ADVERTISEMENT

National

"Science Express" to travel to 55 cities in seven months

Science Expression' exhibition train highlighting the development achieved by India in scientific and technical skills, inaugurated at Gandhi Nagar station, Gujarat on October 02, 2009.
Science Expression' exhibition train highlighting the development achieved by India in scientific and technical skills, inaugurated at Gandhi Nagar station, Gujarat on October 02, 2009.

India's "Science Express", a fully air-conditioned train with more than 150 multi-media exhibits and video clips and more than 300 large-format visual images about cutting-edge research, began its Phase III journey in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, yesterday.

The Phase III was inaugurated by Railway Board Chairman S S Khurana From Gandhinagar, the train will travel to as many as 55 locations all over India, covering about 18000 km in seven months.

At each place, the train will halt for between three and five days, during which thousands of students and general public are expected to visit the exhibition.

The 55 locations will include Ahmedabad, Aurangabad, Madgaon, Hubli, Bangalore, Mysore, Calicut, Thiruvananthapuram, Salem Town, Balasur, Dimapur, Darbhanga, Chhapra, Amethi, Jammu Tawi, Kapurthala, Delhi Cantt, Agra Cantt, Jhansi and Ujjain.

The sparkling white 16-coach train was custom-made and specially fabricated at Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala. It was flagged off from New Delhi on October 30, 2007 by the Prime Minister of India and the Chancellor of Germany.

In the first two phases, the train has travelled to 108 stations in the country and more than 35 lakh people, mostly students, have visited the exhibition, have learnt about science through the audio-visual exhibits and interactive tools.

At each location, the exhibition is held in the station premises with the active support of the local railway administration, which provides exhibition space, basic amenities and security.

Chairman of the Railway Board, S.S. Khurana and the other officials at the inauguration of the ‘Science Express’ train, at Gandhi Nagar station, Gujarat on October 02, 2009.
Chairman of the Railway Board, S.S. Khurana and the other officials at the inauguration of the ‘Science Express’ train, at Gandhi Nagar station, Gujarat on October 02, 2009.

Most of the exhibits in the train have been developed by the renowned Max Planck Society in Germany and deal with the mysteries of the world, ground-breaking discoveries, emerging issues, cutting-edge science and future-oriented technologies.

Some of the exhibits deal with topics like how the universe began, space, black holes, galaxies, the Big Bang, biotechnology, the world of senses, architecture of the mind, renewable energy, bio-engineering, genetics, cell biologiy, computer applications in medicine and global challenges.

There is dedicated coach on "Climate Change – Cause, Effect and Mitigation", sponsored by HSBC Bank as an initiative of the "Earth Sciences Forum". Exhibits on "Energy Conservation" from the Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) and on "Nutrition" from Nestle are the new attractions in the third phase.

Indian Railways provides online maintenance and upkeep support for the train during the entire itinerary for a smooth and trouble-free run, an official press release added.

NNN

7 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll rises to 335

Seven more influenza A (H1N1) deaths were reported from different parts of India today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 335, an official statement said.


Two of the deaths occurred today in Maharashtra, two in Karnataka and one in Gujarat. Besides, two deaths that were reported in Gujarat on September 27-28 have now been confirmed as cases of swine flu by the results of the laboratory tests, it said.


Of the total deaths, Maharashtra now accounts for 132, while 98 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 36 in Andhra Pradesh, 34 in Gujarat, 14 in Delhi, 5 in Kerala, 4 in Tamil Nadu, 3 each in Goa and Haryana, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.


Meanwhile, 158 fresh cases of the flu were reported today from across the country, including 45 in Maharashtra, 36 in Delhi, 24 in Karnataka, 17 in Andhra Pradesh, 15 in Kerala, 7 in Haryana, 6 in Tamil Nadu, 2 each in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, and 1 each in Chandigarh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.


With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 10,533, the statement added.


NNN

Tamil activists storm Sri Lankan mission in Delhi

A group of about 40 persons, said to be activists of a Tamil group, stormed into the premises of the Sri Lankan High Commission in the Chanakyapuri area here this afternoon and damaged some property.

The incident occurred around 1430 hours and the protesters were believed to have been angered by the alleged firing by Sri Lankan navy personnel on Indian fishermen.

The sources said the protesters, who arrived in vehicles, pelted stones at the High Commission and damaged some window panes and flower pots. The group dispersed from the spot within minutes and no one has been arrested, they said.

"We deeply regret this unfortunate incident, which has involved an act of violence against a diplomatic mission," a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs said.

"The law enforcement agencies have swung into action. Security around the High Commission premises has been strengthened. Action as prescribed by the law will be taken against the perpetrators of this incident," the statement added.

NNN

Tharoor finally moves into official residence

For those of you who wondered how that story ended, it can be told now: Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor has finally moved into his official residence.

"Sorry abt silence 2dy. Finally took possession of my official residence as MP. Day began at 4 am w Ganapathi homam and hasn't yet ended," Dr Tharoor said in a message on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday.

He said he had hosted a "thank-you" lunch for the workers who had toiled for more than two months on the house. Twitter messages have to be under 140 characters in length.

Last month, Dr Tharoor, former United Nations Under-Secretary General, and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had got caught in a controversy after a newspaper reported that they had been staying in suites in five-star hotels in the capital because the official houses allotted to them were not yet ready for occupation.

Though both ministers had paid for the suites and other expenses in the Taj Mansingh and ITC Maurya hotels out of their own pockets, their decision to stay in five-star hotels did not go down well with the Congress leadership, which has launched an austerity drive because of the drought in many parts of the country after the deficient rainfall. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had to "request" both of them to move out of the hotels immediately.

Dr Tharoor had already moved out of the hotel before the report had appeared and Mr Krishna shifted to an alternative accommodation on that day itself.

Dr Tharoor indicated that he had been staying at the Naval Officers' Mess in Kota House in the interim period. "Had a great stay at Naval Officers' mess in Kota House before that. Our Navy runs a tight ship! Thx to Adm Verma & his efficient crew," he said, referring to Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma.

He went on to say that he had attended the dinner hosted by Vice-President M Hamid Ansari for Vietnamese Vice-President Nguyen Thi Doan in the evening.

"Attended Vice-Pres' dinner for visiting Vietnamese V-P, then down to unpacking & finding more&more things in the house that don't work," he added.

