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8 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll rises to 298

Eight more influenza A (H1N1) deaths have been reported from India, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 298, an official statement said today.

Of them four of the deaths were reported today--two in Karnataka and one each in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh.

Besides, two deaths that occurred in recent days in Andhra Pradesh and two in Gujarat have also been confirmed today as cases of swine flu after the receipt of the results of laboratory tests, the statement said.

Of the total deaths, Maharashtra accounts for 117, while 91 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 31 each in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat, 9 in Delhi, 4 each in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 189 fresh cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 53 in Delhi, 46 in Maharashtra, 39 in Andhra Pradesh, 17 in Karnataka, 12 in Haryana, 7 in Kerala, 4 in Uttar Pradesh, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Chandigarh, 2 each in Gujarat and Puducherry, and 1 in Jammu & Kashmir

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 9694, the statement added.

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PM to open meet on peaceful uses of atomic energy Tuesday

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate a three-day conference on "Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy-2009" here on September 29.

The conference is being organised by the Department of Atomic Energy (DEA) in association with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Indian Nuclear Society (INS) as part of the year-long programme to mark the birth centenary year of Dr Homi Jehangir Bhabha.

Dr Bhabha was the founder of the Indian atomic energy programme and had presided over the first international conference on this subject held in Geneva way back in 1955.

An official press release said the conference would discuss a road map for the growth of nuclear energy and its peaceful applications against the background of the progress made in the area in the last five decades.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, IAEA Director General Mohammed Elbaradei and INS President P Rama Rao are among those slated to address the inaugural session of the conference. Mr Mukherjee will also release Bhabha Centenary Commemorative Coins on the occasion.

The release said the conference would discuss both power and non-power applications of nuclear energy. It said the event would be attended by several policy-makers and eminent nuclear scientists and technologists. There will also be presentations by experts from some countries with emerging nuclear programmes.

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AI schedules affected as section of pilots take leave

Air India

National carrier Air India's flight schedules were disrupted as some of its executive pilots went on leave for the second day today to protest against the management's decision last week to effect a 25-50 per cent cut in the productivity-linked incentive (PLI) paid to more than 7000 of its employees---about a quarter of the airline's total staff strength.

Air India spokesperson Jitender Bhargava told NetIndian that the airline was operating today to a revised schedule worked out on the basis of its requirements, the passenger loads and the availability of pilots.

He said flights were being operated today as per the revised schedule, which meant, among other things, combining some flights and transfering passengers of some flights to those of Air India Express, its no-frills subsidiary.

Mr Bhargava said details about the number of pilots who had taken leave would be available later in the day.

Yesterday, the loss-making airline, which is currently going through a severe financial crisis, had cancelled at least 13 of its domestic flights when about 20 of the pilots failed to report for work. Most of the pilots who absented themselves were based in Delhi, he said.

Air India has 319 executive pilots, of whom 157 were part of the erstwhile Indian Airlines which was merged with Air India some time ago.

Mr Bhargava said Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav was due to meet representatives of the executive pilots later today to discuss the issues raised by them.

A spokesman for the pilots told television channels that the management must first withdraw the cut in PLI before talks could be held. He said the management had not taken the pilots into confidence before deciding on the cuts.

Air India's Board of Directors had approved the cut in the PLI at its meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday on the basis of the recommendations made by a committee headed by Mr Anup Srivastava, Director-Personnel.

The cut will be applicable to all officers, including top management personnel, in various management disciplines and will 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 will be 35 %, 40% and 45%, respectively. The cut will be effective from the PLI payable in August 2009 onwards.

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--the worst in its history.

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.

Mr Jadhav also provided some details of the turnaround plan initiated by the company and said the employees had a pivotal role to play in this effort.

"No turnaround can be achieved unless employees are fully involved," he stressed. He said the Government had committed itself to a robust Air India but the financial help from the government would come only if the airline demonstrated its commitment and effected considerable savings in all areas of expenditure.

Mr Jadhav praised the employees for bring about a significant improvement in the airline's on-time performance. He said the increase witnessed in the number of passengers carried per day by Air India this month was testimony to the return of many passengers to Air India's fold as a consequence of improvement in on-time performance and deployment of new aircraft. There is, however, a need to improve the product in its totality for making Air India a preferred airline of the customers, he stressed.

Mr Jadhav also asked employees to take a fresh look at their existing work practices and adopt a work culture that was contemporary, cost effective and productive. "We have to change with times to suit the competitive environment," he added.

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 the 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 a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

Among other things, the CoS had decided that the airline should appoint a Cost Auditor immediately to monitor, review and ensure that the cost reduction and operational efficiencies were effected.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful 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.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made a special mention of the airline in his Independence Day address on August.

