in that the islands largely depend on fossil fuels, especially oil, and are eager to introduce renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, according to a METI official. Their climate conditions are also similar.

“We hope to create a clean energy model at remote islands and promote it to the world,” the official said on Thursday.

A smart grid, which uses information technology, is a power transmission and distribution network that aims to achieve stability of electricity supplied by fluctuating renewable energy.

The two countries have been discussing on how to cooperate in the area of developing clean energy technologies under a joint task force.

The task force was set up in line with an agreement reached in November between then Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and US President Barack Obama.

The signing ceremony was attended by Japanese Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima, US Ambassador to Japan John Roos, Okinawa Gov Hirokazu Nakaima and Hawaii Gov Linda Lingle.

Bhopal gas disaster: GoM panel meets for second day

Meeting for the second day in a row, the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Bhopal gas tragedy today discussed legal options available in the aftermath of the trial court judgement and reached “some tentative conclusions“.

“We discussed all pending legal issues and legal options available to the government after the judgement of trial court,” said Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who heads to the reconstituted GoM, after its meeting here.

“We heard all concerned and reached some tentative conclusions,” he told reporters but did not give details.

He said “these conclusions” will be firmed up in the report to be submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.

The nine-member GoM was reconstituted on June 7 amid raging controversy over the quantum of punishment given to those accused in the case, with the political class in unison terming it as “too little, too late“.

It began its meeting on Friday.

Among various issues, the GoM is considering increase in compensation for those affected by the 1984 disaster.

The Planning Commission has already approved a package of Rs 982 crore for the gas disaster victims.

Chidambaram said the GoM, at the next meeting this evening, will discuss issues relating to health and how to bring healthcare to people who have suffered and “perhaps continue to suffer“.

Issues related to drinking water will also be discussed.

The Prime Minister has directed the GoM to expedite its work and asked it on June 14 to submit report within 10 days.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Masjid blast accused face attack threat

The Mecca Masjid blast accused, Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma of Abhinav Bharat, were lodged in the Chanchalaguda jail on Thursday after the CBI expressed fears that they would be attacked by jihadi terrorists in the Charlapally jail.

The 14th Additional CMM court on Thursday accepted the CBI request to lodge them in separate cells in Chanchalguda jail. The city police had alerted the CBI about the danger of attacks. Devender and Lokesh, who are accused in Ajmer blasts too, were brought to the city amid tight security on Thursday on a prisoner transit warrant issued by the court earlier. The two had been arrested by Rajasthan police and lodged in Ajmer jail.

“We filed a petition seeking a separate cell for the accused as there is a serious risk for their life from the other prisoners in Charlapally jail,” said the CBI senior prosecutor Mr T.V. Ramana. However, the Chanchalguda jail superintendent, Mr Chandrasekhar, said the possibility of such attacks were also there in his prison.

It is learnt that the Chanchalaguda jail authorities may write to the court and CBI asking that the accused be shifted to some other prison. Intelligence agencies have also alerted that there is a risk for the life of the accused from the absconding Tehreek Galba E islam suspect Vikar Ahmed. Tight security was clamped at the Nampally Court where the duo was produced. Task Force sleuths, City police armed reserve, and quick reaction teams were deployed.

The CBI alleged in its memo before the court that Devender used a fake driving license to buy SIM card which was used to trigger the blast in the masjid. Another unexploded bomb was recovered at the blast site. Two other accused in the case, Sandeep Dangde and Ramchandra Kalsangara, who allegedly made the bombs, are absconding. Meanwhile, the city police commissioner, Mr A.K. Khan, said police did not arrest anyone in the city in connection with the Mecca Masjid blasts.

20 AP students land in Delhi

About 400 Andhra Pradesh students pursuing medical courses in violence-hit Kyrgyzstan will return home in three days. The first batch of about 150 students will arrive here in the early hours of Friday.

On Thursday, around 78 Indian medical students, 20 of them from AP, returned to Delhi safely from the trouble-torn country. They had moved to the capital Bishkek to escape the fighting took a commercial flight to Delhi and were all praise for the quick help rendered by the India embassy. ISM Focal Point, which is the authorised consultant for MBBS admissions in Kyrgyzstan, has been sending students from AP since 2004. This year, they sent about 60 students from the state.