NNN

Tharoor says Gandhi would have liked people to work on his anniversary

Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, who was amongst those who paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi on his 140th birth anniversary at Raj Ghat this morning, has suggested that the Father of the Nation would have liked people to work harder on such days.

"Gandhiji said 'Work is Workship' & we enjoy holiday on his birthday. He wld hv wanted us to work harder today," Dr Tharoor, former United Nations Under Secretary-General, said in a remark on micro-blogging site Twitter.

To buttress his case, he said Vietnamese Vice-President Nguyen Thi Doan, who is currently on a visit to India, had expressed similar views.

"Vietnamese VP said ydy: in V'nam, Ho Chi Minh's birthday is a working day & citizens are expected to put in extra effort at work to honour him," he said in another of the "tweets", which are required by Twitter to be less than 140 characters in length.

About the all-religion prayer at Raj Ghat, he said, "Attended interfaith prayers at Rajghat: Gandhiji's 140th birth annivrsry. Unusually sunny&bright: metaphor for light he still shines."

Dr Tharoor's "tweets" have got him into a bit of controversy in recent weeks and last month he had to apologise for referring to the economy class of air travel as "cattle class" after angry reactions from both the Opposition and within his own party, the Congress.

NNN

India to open 16 new overseas cultural centres in 2 years

Indian Cultural Centres were opened in Bangkok and Tokyo last week as part of a plan to set up 16 such centres within two years across the world, raising the total number to 40.

The centre in Bangkok was jointly inaugurated by Thailand's Cultural Minister Teera Slukpetc and Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Karan Singh. ICCR Director General Virendra Gupta and Indian Ambassador Latha Reddy were also present.

The Thai minister expressed deep appreciation for the interest taken by the Indian government in bringing the two countries closer and mentioned the affinities they shared in the areas of art, language and religion.

"The inner spirit of Indian culture involves the acceptance of forces coming from every side. Therefore what’s bringing India and Thailand together is the shared cultural heritage and the region has been hosting the great glory of Indian culture for a long time. I want Thais to see India as a country that’s both ancient and modern," Dr Karan Singh said.

"With its spiritual and cultural traditions, India is moving onwards into the future while reinterpreting its spiritual heritage for the global society. Having set up centres in many countries in the West, India is looking East. Our main goal is to set up people-to-people contacts and this can be done through music , art and dance," he said.

The Tokyo centre is in a building owned by the Indian government, with half being used for the Chancery and the other half for the Cultural Centre. It has a 200-seat high-tech auditorium, exhibition halls and classrooms. A Kathak group and sitarist Pandit Debu Chaudhary performed at the opening ceremony.

"The additional funds released by the Government are for a better projection of India as a soft power. ICCR'S cultural diplomacy is conceptualized in a bilateral relations matrix," Mr Gupta said.

He said India had a long-term interest to strengthen SAARC and cultural centres would be opened in all neighbouring countries.

Mr Gupta said India already had cultural centres in Nepal and Sri Lanka and the one in Dhaka would open soon.

He said ICCR had identified a property in Bhutan for setting up a centre and had made a proposal in Myanmar, where the government was very supportive.

"We have a great desire to set up a Cultural Centre in Pakistan in the medium term," Mr Gupta said.

According to him, the first cultural centre in America was planned in Washington. "We have a very important relationship and strategic partnership with America with the largest Indian diaspora. There is an Indian festival every 10 days and we don’t have a Centre though it merits one," he said.

He said ICCR had identified a property in Washington for the purpose. He said the facility would help ICCR plan a major event with the Kennedy Centre there in the future.

Mr Gupta said ICCR was also looking as it was the cultural capital of the world. He said French Nicolas Sarkozy was very positive about the idea. A cultural centre would help ICCR plan a reciprocal Festival with France, which would be announced later.

He said India had a limited outreach in Africa, with South Africa and Mauritius being the only countries to have Indian cultural centres.

"The need of the hour is to augment and strengthen relationships in countries that India has important relationships or a large Indian diaspora. So we are looking at Nigeria with its 100 million population and would open a centre in East Africa as it’s an entry point for India into Africa. Tanzania is also an important trading and friendly country," he said.

Mr Gupta said ICCR had so far no centre in Latin America though India had a billion-dollar trade with the region and was sourcing raw materials and gas from it.

He said the cultural centres would greatly strengthen India's outreach programme and provide a concrete platform for a focused range of cultural activities. Among other things, the centres would employ teachers in Indian music and dance, Hindi and other Indian languages and yoga.

He said the centres would function independently but under the overall guidance of the Ambassador. They would not have a uniform template as a lot depends on local conditions. They would provide a platform for promoting cultural cooperation with the host country by promoting its culture at the centre and in India.

Dr Karan Singh said the opening of new cultural centres was a very important initiative in cultural diplomacy. "They make a statement about a resurgent and dynamic India which is a picture of elegance since, in culture, India is a superpower," he added.

NNN

Nation remembers Mahatma Gandhi on birth anniversary

President Pratibha Patil paying homage at the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi during her visit at Sabarmati Ashram, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on October 1, 2009.
President Pratibha Patil paying homage at the portrait of Mahatma Gandhi during her visit at Sabarmati Ashram, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on October 1, 2009.

President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today led the nation in paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, on his 140th birth anniversary.

Ms Patil, who is on a five-day tour of Gujarat, attended an all-religion prayer this morning at Kirti Mandir in Porbandar, Mahatma Gandhi's place of birth.

Speaking on the occasion, the President urged people to take a pledge to follow the path of truth and non-violence shown by the apostle of peace.

The President had visited Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad yesterday.

In Delhi, Mr Ansari, Dr Singh and United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were amongst those who offered floral tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat this morning.

Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani, Defence Minister A K Antony, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and Ministers of State Shashi Tharoor and Krishna Tirath were among those present.

United States Ambassador Timothy J Roemer was amongst those who joined the inter-faith prayer on the occasion, at which Mahatma Gandhi's favourite bhajans, including "Vaishnav jana to tene kahiye", were sung.

NNN

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, Minister of State(Independent Charge) of Women and Child Development, Krishna Tirath, Chairperson, UPA, Sonia Gandhi and other dignitaries at the all religion prayer meeting at Rajghat, in Delhi on October 02, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, Minister of State(Independent Charge) of Women and Child Development, Krishna Tirath, Chairperson, UPA, Sonia Gandhi and other dignitaries at the all religion prayer meeting at Rajghat, in Delhi on October 02, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paying floral tributes at Rajghat, in Delhi on October 02, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh paying floral tributes at Rajghat, in Delhi on October 02, 2009.