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AI cancels 13 flights as 20 pilots take leave

Air India

National carrier Air India today cancelled as many as 13 of its domestic flights when about 20 of its pilots went on leave to protest against the management's decision to effect a 25-50 per cent in the productivity-linked (PLI) paid to more than 7000 of its employees--about a quarter of the airline's total staff strength.

Air India spokesperson Jitendra Bhargava told NetIndian that the airline operated all its 58 international flights today and only 13 of its 200-plus domestic services were cancelled. He said most of the pilots who took leave today were based in Delhi.

Mr Bhargava said Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav would meet representatives of the pilots at the airline's headquarters in Mumbai tomorrow instead of Wednesday as planned earlier.

A section of the executive pilots of the airline is unhappy with its Board's decision to effect the cut in the PLI.

A spokesman for the pilots told television channels yesterday that they would go on mass leave to protest the reduction in their perks. He said the management had not taken the pilots into confidence before taking such a decision.

Air India's Board of Directors had approved the cut in the PLI at its meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday on the basis of the recommendations made by a committee headed by Mr Anup Srivastava, Director-Personnel.

The cut will be applicable to all officers, including top management personnel, in various management disciplines and will 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 will be 35 %, 40% and 45%, respectively. The cut will be effective from the PLI payable in August 2009 onwards.

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

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.

Mr Jadhav also provided some details of the turnaround plan initiated by the company and said the employees had a pivotal role to play in this effort.

"No turnaround can be achieved unless employees are fully involved," he stressed. He said the Government had committed itself to a robust Air India but the financial help from the government would come only if the airline demonstrated its commitment and effected considerable savings in all areas of expenditure.

Mr Jadhav praised the employees for bring about a significant improvement in the airline's on-time performance. He said the increase witnessed in the number of passengers carried per day by Air India this month was testimony to the return of many passengers to Air India's fold as a consequence of improvement in on-time performance and deployment of new aircraft. There is, however, a need to improve the product in its totality for making Air India a preferred airline of the customers, he stressed.

Mr Jadhav also asked employees to take a fresh look at their existing work practices and adopt a work culture that was contemporary, cost effective and productive. "We have to change with times to suit the competitive environment," he added.

The decision to cut the PLI came against the background of the severe financial crisis that the airline is facing as well as the discussions that it 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 the Air India that any assistance to it must be preceded by concrete steps to reduce costs and increase savings.

On 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 a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

Among other things, the CoS had decided that the airline should appoint a Cost Auditor immediately to monitor, review and ensure that the cost reduction and operational efficiencies were effected.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful 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.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made a special mention of the airline in his Independence Day address on August 15, saying that the government was giving careful attention to the problems of Air India and would resolve them soon.

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11 scientists chosen for 2009 Bhatnagar Prize

Eleven scientists from across the country were today chosen for the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize for Science and Technology for their outstanding work in different fields.

The names were announced on the occasion of the Foundation Day celebrations of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) here.

The prizes are given every year to scientists below 45 years of age for their outstanding scientific contributions made primarily in India in the last five years.

The prize comprises a citation, a plaque and a cash award of Rs 500,000. The prizes will be given by the Prime Minister on a date to be announced later.

The following are the scientists chosen for the prizes:

Dr Amitabh Joshi, Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bangalore, Dr Bhaskar Saha, National Centre for Cell Science, Pune (Biological Sciences), Dr Charusita Chakravarty, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, Dr Narayanaswamy Jayaraman, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Chemical Sciences), Dr S K Satheesh, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Earth, Atmosphere, Ocean & Planetary Sciences), Dr Giridhar Madras and Dr Jayant Ramaswamy Haritsa, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (Engineering Sciences), Dr Venapally Suresh, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad (Mathematical Sciences), Dr Santosh Gajanan Honavar, L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad (Medical Sciences), and Dr Rajesh Gopakumar, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad and Dr Abhishek Dhar, Raman Research Institute, Bangalore (Physical Sciences).

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One H1N1 death in India, toll rises to 290

One person died of influenza A (H1N1) in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 290, an official statement said.

The statement said the figure included four deaths in Karnataka in recent days which have now been confirmed as cases of the swine flu by the results of the laboratory tests conducted on the patients.

Besides, there have been three deaths in Andhra Pradesh because of suspected swine flu, but the results of the laboratory tests are still awaited, it said.

Of the total deaths, Maharashtra accounts for 117, while 89 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 29 in Andhra Pradesh, 28 in Gujarat, 9 in Delhi, 4 each in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Haryana and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 208 fresh cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 66 in Delhi, 32 each in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, 24 in Andhra Pradesh, 18 in Karnataka, 13 each in Kerala and Haryana, 6 in Assam, 2 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 each in Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 9492, the statement added.

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Saudi govt issues advisory on H1N1 for Haj pilgrims

The Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia has issued an advisory saying that elderly, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases and children should postpone the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages this year for their own safety because of the influenza A H1N1 pandemic.