“We were informed by the officials of Indian embassy that all our students would come back here in three days,” said Mr Nageshwar Rao, director, ISM Focal Point. “Fortunately, AP students prefer to join in universities located in northern region of Kyrgyzstan while the violence erupted in southern region,” he added. “We are in touch with all our students. They told us they are safe and are coming back as holidays were declared for all the educational institutions.”

According to Mr Rao, students from Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Punjab and Bihar opt for universities located in south Kyrgyzstan and have been badly affected by the violence. Kyrgyzstan is a favourite destination for medical studies as the cost of education is less. Students need to spend just Rs 9 lakh to complete MBBS, which includes tuition fee, accommodation and food charges.

“We are sending students from almost all the districts,” said Mr Rao. “But majority are from Telangana districts such as Karimanagar, Warangal and Adilabad.” Though the practice of Indians studying medicine in erstwhile Russia started a few decades back the momentum has picked up in the last six years with new destinations such as China, Nepal and Belize emerging.

Majority of the students who reached Delhi on Thursday had to wind up their semester ahead of schedule, thanks to the ethnic strife. “We were not really affected by the clashes that took place away from the capital city,” said Ms Fathima, a student from Kakinada.

But other students who escaped to Bishkek from the troubled areas have either lost their passports and valid documents and are being taken care of by the embassy.

Prithvi-II blasts off successfully

India on Friday successfully test-fired its indigenously developed, nuclear-capable, ballistic missile Prithvi-II from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur, about 15 km from here off the Orissa coast.

The missile mounted on a mobile launcher was blasted off from the launch complex-3 in the ITR at around 6.50 am, defence sources said.

"The trial of Prithvi-II, conducted by the Army, has gone through nicely," the ITR director, Mr S.P. Dash said. With a maximum striking range of 350 km, Prithvi-II is capable of carrying a pay-load of 500 kg.

The test firing of the surface-to-surface missile, which has already been inducted into Indian armed forces, was a users trial by the Army's specialised group "strategic force command" (SFC), the sources said.

Prithvi, the first ballistic missile developed under the country's prestigious Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), is propelled by liquid propulsion twin engine.

With a length of nine metre and one metre diameter, Prithvi-II uses an advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory.

The entire trajectory of Friday's trial was tracked by a battery of sophisticated radars and electro-optic telemetry stations positioned in different locations for the post-launch analysis, the sources said.

The trial was conducted in the presence of Army officials and scientists as part of an exercise to well acquaint the personnel with various aspects of the sophisticated missile, they said. The last trial of the Prithvi-II missile was successfully conducted from the same site on March 27, 2010.

RRB chief son in paper leak racket

The city unit of the Central Bureau of Investigation has busted a major racket in the railways that was leaking out question papers of recruitment exams for money.

Sleuths arrested four persons including Mr Vivek Bhardwaj, the son of the Mumbai railway recruitment board chairman, Mr S.M. Sharma, on Thursday in connection with the recruitment scam and seized lakhs of rupees of cash from them. CBI sources said that the question paper in the recent recruitment test for assistant station master was also leaked out by the racket.

“Before the exam the accused used to identify the prospective candidates and leak out the questions,” said an investigating official.

“They withhold the original certificates of the candidates till they pay the bribe. For the posts like ASM they are collecting Rs 3 lakh.” Question papers had been leaked out in Nagpur, Sholapur and several other centres.

It was the Hyderabad Task Force police who first got wind of the scam and it passed on the information to the CBI after realising the case had national repercussions.

TD in eye of storm over Rs 7cr seizure

The main opposition Telugu Desam found itself in a fix on Thursday after the Telugu Yuvata state secretary, Mr P. Hari Babu’s father, Mr P. Ramakrishnaiah Naidu. and four friends were caught with unaccounted cash worth Rs 7 crore in their cars.

Adding to the party’s acute discomfiture, the Kadiri police who intercepted the two vehicles also found in them number plates (AP09AG393 and AP03AG0099) of cars that belonged to the convoy of the TD chief, Mr N. Chandrababu Naidu.