2009 India's most rainfall-deficient year since 1972

India's cumulative seasonal rainfall this year was 23 per cent below the Long Period Average (LPA), making it the most deficient year after 1972, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said here today.

In 1972, the seasonal rainfall was 24 per cent below the LPA for the country as a whole, an IMD statement said.

According to the statement, out of 36 meteorological sub-divisions, the cumulative seasonal rainfall was excess in three, normal in ten and deficient in 23 sub-divisions.

The rainfall was excess in nine per cent of the country's districts, normal in 32 per cent, deficient in 51 per cent and scanty in eight per cent of the districts.

The statement said the south-west monsoon had further withdrawn in the past week from many parts of Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, some parts of Uttarakhand, West Uttar Pradesh and north Gujarat. It said the withdrawal line passed through Uttarkashi, Aligarh, Sawai Madhopur, Udaipur and Naliya.

About the meteorological conditions for the next week, it said a well-marked low pressure area lay over west-central Bay of Bengal and adjoining north coastal Andhra Pradesh and south-coastal Orissa. It is likely to move slowly west-north-westwards towards South Gujarat region.

A fresh cyclonic circulation/low press area was likely to develop over north-west Bay of Bengal off Orissa coast around October 5, it said. A wesern disturbance as an upper air system was likely to develop over north-west India from October 4 onwards.

It said rainfall activity was likely to increase in the next week over north interior peninsula, with fairly widespread rainfall and isolated heavy to very heavy falls during the first half of the week. The enhanced rainfall activity was likely to shift to adjoining central and west India thereafter, it said.

NNN

ICAO President Gonzalez holds talks on aviation cooperation

International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) President Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez today said India was the fastest growing aviation market and had great potential for future growth.

Mr Gonzalez, who is here on a three-day visit, held discussions with Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar on the developments taking place in the Indian civil aviation sector.

Later, he also called on Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and exchanged views with him on issues facing the global, regional and the national civil aviation sector.

Mr Gonzalez said international civil aviation was going through recession and recording negative growth. India, which recorded a phenomenal growth in the past few years, was also facing the impact of the recession and registering negative growth in the past few months, he said.

He was, however, optimisti that with the increasing growth of gross domestic product (GDP), India would return to fast growth soon.

Mr Gonzales stressed the importance of cooperation in civil aviation and praised the steps taken by India for private sector participation in the development of metro and regional airports. He said he was impressed by the fact that India had started addressing issues of infrastructure capacity, airline capacity and air space management.

He also drew attention to the importance of safetyin civil aviation and sharing of information pertaining to safety amongst nations and professional bodies. He also noted that India had ensured compliance with 90 per cent of the observations of the ICAO audit of 2006. He hoped that the remaining observations would be complied with very soon.

The ICAO President recommended more flexibility and autonomy for safety regulatory mechanism by setting up a Civil Aviation Authority. He promised technical cooperation from the ICAO in the study for setting up a separate civil aviation security structure.

He also called for increased technical cooperation between India and the ICAO. He was informed of the various technical projects already under way. He was informed that four important projects related to feasibility study for a civil aviation authority and development of new systems in the areas of aerodromes, flight standards and air naviation services had recently been approved by the Government with ICAO.

Mr Gonzalez also highlighted the need for increasing coordination between civil and military authorities. He said there was need for protection of aviation environment and more independence for accident and incident investigation.

Mr Patel told Mr Gonzalez that civil aviation safety was always an area of importance and received the highest priority from the Government.

He said all required resources would be provided to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to enhance the safety record and maintain it above the international benchmark. He promised full cooperation with ICAO, including on issues of climte change and efficient management of air space.

During the day, Mr Gonzalez visited the Air Traffic Control complex at Delhi airport and related facilities. He also saw the modernisation programme being implemented at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

NNN

Air India restores normal operations

A day after its executive pilots called off a five-day-old strike, national carrier Air India said on Thursday it had restored normalcy in most of its domestic and international operations.
Air India

A day after its executive pilots called off a five-day-old strike, national carrier Air India today said it had restored normalcy in most of its domestic and international operations.

The airline's spokesperson Jitender Bhargava said the airline had resumed all its domestic flights at an average network-wide on-time performance of 89.7 per cent.

He said senior Air India officials were present at various airports in the country to meet and greet departing and arriving passengers as part of an effort by the airline to reach out to the travelling public, which had been put to inconvenience because of the strike.

As a gesture of goodwill, passengers were presented rose-buds by officials who offered them apologies on behalf of the airline.

Mr Bhargava said ticket sales for all flights, which had been suspended during the strike, had been resumed.

He said Air India also operated a special Kolkata-Port Blair flight to clear a backlog as, during the past three days, two of its flights could not land in Port Blair because of bad weather.

On the international routes, Air India operated most of its long-haul flights, except the non-stop services from Delhi and Mumbai to New York.

The effective date of resumption of the non-stop flights to New York from Delhi and Mumbai would be decided soon, the airline had said yesterday.

Meanwhile, the loss-making airline has made its Easy Fares, Super Saver Scheme and Frequent Flyer Programme more attractive as a token of its gratitude to its customers and in an effort to give them more value for money.

A press release issued by the airline said that, under the Easy Fares scheme, the lowest fares on domestic flights would now be available to a larger number of passengers as the number of seats available under these fares had been increased in the reservation system.

Under the Super Saver Scheme, a passenger can buy a four-coupon Economy Class ticket for Rs.41,316 with a validity of three months for single user, compared to the earlier Super Saver fare.

He can also buy eight-coupon Economy Class single user ticket for Rs.82,632/- with a validity of six months. A four-coupon Executive Class single user ticket with a validity of three months can be purchased for Rs.58,000 and an eight-coupon Executive Class single user ticket with a validity of six months for Rs. 1,14,264.

Corporate houses can buy Corporate Super Saver tickets in Economy Class with 12 coupons having six months validity with multiple user facility (that is, they can be used by any employee) for Rs.1,23,948. A 12-coupon Executive Class multiple user ticket with a validity of six months will cost Rs.1,66,800, the release said.

According to it, the savings under these schemes would be about Rs 2000 per coupon for Economy Class tickets and Rs 3000 per coupon for Executive Class tickets. The tickets under these schemes will be on sale from October 1 to 31.