A press release issued by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare here today said the Saudi Government had advised that pilgrims planning to attend the Haj must be vaccinated against seasonal flu at least two weeks before travelling to the holy places.

It also said that passengers were currently screened on arrival at all ports of entry into Saudi Arabia. Those suspected to have influeza A H1N1 (swine flu) will be temporarily quarantined. Those who test positive will be admitted to hospital for isolation, it said.

Meanwhile, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has also issued its own advisory for the pilgrims on steps to be taken before leaving India, during travel and stay in Saudi Arabia and after return, including a list of do's and don'ts.

They are as follows:

Before leaving India:

· Haj Pilgrims would be medically examined for the signs/symptoms of influenza A H1N1 (fever, cough, running nose, sore throat, difficulty in breathing) at the point of embarkation, that is at the place where booking of pilgrims takes place in their respective states. They will be issued an H1N1 symptom free certificate in prescribed proforma. Contact the local health authority or the State Haj Committee for further information.

· There would be a provision made by the concerned State Governments at the respective airports to issue such certificates to left out Haj Pilgrims. Contact the Airport Health Officer for further information.

During Travel and period of stay in Saudi Arabia

Look for Symptoms of Influenza A H1N1 (swine flu):

· During Haj, large number of pilgrims gathers from swine flu affected countries. There is a possibility of Influenza A H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak taking place at such large gatherings. Haj Pilgrims should be familiar with the symptoms of this disease, namely fever, cough, running nose, sore throat and difficulty in breathing. All Haj pilgrims need to self monitor their health.

If you think you have symptoms of Influenza A H1N1 (swine flu):

· Consult the medical officer in the Indian contingent. If need be, seek immediate advice from the nearest Saudi medical facility. Anyone who contracts pandemic flu while in Saudi Arabia will be given access free of charge to medication and treatment.

· If the advice of the medical doctor is to stay in the camp, use triple layer surgical mask. Avoid close contact with others for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours whichever is longer.

· Report to nearest identified health facility if symptoms aggravate (high fever, difficulty in breathing, blue colour of the skin or lips, blood in sputum or altered behaviour.

Follow simple public health measures to prevent spread of H1N1 Flu (Do’s and Dont’s)

. Cover your mouth and nose with a handkerchief or tissue when you cough or sneeze.
. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand gel.
. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
. Avoid crowded places except for performing the religious activities of Hajj.
. Stay more than an arm's length from persons afflicted with flu.
. Get plenty of sleep.
. Drink plenty of water and eat nutritious food.

DO NOT:

. Shake hands or hug in greeting except as a mandatory religious activity of the Haj.
. Spit in public.
. Take medicines without consulting a physician.

After reaching back

· Continue to monitor your health for 10 days.
· Report to nearest screening centre if you develop symptoms of flu.
 
For More Information
· Visit http://www.mohfw-h1n1.nic.in
· Contact National Help Line -011-23921401 or
· Contact the help line number of your State Health Department 

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Air India CMD calls pilots for talks after agitation threat

Air India
A section of the executive pilots of national carrier Air India is said to be unhappy with its Board's decision to effect a 25-50 per cent cut in the productivity-linked incentive (PLI) paid to more than 7000 of its employees--about a quarter of the airline's total staff strength.

A spokesman for the pilots told television channels that they would go on mass leave to protest the reduction in their perks. He said the management had not taken the pilots into confidence before taking such a decision.

When contacted, the spokesperson for Air India told NetIndian that the management had not been informed by the pilots of any such move.

But taking note of the media reports in this regard, Air India Chairman and Managing Director Arvind Jadhav has called the representatives of the pilots for a meeting on Wednesday to discuss these and other related issues.

Air India's Board of Directors had approved the cut in the PLI at its meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday on the basis of the recommendations made by a committee headed by Mr Anup Srivastava, Director-Personnel.

The cut will be applicable to all officers, including top management personnel, in various management disciplines and will 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 will be 35 %, 40% and 45%, respectively. The cut will be effective from the PLI payable in August 2009 onwards.

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

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.

Mr Jadhav also provided some details of the turnaround plan initiated by the company and said the employees had a pivotal role to play in this effort.

"No turnaround can be achieved unless employees are fully involved," he stressed. He said the Government had committed itself to a robust Air India but the financial help from the government would come only if the airline demonstrated its commitment and effected considerable savings in all areas of expenditure.

Mr Jadhav praised the employees for bring about a significant improvement in the airline's on-time performance. He said the increase witnessed in the number of passengers carried per day by Air India this month was testimony to the return of many passengers to Air India's fold as a consequence of improvement in on-time performance and deployment of new aircraft. There is, however, a need to improve the product in its totality for making Air India a preferred airline of the customers, he stressed.
Arvind Jadhav
Arvind Jadhav

Mr Jadhav also asked employees to take a fresh look at their existing work practices and adopt a work culture that was contemporary, cost effective and productive. "We have to change with times to suit the competitive environment," he added.