Congress leaders immediately alleged that the TD president had transported black money for local bodies’ elections, but Mr Hari Babu claimed that the cash belonged to his business friends Prakash and Basavaraju of Karnataka and was meant to purchase tipper lorries.

He also came up with the strange explanation that Mr Chandrababu Naidu’s number plates “probably” fell on the road and he had picked them up. “As a TD worker, I collected them and kept it in my vehicles,” he said. “If I use them, it is a crime. But, I didn’t.”

Soon after the seizure, the Income Tax department conducted flash raids at the posh houses of Mr Hari Babu in Nalanda Nagar and Vidyanagar of Tirupati and reportedly seized incriminating evidence.

Mr Ramakrishnaiah and four friends were travelling in two vehicles from Hospet to Tirupati when they were stopped by the Kadiri police on Wednesday evening for a routine vehicle check. The cops were stunned to see cash worth Rs 7 crore cash in 13 gunny bags and immediately arrested Mr Ramakrishnaiah, a company accountant, Mr Jangam Ramu, Mr Sompalli Venkataramana, Mr Bollepalli Venkatesh and Mr A. Ramesh.

On being questioned, the TD leader’s father told the police that the money had been withdrawn by Mr Hari Babu’s friends from the SBI Hospet branch in Karnataka and was being taken for routine business transactions to two iron ore agencies, Venkateshwara Logistics and Sairam Associates, floated by his son in Tirupati. But police registered a case under sections 41 (A) and 102 CrPC besides section 132 of the Income Tax act. The arrested were presented before senior civil judge in Kadiri and granted bail.

“We have the right to seize cash from any person who carries more than Rs 10 lakh,” said the district superintendent of police, Mr Maneeshkumar Sinha. The Telugu Yuvata leader, meanwhile, rubbished allegations that the cash belonged to Mr Chandrababu Naidu. “I had only arranged the transport for my friends when they required AP-registration vehicles,” he said. “My friends are into mining export business at Bellary and the cash was meant for purchase of tippers. We submitted proof to the SP of Anantapur.”

A senior TD leader clarified that Mr Hari Babu purchased a Safari vehicle for Mr Chandrababu Naidu’s convoy when he took out his ‘Mee Kosam Yatra’ at Chandragiri fort town last year. The same number is given to four or five vehicles in a convoy for security reasons.

“This way, Mr Naidu’s convoy number was put on the vehicle,” he said. “After the yatra, the vehicle was sent back to Tirupati. Though Mr Hari Babu replaced Mr Naidu’s number plate with his own, he kept the old number plate inside just to show how close he was to the party chief.”

Meanwhile, the minister for rural development, Mr Vatti Vasanth Kumar, demanded a CBCID prone into the cash seizure and the Youth Congress leader, Mr K. Nagendra Kumar, alleged that the cash was ‘black money’ of the TD chief.
But the TD said neither the party nor his president had any connection with the cash seizure. “Some vested interests are spreading canards,” said the party spokesman, Mr Varla Ramaiah.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Congress in a bind over strategy for bypolls in T

Just when the Congress had heaved a sigh of relief at averting the possible rebellion of the Kadapa MP, Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy, it finds itself in a dilemma over what strategy to adopt on Telangana in the forthcoming by-elections in the region.

The Karimnagar MP, Mr Ponnam Prabhakar, and the Zahirabad MP, Mr Suresh Shetkar, called on the law minister and in-charge of AP affairs, Mr Veerappa Moily, and demanded that the party should not go against popular sentiment in Telangana.

They want the party to clearly state during the poll campaign that the Congress is in favour of a separate Telangana state.

This view is firmly opposed by Congress politicians whose constituencies are in the other two regions. It is pertinent to note that the government whip in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, Dr S. Sailajanath, called on Mr Moily and urged him to ensure that the party uses the slogan of development and other welfare schemes during the election campaign and does not commit to anything on Telangana.

Mr Prabhakar wants the party to expose the Telugu Desam and the BJP for not conceding to the demand for a separate state when they were in power, even though they were instrumental in the creation of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.

The MPs want the party to highlight its contribution to Telangana: the announcement by the Union home minister on December 9 and also the appointment of the Srikrishna committee.