The airline has also announced lower threshold for redemption and uniform bonus levels across domestic and international flights under its Frequent Flyer Programme.

The executive pilots of the airline had taken mass sick leave in the past five days protesting cuts in productivity-linked incentives (PLI) and flying-related allowances but called off the strike yesterday after assurances from Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel that the decision in this regard would be kept in abeyance by the management of Air India.

NNN

13 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll rises to 328

As many as 13 more influenza A (H1N1) deaths were reported from India today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 328, an official statement said.

Four of the deaths occurred today, three in Maharashtra and one in Delhi, the statement said.

Besides, seven deaths that occurred between September 26 and 29 in Maharashtra and two in Andhra Pradesh yesterday have been confirmed as cases of swine flu by the results of the laboratory tests, it said.

The statement said three deaths due to suspected swine flu have also been reported from Gujarat, but the results of the laboratory tests were awaited.

Of the total deaths, Maharashtra now accounts for 130, while 96 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 36 in Andhra Pradesh, 31 in Gujarat, 14 in Delhi, 5 in Kerala, 4 in Tamil Nadu, 3 each in Goa and Haryana, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, 142 fresh cases of the flu were reported today from across the country, including 39 in Delhi, 35 in Maharashtra, 18 in Tamil Nadu, 12 each in Karnataka and Haryana, 10 in Andhra Pradesh, 9 in Kerala, 6 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Gujarat.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 10,375, the statement added.

NNN

Panchayati Raj completes 50 years in India

A National Convention of Panchayati Raj ministers and Zilla Parishad presidents will be held here tomorrow to mark the Golden Jubilee of Panchayati Raj in India.

A function will also be held in the evening tomorrow at Nagaur in Rajasthan, where India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had inaugurated Panchayati Raj 50 years ago.

The convention in the capital will also be attended by elected representatives of Panchayats who have served more than 25 years from across the country, an official press release said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister C P Joshi will address the convention.

Among other things, there will be presentations on activating the Gram Sabhas and Gram Panchayats and on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC) at the convention.

A film on Hiware Bazaar, a model Panchayat in Maharashtra, will also be screened on the occasion, the release said.

The convention will also discuss plans for observing 2009-10 as the "Year of Gram Sabha", it said.

NNN

India conveys concern to China over "stapled" visas to J&K residents

India has conveyed to China its concern over a newspaper report that the Chinese Embassy in Delhi was issuing visas on a separate sheet of paper to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir instead of stamping them in their passports.

The Hindu had reported today that immigration authorities at the Delhi airport had started noticing the standalone visas a few weeks ago. In fact, immigration officials initially thought the visas were fake and turned the travellers--Kashmiri students and businessmen--back from the airport.

When some of them returned with letters from the Chinese Embassy stating that the visas were genuine, the immigration authorities referred the matter of the "stapled" visas to the Ministry of External Affairs.

"It is our considered view and position that there should be no discrimination against visa applicants of Indian nationality on grounds of domicile or ethnicity," the official spokesperson for the Ministry, Mr Vishnu Prakash, said when asked about the report.

"We have conveyed our well-justified concern to the Chinese government in this regard," Mr Prakash added.

NNN

IIMs extend CAT registration date till Oct 11

A pergola at IIM Bangalore.
A pergola at IIM Bangalore.

The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have extended the last date for online registration for their Common Admission Test (CAT) 2009 until October 11.

The registration was earlier scheduled to have ended today, an announcement on the CAT website said, explaining that the decision was taken in view of a series of bank holidays in recent days that might have inconvenienced some candidates.

It said the sale of CAT 2009 vouchers from designated branches of Axis Bank had also been extended till October 8. The "edit" feature, through which applications who have inadvertently made wrong selections or other errors in their registration submissions can correct their Candidate Profile and Application Data, will also be available until October 11, the announcement said.

The CAT is scheduled to be held between Saturday, November 28 and Monday, December 7 this year. It is being conducted as a Computer Based Test from this year onwards. The sale of vouchers and online registration for this year's CAT had opened on September 9.

The CAT is a pre-requisite for admission to various management programmes conducted by the elite IIMs, including their flagship two-year Post-Graduate Programme (PGP) in Management. Many other institutions also use the CAT scores to finalise admissions to their management programmes.

The IIMs have selected Prometric ETS to be their partner in delivering the computer-assisted CAT.

A statement by IIMs and Prometric said the extended window for online registration would allow those who might have been inconvenienced by these holidays more time to obtain a voucher and register for the examination.

"With more than 2 lakhs registrations to date, some test sites have already been completely filled," said Mr. Ramesh Nava, Vice President & General Manager, Asia Pacific, Japan & Africa, Prometric.

"Candidates are encouraged to check the list of available test sites, read the registration instructions carefully and view the YouTube tutorial video prior so as to experience a smooth registration process," he said.

The examination will be conducted in 32 Indian cities through 105 secure specially-prepared computer-based testing centres.

The seven IIMs are located at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore and Shillong.

Four more IIMs are due to start functioning from the academic session 2010-11 at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, Ranchi in Jharkhand, Raipur in Chhattisgarh and Rohtak in Haryana. Two others in Uttarakhand and Rajasthan will be set up the following year.

The CAT score cards will be available on the CAT website from January 22, 2010.

Given the huge numbers of students who appear for the examinations in comparison to the 2000-odd seats on offer at the IIMs for their flagship PGP, CAT has acquired the reputation of being the toughest entrance test worldwide for business schools.

The IIMs have been conducting CAT in paper-&-pencil format for the last 33 years. As more and more students chase the MBA dream, the number of candidates appearing for CAT has increased dramatically over the years.

While about 95,000 candidates took CAT in 2003, the number rose to about 250,000 in 2008, indicating a rise of a whopping 163 percent.

NNN

Lt Gen Bhardwaj takes over as Vice Army Chief

Lieutenant General P C Bhardwaj took over as Vice-Chief of Army Staff in a brief ceremony held at South Block here today.

Lt Gen Bhardwaj was commissioned into First Battalion Parachute Regiment on June 14, 1970. He is an alumnus of National Defence Academy at Khadakwasla in Pune, the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun, the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and National Defence College, Delhi.

A specialist in Special Operations, he was the first person from the Indian Army to undergo the rigorous Commando Divers Course at the Naval Diving School. He excelled in the course, qualifying as an instructor. He has also attended the prestigious Special Forces Officers Course at Fort Bragg in the United States, doing well again and earning an instructor rating.