The decision to cut the PLI came against the background of the severe financial crisis that the airline is facing as well as the discussions that it 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 the Air India that any assistance to it must be preceded by concrete steps to reduce costs and increase savings.

On 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 a Committee of Secretaries (CoS) headed by Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar.

Among other things, the CoS had decided that the airline should appoint a Cost Auditor immediately to monitor, review and ensure that the cost reduction and operational efficiencies were effected.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful 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.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made a special mention of the airline in his Independence Day address on August 15, saying that the government was giving careful attention to the problems of Air India and would resolve them soon.

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IAF women officers train for Everest expedition

An all-woman mountaineering team of twenty officers of the Indian Air Force (IAF) will attempt to scale Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak, in 2011.

Members of the team are currently undertaking several expeditions to prepare themselves for the challenge of climbing the 8848 metre peak.

Seven members of the team scale Mt Stok Kangri (6123 m) in Leh on August 11. Today, a 20-member team, led by Wg Cdr Bhavana Mehra, was flagged off for an expedition to Mt Bhagirathi-II (6512 m) in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand.

The core group of women officers will follow this up with expeditions to Mt Satopanth (7075 m) and Mt Kamet (7757 m) during the post-monsoon season next year.

The team will also be exposed to further higher altitudes in 2011 before setting out for Mt Everest, an official press release added.

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ESIC to set up medical college in Patna

The Employees' State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) is setting up a medical college in Patna, Bihar, at a cost of Rs 600 crore.

The foundation stone for the college was laid in Patna today by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, who lauded the services being rendered by the ESIC to the working class of the country.

Union Labour and Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said the construction of the college would be completed in two years and the first academic session would start in 2013. He also said that the ESIC would continue to improve its services to workers all over the country.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was the chief guest at the function.

As part of an initiative to help overcome the shortage of medical manpower and improve services in ESI Hospitals, the ESIC has drawn up plans to set up medical colleges, nursing colleges, dental colleges and training schools for paramedical staff in ESI Hospitals around the country.

In the first phase of the programme, eleven medical colleges and 12 post-graduate medical sciences and research institutes would be set up in the existing ESI Hospitals by the Corporation, an official press release said.

The Patna medical college is the first such project taken up by ESIC. The Bihar Government has alloted 25 acres of land for the project. It will have state-of-the-art design features and facilities, comparable to any modern medical college in the country, the release said.

The ESIC has the largest team of medical and para-medical personnel in India and one of the largest medical infrastructures in the world. It has as many as 144 hospitals, 42 hospital annexes, 1397 dispensaries and 1753 panel clinics, the release said.

The Corporation has also approved formation of Hospital Development Committeee for each hospital, which will look after the upgradation of facilities and its attached dispensaries, the release added.

The ESIC basically runs a social security scheme for workers, incorporating the features of an insurance organization as well as that of a service provider for health-related needs of the insured persons.

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5 H1N1 deaths in India, 305 fresh cases

Five more influenza A (H1N1) deaths were reported from India today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 285, an official statement said.

Two of the deaths were reported from Maharashtra (1 each in Pune and Nashik), two from Surat in Gujarat and one from Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu.

Besides, the Maharashtra government has informed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that three deaths that occurred earlier in the state had been confirmed as cases of swine flu by laboratory tests.

With these, Maharashtra now accounts for 117 of the deaths reported so far, while 85 have lost their lives in Karnataka, 28 each in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, 9 in Delhi, 4 each in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, 3 in Goa, 2 each in Haryana and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 305 fresh cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 154 in Delhi, 39 in Maharashtra, 32 in Andhra Pradesh, 31 in Tamil Nadu, 20 in Karnataka, 13 in Haryana, 8 in Kerala, 4 in Gujarat, 3 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 in Jammu & Kashmir.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has crossed the 9000-mark to touch 9284, the statement added.

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Govt to set up NID at Hyderabad: Sharma

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today announced that the Government had decided to establish a campus of the National Institute of Design (NID) in Hyderabad.

Speaking at a seminar on pharmaceuticals in Hyderabad today, Mr Sharma said the institute would be set up in the memory of late Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash on September 2.

The NID, Ahmedabad, was set up in 1961 and has grown into an internationally acclaimed multi-disciplinary institution in the field of design education and research.

It is an autonomous body under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

Apart from the under-graduate programmes that NID offers at Ahmedabad, it has also set up a post-graduate campus in Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, and a research and development campus at Bangalore. NID offers post-graduate programmes in digital experience, retail experience and interface design at the Bangalore campus.