Anti-TRS petitions put EC in a fix over bypolls

The Election Commission is unable to announce the dates of the ensuing bypolls in Tel-angana because of petitions challenging the victories of candidates from three of the segments in 2009 pending before the High Court.

Provisions in the Rep-resentation of People’s Act 1951 allow the EC to hold bypolls even when petitions challenging the declaration by the returning officer are pending. But in this instance, two petitioners (the nearest rivals) have requested that they be declared the winners and this has troubled the EC.

It is now consulting legal experts on whether it can hold bypolls in these three Assembly segments in this context. Bypolls to 12 Assembly segments have to be conducted before August 13 and the EC wants to issue notification by June end and hold polls in the last week of July.

The petitions before the HC challenge poll victories of Mr K.T.Rama Rao, son of TRS chief, Mr K. Cha-ndrasekhar Rao, (Sircilla), Mr Chennamaneni Ramesh (Vemulawada) and Mr Dasyam Vinay Bhaskar (Warangal West).

BP to reserve $20b for spill

The White House and BP tentatively agreed on Wednesday that the oil giant would create a $20 billion fund to pay claims for the worst oil spill in American history.

The fund will be independently run by Kenneth Feinberg, the mediator who oversaw the 9/11 victims compensation fund, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.

The agreement was not final and was still being negotiated when President Obama and his top advisers met on Wednesday morning with BP’s top executives and lawyers. The preliminary terms would give BP several years to deposit the full amount into the fund so it could better manage cash flow, maintain its financial viability and not scare off investors.

The talks have been complicated by the fact that BP’s ultimate liabilities for the cleanup and lost business are unknowable since the two-month-old leak of its well in the Gulf of Mexico could be spewing oil for months more.

To date, BP has spent more than $1 billion on containment, cleanup and claims from the Coast Guard, fishermen, oil workers and other businesses.

Since late last week, the negotiations have been closely held given the market sensitivity for BP, which has seen its stock lose about half its value since the spill.

BP’s next dividend for shareholders is another issue on the table. Some members of Congress have called for blocking any dividend payments, though the legality of such action is in dispute.

The tentative agreement comes a day after Mr Obama addressed the nation.

Auto driver’s son tops Eamcet

He lost his elder brother just months before the Eamcet exams. His father earns a couple of hundred rupees driving an auto and his mother works in neighbourhood houses. He is Mohammed Gouse Jani from Visakhapatnam, topper of this year’s Eamcet.

Jani scored a staggering 159 marks out of 160, the highest marks in the engineering stream, the results of which were announced on Wednesday.

The student surmounted unbelievable odds to reach his goal. “I am blessed by the almighty. At one point of time, I did not have the money to study and now people are earnestly willing to help me. I thank them for their kind support and I also thank Narayana Sir for giving me free education to complete my Intermed-iate,” said an overjoyed Jani who said he studied 10 hours a day for the exams.

The lack of basic amenities in life did not deter him from dreaming of becoming an engineer, if not for anything else, but to help out his parents, who, he says, made great sacrifices for him. His father, Mohd Ameer earns Rs 100 to Rs 200 daily by driving autos and his mother, Shehnaz, works in nearby houses. But “this has never held them back from facilitating my education,” says Jani, dedicating his success to his parents.

The family lost their elder son in January, just months ahead of the Inter exams and Eamcet. But on Wednesday there was no sorrow in the household.

“I got a call from the Corporate College zonal in-charge that my son had topped the state in Eamcet. I was dumbstruck for a few seconds and immediately broke the news to my wife Shehnaz and my parents. It soon spread like wildfire in our locality — Muslim Thatichetlapalem — and people started flooding into my house,” said an ecstatic Ameer.

Eamcet Top-5

Engineering stream

Md. Gouse Jani, Vizag (159)
B. Pallavi, Vijayawada (159)
A. Janardhan Reddy, Guntur (159)
S. Sai Nitish, Kakinada (158)
K. Kiran Babu, Krishna (157)

Medical stream
M. Rahul, Hyderabad (156)
R. Lalitha, Hyderabad (156)
N. Kiranmayee, Vijayawada (156)
A. Sri Lakshmi, Vijayawada(155)
V. Saikiran, Hyderabad (154)
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