As a Second Lieutenant in the 1971 war, he was awarded the Vir Chakra for conspicuous bravery. He commanded his parent unit, 1 PARA (Cdo) in Counter Insurgency operations in the East and was awarded the Shaurya Chakra for a daring rescue operation.

He commanded a Mountain Brigade in Nagaland and also the elite Parachute Brigade. As a Major General he commanded Counter Insurgency Force Delta in Doda/Kishtwar and thereafter was appointed as the General Officer Commanding Delhi Area, where he was awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service.

The General Officer commanded 14 Corps, responsible for the vast areas of Ladakh and the Siachin Glacier before assuming command of Northern Command on March 1, 2008. For his distinguished service rendered, he was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal on January 26 this year, making him the most decorated soldier in the Indian Army.

He has held many prestigious Instructional and Staff Appointments. He served as an Instructor at Infantry School Mhow and at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School. He has been a Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade and Deputy Director General at the Directorate General of Military Operations, Army Headquarters. He was appointed as the Defence Attache at Embassy of India, Yangon (Myanmar) from 1994 to 1997.

Gen Bhardwaj is married to Mrs Deepa Bhardwaj. Their two daughters, Shivani and Shveta, are married and are living in the United Kingdom and the United States, respectively.

NNN

P J Thomas named new Secretary, DoT

Mr P J Thomas, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1973 batch (Kerala cadre), has been appointed as the new Secretary, Department of Telecommunication in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

Mr Thomas, who is at present Secretary, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, will succeed Mr S Behura, IAS (UP:73), who retired yesterday.

An official press release said the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) had also approved the appointment of Ms Jayati Chandra, at present Secretary, Department of Youth Affairs in the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, as the Secretary, Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region.

It said Ms Chandra, an IAS officer of the 1975 batch, Uttar Pradesh cadre, would succeed Mr Jarnail Singh, who retired yesterday.

Ms K Sujatha Rao, the Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, will hold the additional charge of the post of Secretary, Department of AIDS Control in the same Ministry, for a period of three months from today or until further orders, whichever is earlier.

Similarly, Ms Sindhushree Khullar, Secretary, Department of Sports, Ministry of Youth Affais and Sports, will hold the additional charge of the post of Secretary, Department of Youth Affairs in the same ministry, the release added.

NNN

Air India says normal domestic operations in few days

National carrier Air India today said it would resume normal services on domestic trunk routes with immediate effect as its executive pilots called off their four-day-old strike this morning and started returning to work.

A spokesperson for the loss-making airline said a flight restoration plan had been drawn up for its domestic operations, as part of which services on major and other routes would be restored at the earliest, keeping in view that tomorrow would mark the beginning of a long weekend.

However, the airline had cancelled as many as 111 flights in advance today, due to the non-availability of the pilots, so that passengers were not inconvenienced. The flights would be gradually restored, the spokesperson said.

As far as the international services were concerned, the spokesperson said Air India would be operating all long haul flights, barring the non-stop flights from Delhi and Mumbai to New York, from tomorrow, October 1.

The flights being operated include AI 127 on the Delhi / Frankfurt / Chicago sector, AI 191 on the Mumbai / Frankfurt / Newark sector, AI 131 on the Mumbai / London sector, AI 111 on the Delhi / London sector, AI 187 on the Amritsar / London / Toronto sector and AI 121 on the Ahmedabad / Frankfurt sector.

The effective date of resumption of the non-stop flights to New York from Delhi and Mumbai will be decided once the executive pilots, who had taken mass sick leave in the past few days, start reporting fit for duty, he added.

NNN

7 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll rises to 315

Seven more influenza A (H1N1) deaths were reported from India today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 315, an official statement said.

Two of the deaths occurred today, one in Delhi and the other in Andhra Pradesh, the statement said.

Besides, a death that occurred in a private hospital in Delhi yesterday and four deaths in Karnataka have now been confirmed as cases of H1N1 by the results of the laboratory tests on the patients, it said.

There were two suspected swine flu deaths in Andhra Pradesh today, but the results of the laboratory tests were awaited, it said.

Of the total deaths, Maharashtra now accounts for 120, while 96 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 34 in Andhra Pradesh, 31 in Gujarat, 13 in Delhi, 5 in Kerala, 4 in Tamil Nadu, 3 each in Goa and Haryana, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 197 fresh cases of the flu were reported today from across the country, including 59 in Delhi, 46 in Maharashtra, 25 in Tamil Nadu, 13 each in Karnataka and Kerala, 12 each in Haryana and Chandigarh, 9 in Andhra Pradesh, 4 in Uttar Pradesh, 2 in Chhattisgarh and 1 each in Goa and Rajasthan.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 10,233, the statement added.

NNN

PM says India committed to promoting ties with China

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao that India was fully committed to further promoting the bilateral relations between the two countries in an all-round manner.

"Our Strategic and Cooperative Partnership for Peace and Prosperity has developed over the last four years," he said in a message to Mr Wen on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

"Our Shared Vision for the 21st Century is also reflected in our wide-ranging cooperation and coordination on pressing global and international issues," Dr Singh said in the message, through which he conveyed greetings to the Chinese people and government on the occasion.

"This is an important milestone in the life of China and an occasion for celebrations of your great nation's many achievements in the last 60 years. As a friendly neighbour and a developing nation, we in India share your sense of happiness on this important occasion," the Prime Minister added.

NNN

IAEA chief ElBaradei receives Indira Gandhi Prize

President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Mohd. Hamid Ansari, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Chairperson, UPA, Sonia Gandhi with the D.G., IAEA, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the winner of Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development-2008, in New Delhi on September 30, 2009.
President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Mohd. Hamid Ansari, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Chairperson, UPA, Sonia Gandhi with the D.G., IAEA, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the winner of Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development-2008, in New Delhi on September 30, 2009.

President Pratibha Patil today presented the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2008 to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and said there was a need for a new global consensus on non-proliferation to address contemporary challenges.

The award was given to him for his impassioned opposition to the use of nuclear energy for military purposes.

Ms Patil said the world particularly must address the dangers emanating from the likelihood of non-state actors acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction.

"While every State has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, we also believe that States should adhere to commitments they have undertaken under international treaties and instruments," she said.

The President said India was proud of its non-proliferation record and pointed out that the country had an effective law-based system of export controls and was a responsible member of the comity of nations.