The Government had come up with plans some years ago for setting up four other NIDs in the country. In this connection, it is understood that some talks had been held initially with the Karnataka government on the requirement of land but they did not go far.

Around that time, it is learnt, Mr Reddy had initiated discussions with the Centre on setting up an NID in Hyderabad, but he died before a final decison was taken.

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Additional judges for Gauhati High Court

The President has appointed Mr Asok Potsangbam and Mr Pranoy Kumar Musahary as Additional Judges of the Gauhati High Court with effect from tomorrow, an official press release said here today.

In the case of Mr Potsangbam, the appointment will be till April 20, 2011, the date of his superannuation, while it will be for a period of two years for Mr Musahary, the release added.

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2 Central Universities in J&K, proposal for IIM dropped

The Union Government today announced that it had decided to set up two Central Universities in Jammu & Kashmir as a special dispensation and drop the proposal for establishing an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in the state.

The decision to drop the IIM proposal was taken in view of the constraints of resources and the greater demand for a second Central University in the state, a press release issued by the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development said.

It said the Government had decided to set up two Central Universities in the state in view of its special status, with two separate regions with distinct geographical, social, cultural and ethnic characteristics.

"The Central Government has decided to establish, as a special dispensation, two appropriate Central Universities in the State – one in Jammu region and another in the Kashmir Valley. It is expected that this will meet the regional aspirations in the State. The Government proposes to undertake appropriate legislative measures in this regard shortly," it said.

According to the release, the two Central Universities will have instructional and research facilities in emerging branches of learning like information technology, biotechnology, nanosciences and so on and will set exemplary standards of education for the other universities in the State to emulate.

It said the savings from the decision to drop the proposal for an IIM would be used for the establishment of the second Central University in the state.

The Union Cabinet had on August 27 approved a proposal to set up seven new IIMs at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, Ranchi in Jharkhand, Raipur in Chhattisgarh and Rohtak in Haryana as well as in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.

Of these, the first four will be set up in the current financial year and the rest were expected to become functional from the next academic session.

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

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IAF inducts Rapid Action Mobile Medical Hospital

An ultra-modern fully air-conditioned Rapid Action Mobile Medical Hospital was inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) today.

The induction ceremony at the IAF's Hindon Air Base in Ghaziabad, near here, was presided over by Vice-Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal P K Barbora.

Air Marshal P Madhusoodanan, Director General Medical Services (Air), who had conceptualised the need for such a facility, was also present, an official press release said.

The hospital, the first of its kind in the country, is a 25-bedded facility that can be deployed in the field or in a disaster area. It has a full complement of operation theatre, oxygen generating system and other sub-systems that would aid the military and civilians in both disaster areas and operational grounds.

According to the release, the facility can be transported by or by road and will serve as a key force multiplier to the expert disaster medical management teams on the ground who have till now been working under serious constraints.

More such units would be inducted and positioned in each command zone after evaluation so that the entire country is covered, Air Marshal Padhusoodanan added.

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Azad urges AIIMS doctors not to leave for private hospitals

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad today urged the doctors and faculty members of the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here not to leave the institution for the private sector, which often lured them with higher pay packets.

"As the Health Minister, both the private sector and the public sector are the same for me but as the President of AIIMS I will ask the doctors not to leave," he said at a function to mark the 54th Institute Day.

He said medicine, like politics, was a profession where people had to choose between making money and serving the people.

"One can choose between money and service, some people choose big money and less satisfaction and some less money and more satisfaction. I think in these professions one should go for more satisfaction," he said.

Mr Azad recalled that India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and then Health Minister Rajkumari Amrit Kaur had envisaged AIIMS as a centre of excellence and the top referral institute for the country.

But over the years, it has come be burdened with normal cases, he said, and pointed out that the Government had launched the revamping of the rural health system in the country.

He said the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) aimed to strengthen health and medical facilities at the district and village levels by 2012. Alongside, eight AIIMS-like institutes were being set up around the country and 19 medical colleges in different states were being upgraded. These steps would relieve AIIMS of much of its routine cases and enable it to become a perfect referral hospital for the country and the world, he said.

Mr Azad also underlined the need for upgradation of facilities in AIIMS and said the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had offered to give land for part of the extension plans of the institute.

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Chandrayaan-1 detects presence of water on the Moon

Earth as viewed by Chandrayaan-1 on 22 July 2009 during the Solar Eclipse.
Earth as viewed by Chandrayaan-1 on 22 July 2009 during the Solar Eclipse.

The Indian Space Research Organisation ((ISRO) today said that, in a path-breaking finding, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) aboard the aborted Chandrayaan-1, India's first lunar orbiter, had indicated the presence of water molecules on the lunar surface extending from the lunar poles to about 60 degrees latitude.

An ISRO press release said hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, was also found in the lunar soil.

Chandrayaan-1 India's first mission to the Moon, was launched on October 22 last year with the prime objective of finding traces of water on the lunar surface, besides mapping minerals and chemicals on the moon. The mission came to a premature end on August 29 this year when the mission control lost radio control with the spacecraft.

Chandrayaan-1 was carrying a host of sophisticated instruments like Moon Impact Probe (MIP) and Hyper-Spectral Imager (HySI) from ISRO as well as Moon Mineralogy Mapper and Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR) from NASA of the United States to collect relevant data from the lunar surface.

"During the mission, excellent quality of data from all these instruments has been obtained. While M3  has covered nearly 97% of the lunar surface, some of the other instruments have covered more than 90%," the press release said.

The M3 was one of two instruments that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had contributed to the mission.

M3 was a state-of-the-art imaging spectrometer that was expected to provide the first map of the entire lunar surface at high spatial and spectral resolution, revealing the minerals of which it is made.

Scientists will use this information to answer questions about the Moon's origin and development and the evolution of terrestrial planets in the early solar system. Future astronauts will use it to locate resources, possibly including water, that can support exploration of the Moon and beyond.

According to the release, the confirmation of water molecules and hydroxyl molecule in the moon's polar regions raises new questions about its origin and its effect on the mineralogy of the moon.

M3  measures the intensity of reflected sunlight from the lunar surface at infrared wavelengths, splitting the spectral colours of the lunar surface into small enough bits revealing finer details of the lunar surface composition.

This enabled identification of the presence of various minerals on the lunar surface that have characteristic spectral signature at specific wavelengths. Since reflection of sunlight occurs near the moon’s surface, such studies provide information on the mineral composition of the top crust of a few millimeters of the lunar surface.

The Indian instrument HySI, that covers the wavelength region 0.4 to 0.9 micron, also provided additional data in this regard that helped in better understanding of moon’s mineral composition.

"The findings from M3  onboard Chandrayaan-1 clearly shows a marked signature in the infrared region of 2.7 to 3.2 micron in the absorption spectrum, which provided a clear indication of the presence of hydroxyl and water molecules," the release said.

The scientific team, after detailed analysis, has come to the conclusion that there are traces of hydroxyl (OH) and water (H2O) molecules on the surface of the moon closer to the polar region. It is also concluded that they are in the form of a thin layer embedded in rocks and chemical compounds on the surface of the moon and the quantity is also extremely small of the order of about 700 ppm.

"These molecules could have come from the impact of comets or radiation from the sun. But the most probable source could be low energy hydrogen carried by solar wind impacting on the minerals on lunar surface. This in turn forms OH or H2O molecules by deriving the oxygen from metal oxide," the release said.

Following these findings, the scientific team revisited the data from NASA’s Deep Impact Mission launched in 2005 which carried an instrument similar to M3 .

The Deep Impact Probe observed the moon during the period June 2-9 this year. This, along with some laboratory tests carried out from samples brought from Apollo missions, has confirmed that the signature is genuine and there is a thin layer of surface mineral which contains traces of hydroxyl and water molecules.

Earth as viewed by 

Chandrayaan-1 on 25 Mar. 2009 at 07:03:03 UTC
Earth as viewed by Chandrayaan-1 on 25 Mar. 2009 at 07:03:03 UTC

The M3  observations are further strengthened by results obtained from the analysis of archived data of lunar observation in 1999 by another NASA Mission, Cassini, on its way to Saturn. This data set also revealed clear signatures of both OH and H2O absorption features on the lunar surface, the release said.

The analysis of the huge volume of M3 data was carried out by a joint team of scientists from US and India. The lead role was taken up by Dr.Carle Pieters, Principal Investigator from Brown University, USA and Prof. J N Goswami, Principal Scientist, Chandrayaan-1 from Physical Research Laboratory of India`s Department of Space. The findings were published in Sciencexpress in its edition of today. 

Analysis of data from other instruments on board Chandrayaan-1 is in progress, the release added.

Photos: Courtesy ISRO

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India denies change in policy towards Afghanistan

India today said there was no change in its policy towards Afghanistan and claimed that External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had been misquoted in his interview with the Wall Street Journal.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Vishnu Prakash, said Mr Krishna did not say, in the interview, that there should be a political settlement with the Taliban.

"Our policy is one of strengthening the Government of Afghanistan in achieving its social and developmental objectives by rebuilding of infrastructure, providing employment, health, education, etc.

"It is for the Government of Afghanistan to take the initiatives necessary so that all those who abjure violence and extremism and accept Afghanistan’s Constitution and democratic set-up, join the political process. It is not our position that a political settlement be attempted with those who do not share these aims," Mr Prakash added.

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9 H1N1 deaths in India, 283 new cases

Nine more influenza A (H1N1) deaths were reported from India today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 277, an official statement said.