Ms Patil said that late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi believed that development, disarmament and peace were closely linked. She said that Dr ElBaradei, who has been at the helm of IAEA for more than 12 years during an important period in international relations, had in his work demonstrated concern and compassion towards humankind and spoken of the interdependence between security and poverty alleviation.

"We are living in a time when energy security and climate change are among the issues defining global discourse. Over the world, there is a high dependency on fossil fuels for energy, but there is also an accompanying search for alternative energy sources," she said.

The President said India was seeking to increase the share of renewable and non-conventional sources of energy in its energy mix. She said the country looked at nuclear energy as a valuable means for addressing its rising energy needs and sustaining the nation's development, even as it addressed the challenges of climate change.

She made special mention of Dr ElBaradei's consistent encouragement and support during the last few years when India was concluding civil nuclear cooperation agreements with different countries. She said these agreements would enable India to expedite its goal of harnessing the peaceful uses of nuclear energy for the benefit of more than one billion of its people.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the function of Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development-2008, in New Delhi on September 30, 2009.

The President said India's commitment to universal, non-discriminatory and comprehensive nuclear disarmament stood undiluted and undiminished. She said India believed that the advances made in science and technology must be used for human welfare.

"Let us give up the race for weapons. Let us build peace and harmony," the President said.

Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi were amongst those present at the ceremony.

Dr Singh described Dr ElBaradei as a very distinguished diplomat, a scholar, an international civil servant of the highest order and a world statesman.

"As the Director General of the IAEA since 1998, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei has brought about a fundamental transformation in the way we look at atomic energy. The Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 recognised the efforts of Dr. ElBaradei and the IAEA in ensuring that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible manner," he said.

The Prime Minister said nuclear energy was vital to meeting energy and developmental needs, particularly those of large developing countries like India.

"The applications of nuclear energy in agriculture, medicine and industry have also enormous potential. We need the concerted and collective efforts of the world community to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy as widely as possible. Its benefits should not remain confined to a privileged few," she said.

Dr Singh said the international community had a vital stake in strengthening global energy security through the use of nuclear energy as a clean, safe and sustainable energy source. He said the world must provide the necessary support to the IAEA to perform its functions as provided in its statute.

He said India's long-standing relationship with the IAEA had been spotless. "We are committed to providing all the necessary support for the Agency to perform its designated role and functions to facilitate the expansion of nuclear energy," he said.

The Prime Minister said the successful conclusion of India’s civil nuclear initiative was in no small measure due to the enlightened approach of Dr ElBaradei to the issues involved.

"I would like to convey to him the heartfelt appreciation of the Government and people of India. India is now poised for a major expansion of its nuclear programme in which international cooperation will be an important component," he said.

He said a major milestone in this process was the conclusion of India’s safeguards agreement and its Additional Protocol with the IAEA. This gives India the possibility of additionally accessing a whole range of technologies and resources from the rest of the world. It also enables the global nuclear industry to benefit from India’s technical and industrial expertise.

NNN

Govt issues guidelines for sustaining the Himalayan ecosystem

The Union Ministry of Environment & Forests and the Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment & Development (GBPIHED) have released a report on "Governance for Sustaining Himalayan Ecosystem: Guidelines and Best Practices (G-SHE)".

The report was released here yesterday by Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh who said it put together key guidelines related to the governance and management of the Himalayan ecosystem, along with relevant case studies.

According to him, G-SHE was an appropriate acronym for the guidelines in view of the pivotal role that women played in managing the Himalayan ecosystem on a day-to-day basis.

The report will be a key input in the formulation of India's National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem under the country's National Action Plan for Climate Change.

According to an official press release, India is is putting together the Mission in view of the importance of the Himalayan region as a unique repository of biodiversity, and considering its sensitivity to climatic and anthropogenic changes.

The Mission aims to scientifically study the impact of climate change on the Indian Himalayas, and puts in place adaptation measures to meet the growing challenge. The Mission will bring together the efforts of climatologists, glaciologists, other experts and local stakeholders. The details of the Mission are under preparation and are likely to be finalized in the next few months, it said.

The release said the guidelines in the report covered a wide variety of issues such as urbanization, tourism, water security, energy, forest management and infrastructure, all of which are considered very pertinent because the Himalayas faced new and increased pressures.

There is substantial literature on the subject of sustainable management of the Himalayas but these are dispersed across various institutions and publications. The report has attempted to collate key learnings from them in one place, embodied in a set of guidelines and best practices for various aspects of the governance and management of the Himalayan ecosystem.

The release said the report was meant to be a working document, to provide the basis on which new approaches and practices could be adopted.

It said the report had been put in the public domain, including on the website of the Ministry. The Ministry has sought comments and inputs from State governments, domestic and international institutions, civil society, local communities and other stakeholders.

The Indian Himalayan Region (IHR) occupies a strategic position along the entire northern boundary of the country and administratively covers 10 states -- Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya -- and two states partially -- the hill districts of Assam and West Bengal.

The region has wide-ranging ecological and socio-economic significance. Apart from all kinds of goods, the region generates a variety of services not only for Himalayan inhabitants but also for people living beyond.

Among other things, the region, with a large area under permanent snow cover and glaciers, forms a unique water reservoir that feeds several important perennial rivers. With its vast green cover, the IHR also acts as a giant carbon "sink", the release said.

According to it, the IHR also forms a considerably large part of identified Himalayan Biodiversity global hotspot. The region, however, is facing environmental problems on account of various factors including the stress caused by anthropogenic activities. Even geologically, the Himalayan ecosystem falls under the most vulnerable category. Therefore the environmental issues being faced by the IHR are of critical importance, the release added.

NNN

Environment and Forests Ministry launches new website

Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh has launched the new website of his ministry which, he said, was part of its efforts to make its activities more transparent and citizen-friendly.

He said the website had been redesigned after a long consultation process with prominent civil society groups, key user groups and other stakeholders. He said efforts were made to take all their suggestions on board in the development of the new website.

According to him, the governing principle in this redesign has been to provide users with ready access to relevant information. He said features such videos, pictures and a blog by the minister himself had been added to the site.

The website is also a platform for the ministry to provide the world with a window to its functioning and to receive feedback on its working, he added.

NNN

Air India pilots call off strike, offer full cooperation to management

Executive pilots of Air India on Wednesday called off their four-day-old strike over cuts in productivity-linked incentives, saying they would return to work immediately and restore normal operations quickly.
Air India

Executive pilots of national carrier Air India today called off their four-day-old strike over cuts in productivity-linked incentives (PLI) and flying-related allowances, saying they would return to work with immediate effect and help restore normal operations as quickly as possible.