Four of the deaths occured in Maharashtra (1 each in Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik), three in Karnataka (2 in Bangalore and 1 in Udupi) and two in Hyderabad, Andhra Padesh.

Besides, three deaths in Andhra Pradesh and one in Uttarakhand reported earlier have now been confirmed as cases of swine flu after the receipt of the reports of the laboratory tests conducted on the patients.

With these, Maharashtra now accounts for 112 of the deaths reported so far, while 85 have lost their lives in Karnataka, 26 in Gujarat, 28 in Andhra Pradesh, 9 in Delhi, 4 in Kerala, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Goa, 2 in Haryana and Uttarakhand and 1 each in Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 283 fresh cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 103 in Delhi, 43 in Andhra Pradesh, 35 in Maharashtra, 34 in Tamil Nadu, 25 in Haryana, 22 in Karnataka, 8 in Uttar Pradesh, 6 in Kerala, 3 in Goa, 2 in Gujarat and 1 each in Chandigarh and Chhattisgarh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 8979, the statement added.

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Centre asks States to issue smart card-based driving licenses

The Centre today asked all State Governments to implement the decision to issue smart card-based driving licenses by December 31 this year to ensure uniformity and inter-operability throughout the country.

The deadline was set at a meeting of the Principal Secretaries/Secretaries of Transport of all the States and Union Territories held here under the chairmanship of Mr Brahm Dutt, Secretary, Road Transport and Highways.

Various other issues related to the new National Permit regime, High Security Registration Plate (HRSP) scheme, IT projects like creation of State Registers/National Register of Driving Licenses and Registration Certificates and provision of adequate transport facilities for women were discussed at the meeting.

An official press release said there was unanimity among the States on evolving a system for seamless movement of goods vehicles across the country and to make the National Permit truly national in character.

It was decided that the States would consider the new composite fee regime of Rs.15,000 per annum per truck for authorisation of operations throughout the country. The States would take necessary measures to shift to an e-payment system of collection of composite fee.

At present, the National Permit is issued for operation in a minimum of 3 contiguous states besides the home state chosen by the applicant for such a permit.

It was also decided that the committee earlier constituted by the Ministry on the modalities of implementation of the HSRP scheme would also come out with model terms and conditions of the tender to be followed by States/UTs.

The recommendations of the Committee would be only suggestive in nature. The deliberations of the Committee would be an exercise exclusive of the independent decisions to be taken by individual States and UTs. It was left to the States to take a judicious decision to implement the directions of the Supreme Court on HRSP and in case they decide to keep the implementation on hold, the responsibility would squarely lie with them, it was stressed.

The State Governments were also asked to take various measures such as increase in frequency of special buses for women, special peak hour services, re-designing of routes keeping in view the safety of women and the demand for such services to enhance passenger transport facility for working women.

The States and UTs were asked to seek involvement of the employers to provide pick and drop facility for women, the release added.

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7 envoys present credentials to President

Seven new envoys, including Mr Peter Varghese, the new High Commissioner of Australia, presented their credentials to President Pratiba Patil at a ceremony in Rashtrapati Bhavan here today.

The others who presented their credentials were Mr Javier Manuel Paulinich Velarde, the Ambassador of Peru, Ms. Nafsika Chr Krousti, the High Commissioner of Cyprus, Ms. Terhi Hakala, the Ambassador of Finland, Mr. Janez Premoze, the Ambassador of Slovenia, Mr. Adli Shaban Hassan Sadeq, the Ambassador of Palestine and Mr. Sami Mohammad S M al-Sulaiman, the Ambassador of Kuwait.

In her interaction with them, Ms Patil welcomed the new envoys to India and conveyed to them India's desire to have good relations and to intensify bilateral ties with their countries.

The President said the international community should work unitedly and collectively to combat terrorism. She stated that terrorism hampered peace and harmony in societies and adversely affected the process of creating prosperity.

Referring to the global financial crises, the President emphasized the need for reform in international financial institutions.

The ceremony was attended by the senior members of the missions and senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and Rashtrapati Bhavan, an official press release added.

Mr Varghese, the new Australian High Commissioner, is an Indian-Australian and was the Director General of Australia's Office of National Assessments (ONA) until recently. He will be concurrently accredited to Bhutan.

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MEA: No India-China military exercises planned in 2009

India today clarified that no joint military exercise had been planned with China for this year.

Responding to media reports which said that the two countries had called off their joint military exercise this year, the spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Vishnu Prakash, said the two countries had conducted joint exercises in 2007 and 2008.

"It was mutually decided during the last exercise that the next joint military exercise would be held in 2010," he said.

"Therefore, no joint military exercise was planned in 2009," Mr Prakash added.