Capt V K Bhalla, a spokesman for the agitating pilots, said they had decided to end the strike following the intervention made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the matter and the assurances given to them by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel yesterday that the decision on the cuts in PLI had been kept in abeyance.

At a press conference here yesterday evening, Mr Patel had appealed to the executive pilots, who had taken mass sick leave, to return to work immediately in the nation's and the airline's interest and restore normal operations by today.

He also said that if the pilots failed to respond to this appeal and join duty by today, the Air India management would be free to take appropriate steps to cope with the situation.

While Mr Patel's deadline of midnight last night passed without the pilots resuming work, Capt Bhalla called a press conference this morning to announce their decision to return to their duties with immediate effect. He appealed to his colleagues around the country to rejoin work immediately.

Capt Bhalla said the pilots had taken this decision in view of Mr Patel's assurance that the Air India management's decision of last week on the 25-50 per cent cut in the PLI and flying-related allowances for more than 7000 officers had been put on hold.

Capt Bhalla thanked Dr Singh and Mr Patel for intervening in the matter and said the pilots had full faith in them. He said the executive pilots would now work shoulder-to-shoulder with the Air India management to help revive the loss-making airline, which is going through the worst financial crisis in its history.

Capt Bhalla also apologised to the passengers of Air India who had been put to inconvenience during the last four days, during which the airline was forced to cancel scores of flights every day.

He said he had received an "official communication" about the government's assurances and been told that a written assurance in this regard was on its way.

Mr Patel had said yesterday that the government had been very considerate about Air India's financial crisis, and it had been its constant endeavour to support the airline to come out of its present difficulties.

He recalled that the Prime Minister had, three months ago, set up a Committee of Secretaries (COS), headed by the Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar, to look into various issues in this regard. The committee had, among other things, decided in principle that the government should support the airline, including by infusing fresh equity to the tune of Rs 5000 crore in a phased manner against the current equity of just Rs 145 crore.

He said the COS had also recommended that the airline's high-cost debt should be reduced to low-cost debt.

The minister said such steps by the government had to be accompanied by cost reduction and revenue enhancement measures within the airline so that it could be revived in two or three years.

Mr Patel said the Government was clear that, while it would do everything possible to help revive Air India, all sections of the airline's employees would also have to cooperate and put their best forward.

He said Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav was in constant dialogue with the employees' unions and representatives of other groups in the airline to find a way out of the present financial crisis.

He made it clear that Air India, in its current form, could not absorb its present high cost structure and, therefore, it was important that expenses in various areas were controlled.

He said the cut in PLI was not applicable at all to the unionised employees. Even in the case of the executives, the decision had been kept in abeyance, pending the report appointed by a committee two days ago to go into the entire issue after the pilots launched their agitation.

Mr Patel said that there was, therefore, no reason for the pilots or any other employees of the airline to feel aggrieved. He said all decisions on cost-cutting would be taken by the management only in consultation with the employees.

He urged the pilots and all sections of Air India's employees to realise that it was India's national and their own airline.

He said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had almost finalised a deal to disinvest in Air India in 2003-04 but that did not go through only because the Tata-Singapore Airline combine withdrew their offer at the last minute. He said it was the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Dr Singh which had decided to retain Air India in the public secor and had done everything possible to strengthen it. He said the UPA government had made it possible for the airline to buy new aircraft, something that had not been done for some 20 years.

Mr Patel said the airline's employees must also understand that the aviation sector all over the world was going through a very difficult period, and all airlines, including other carriers in India, were facing serious financial difficulties. All of them were cutting costs in order to survive these difficult times, he said.

He urged the pilots and other employees to see reason and avoid a confrontation with the management at this juncture. "Please cooperate, please return to your duties, there is no reason for you to be aggrieved," he said.

He said the management was in the process of finalising a turnaround plan for the airline, but made it clear that this could not be a painless process.

The decision to keep the reduction in PLI in abeyance was taken on Sunday after a meeting between Mr Jadhav and Mumbai-based representatives of the executive pilots. A committee, consisting of representatives of the management and the executive pilots, had been set up to examine the concerns raised by the pilots.

But the pilots persisted with their agitation, demanding that the management first withdraw the decision. They also wanted the airline to clear accumulated dues of the past three months and give an assurance that salaries and allowances would be paid on time from now onwards.

An Air India statement last night said that the airline had paid salaries for September to all employees. It also said that the PLI would be paid on October 7.

On Monday, Mr Jadhav had held a meeting with the Delhi-based pilots in the capital and had appealed to them to restore normalcy at the earliest as the cancellation of flights was causing inconvenience to passengers and harming the airline's interests.

At one stage, it appeared that the Air India management was considering suspending operations for 15 days from midnight on Monday night and derostering all pilots. But it is understood that the Prime Minister personally intervened in the matter and told the Civil Aviation Minister that a lock-out in Air India was not an option.

The Board of Directors of the airline had approved the cut in the PLI at its meeting in Mumbai last Wednesday.

The cut was to be applicable to all officers, including top management personnel, in various management disciplines and range from 25 per cent for those getting PLI of Rs 10,000 or less per month to 50 per cent for those receiving PLI or flying related allowances of Rs 2 lakh or more per month.

The cut for those receiving PLI of Rs 10001 to Rs 25000, Rs 25001 to Rs 50000 and Rs 50001 to Rs 2.00 lakhs was to be 35 %, 40% and 45%, respectively. The cut was to be effective from the PLI payable in August 2009 onwards. The pilots said they had not been taken into confidence by the management before the decision was taken.

A day after announcing the decision, Mr Jadhav met the employees at the airline's headquarters in Mumbai on Thursday and exhorted them to join the efforts to help it tide over the current financial crisis.

Mr Jadhav said that, given the fact that the scope for increasing revenues was limited in the current market scenario of low fares, poor yields and surplus capacity, the emphasis on cost control was imperative for ensuring the survival of the company.

He said that all areas of expenditure were being targeted by the cost control measures initiated in recent months. These included procurement of material, inventories, fuel, landing and navigation charges, rationalisation of routes, closure of offline offices and recall of India-based officers from abroad.

The decision to cut the PLI came against the background of the discussions that the airline has been having with the Centre for assistance to tide over the present difficulties.

The Government is looking at a proposal for equity infusion of Rs 5000 crore into the airline over a period of three years. Out of this, Rs 2000 crore could be brought in by December this year.

But the Government has made it clear to Air India that any assistance to it must be preceded by concrete steps to reduce costs and increase savings.

Last Monday, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had held a meeting in New Delhi with Civil Aviation Secretary M Madhavan Nambiar and Mr Jadhav to review the airline's turnaround plan.

The airline and the Civil Aviation Ministry have been working on the turnaround plan in consultation with the CoS, which had decided, among other things, that Air India should appoint a Cost Auditor immediately to monitor, review and ensure that the cost reduction and operational efficiencies were effected.

Mr Patel had said earlier that independent directors would be brought into the airline and a professional Chief Operating Officer would be inducted to assist the company's Chairman and Managing Director.

He said SBI Capital had been appointed to suggest a road map for the financial restructuring of the company in the short and medium term.

In July, Mr Patel had told Parliament that the accumulated losses of the National Aviation Company of India Limited (NACIL), which runs Air India after its merger with Indian Airlines, as on March 31 this year, were likely to be in the region of Rs 7200 crore.

He said that Air India and Indian Airlines had incurred losses of Rs 541.30 crore and Rs 230.97 crore, respectively, during 2006-07 before the merger.

He said that, in 2007-08, the combined airline posted a loss of Rs. 2226 crores and during 2008-09, the expected loss is approximately Rs.5000 crores.

NNN

Related stories

Air India says salaries for September paid, PLI by Oct 7

Air India today said it had cleared the salaries for September to its employees and the amounts had been credited to their respective bank accounts.

A spokesman for the airline said that the productivity-linked incentive (PLI) would be paid to all employees on October 7.

The statement assumes importance at a time when the striking executive pilots of the loss-making airline have been claiming that the airline had not cleared dues against the PLI for two-three months.

A section of the executive pilots has been on mass sick leave in protest against the Air India management's decision to reduce PLI for some 7000 officers of the airline by 25-50 per cent.

After the pilots began their agitation, the airline management has kept that decision in abeyance and appointed a committee, which includes representatives of the executive pilots, to go into all related issues.

The pilots have, however, not returned to work and are insisting on a complete withdrawal of the decision. They also want the airline to clear all dues immediately and give an assurance of timely payment of salaries from now onwards.

The management had thought about the PLI cuts as part of an effort to cut costs and enhance revenues so that the airline could qualify for financial assistance to help it out of its present crisis, the worst in its history.

NNN

Patel urges AI pilots to return to work

Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel addressing a press conference, in New Delhi on September 29, 2009.
Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel addressing a press conference, in New Delhi on September 29, 2009
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel today appealed to the striking pilots of national carrier Air India to return to work immediately in the nation's and the airline's interest and restore normal operations by tomorrow.

He also said that if the pilots failed to respond to this appeal and join duty by midnight tonight, the Air India management would be free to take appropriate steps to cope with the situation.

Addressing a crowded press conference here, Mr Patel said the current situation in Air India, a section of whose executive pilots were on mass sick leave for the fourth day today, was a matter of concern.

"The Government, as the owner of Air India, is certainly not very happy with the recent developments, including the strike by the executive pilots," he said.

The pilots are protesting against the 23-50 per cent cut in the productivity-linked incentive (PLI) for more than 7000 officers announced by the airline last week.

As a result, Air India had to cancel nearly 50 its flights, with about 150 of the executive pilots staying away from work today.

Mr Patel said the government had been very considerate about Air India's financial crisis, and it had been its constant endeavour to support the airline to come out of its present difficulties.

He recalled that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had, three months ago, set up a Committee of Secretaries (COS), headed by the Cabinet Secretary, to look into various issues in this regard. The committee had, among other things, decided in principle that the government should support the airline, including by infusing fresh equity to the tune of Rs 5000 crore in a phased manner against the current equity of just Rs 145 crore.

He said the COS had also recommended that the airline's high-cost debt should be reduced to low-cost debt.

The minister said such steps by the government had to be accompanied by cost reduction and revenue enhancement measures within the airline so that it could be revived in two or three years.

Mr Patel said the Government was clear that, while it would do everything possible to help revive Air India, all sections of the airline's employees would also have to cooperate and put their best forward.

He said Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav was in constant dialogue with the employees' unions and representatives of other groups in the airline to find a way out of the present financial crisis.

He made it clear that Air India, in its current form, could not absorb its present high cost structure and, therefore, it was important that expenses in various areas were controlled.

He said the cut in PLI was not applicable at all to the unionised employees. Even in the case of the executives, the decision had been kept in abeyance, pending the report appointed by a committee two days ago to go into the entire issue after the pilots launched their agitation.

Mr Patel said that there was, therefore, no reason for the pilots or any other employees of the airline to feel aggrieved. He said all decisions on cost-cutting would be taken by the management only in consultation with the employees.

He urged the pilots and all sections of Air India's employees to realise that it was India's national and their own airline.

He said the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government had almost finalised a deal to disinvest in Air India in 2003-04 but that did not go through only because the Tata-Singapore Airline combine withdrew their offer at the last minute. He said it was the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Dr Singh which had decided to retain Air India in the public sector and had done everything possible to strengthen it. He said the UPA government had made it possible for the airline to buy new aircraft, something that had not been done for some 20 years.

Mr Patel said the airline's employees must also understand that the aviation sector all over the world was going through a very difficult period, and all airlines, including other carriers in India, were facing serious financial difficulties. All of them were cutting costs in order to survive these difficult times, he said.

He urged the pilots and other employees to see reason and avoid a confrontation with the management at this juncture. "Please cooperate, please return to you duties, there is no reason for you to be aggrieved," he said.

The minister also claimed that the airline had cleared salaries and all allowances, including the PLI, to all employees till July and only the amounts for August were now pending. This was later disputed by a representative of the executive pilots.

He said the management was in the process of finalising a turnaround plan for the airline, but made it clear that this could not be a painless process.

He said if the pilots did not respond to the call to return to work, the management would be free to take any decision in the airline's and the nation's best interests.

"The management will have no option but to take appropriate action," he said, without spelling out what those measures might be.

NNN
Syndicate content
© Copyright 2012 NetIndian. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of NetIndian content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of NetIndian Media Corporation. Write to info[AT]netindian[DOT]in for permission to use content. Read detailed Terms of Use.