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Ansari: Action on climate change must enlarge development possibilities

Vice President M. Hamid Ansari releasing a book titled 'Engaging with a Resurgent Africa' at the Global Summit on Sustainable Development & Climate Change organised by the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi on September 24, 2009. Former Foreign Secretary M. K. Rasgotra is also seen.
Vice President M. Hamid Ansari releasing a book titled 'Engaging with a Resurgent Africa' at the Global Summit on Sustainable Development & Climate Change organised by the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi on September 24, 2009. Former Foreign Secretary M. K. Rasgotra is also seen.

Vice-President M Hamid Ansari today said any action on climate change must enlarge, not constrict, the possibilities for development and empowerment of the world's poor.

"Sustainable development is an issue of the peoples of the world. The issue of development should continue to remain the focus of the global discourse," Mr Ansari said at the "Global Summit on Sustainable Development and Climate Change" organised here this morning by the Observer Research Foundation.

"The human aspiration for leading a life of dignity must not be the outcome of the dice of geography," he said.

The Vice-President noted that the the timing of the conference, being held in the run-up to the 15th Conference of Parties in Copenhagen, ensured that its deliberations would inform the national and global debate on climate change.

In his view, climate change remained one of the most complex problems facing humankind today, which is expected to impact on the distribution and quality of natural resources, and consequently the developmental path of nations and the quality of lives of peoples across the globe.

"To developing countries like India, Climate Change imposes new challenges that may probably require negotiating new international and national political and economic arrangements, fashioning new technological interventions, and negotiating financial and technological transfers for mitigation and adaption to climate change," he said.

Mr Ansari said an incontrovertible premise in the debate was the right of every human being to a life dignity, which needed to be assessed in terms of some basic indicators.

He said that, in terms of basic energy consumption for two essential requirements of household electricity and transport, the per capita energy consumption for India was around 18 tonnes of oil-equivalent per person in the year 2005. The corresponding figure for Pakistan was 41, for China 52, for Mexico 345, for Brazil 205 and the United States 1881, he said.

India, despite having 17% of the world population and a rapidly growing economy, has only 4% of global Greenhouse Gas emissions as compared to the United States and China that account for over 16% each of global Greenhouse Gas emissions, he said.

In per capita terms, India’s Greenhouse Gas emission of 1.1 ton/annum is miniscule when compared to over 20 tonnes for the US and in excess of 10 tons for most OECD countries, he said.

Mr Ansari said India’s primary energy consumption was merely 3.7% per year despite a GDP growth rate, until recently, of around 9%. This contrasts with the pattern seen in developed countries and even a few major developing countries where higher GDP growth has followed the traditional pattern of increased use of energy.

He pointed out that more than 40 per cent of India's population was without access to electricity.

The Vice-President said sustainable development was premised on sustainable production and sustainable consumption patterns across all nations.

"A complex reality of our world is insufficient and inefficient production, as also profligate and inadequate consumption of varying degrees. The Climate Change negotiations have thus resulted in various countries adopting different negotiating positions. These have ranged between absolute emissions, per capita emissions, current emissions and historical emissions. Equity, nevertheless, remains the operative principle and every citizen of the globe has an equal entitlement to the planet’s atmospheric space, a common resource of humanity," he said.

Mr Ansari said that, at this early stage of development, India had the opportunity to exercise the right choices on climate change and sustainable development issues.

He said the National Action Plan on Climate Change portrayed this vision as creating "a prosperous, but not wasteful society, an economy that is self-sustaining in terms of its ability to unleash the creative energies of our people and is mindful of our responsibilities to both present and future generations".

He said the plan stated that the national objective was the establishment of "an effective, cooperative and equitable global approach based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, enshrined in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change".

The Vice-President said the question of equity and burden-sharing was central to the climate change debate. He said the lack of a global agreement on such an equitable formula was likely to cause the climate change negotiations to spill over to other multilateral, regional and bilateral negotiating platforms. This would further accentuate existing divisions such as North-South, East-West, Developed-Developing countries, and so on, he said.

Secondly, he said, the pursuit of equity at the international level needed to be reflected at the national level.

He said that there was significant variation in Greenhouse Gas emissions of various states within the country.

"As part of the national debate on climate change, we should discuss whether urban areas and heavily industrialised states that significantly contribute to Greenhouse Gas emissions should have different financial and other responsibilities on climate change as compared to rural areas and economically less developed states," he said.

Mr Ansari also said that the climate change debate so far had been primarily government-focused with some participation of the civil society.

"This needs to be broadened to include the legislature, people’s groups and grass root movements so that adaptation and mitigation options are discussed by those who are directly affected by climate change. The debate must be as inclusive as possible to enhance its legitimacy and credibility," he added.

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DGCA in compliance with FAA’s safety audit recommendations

India has been found to be fully compliant with international safety standards by an audit done by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States, an official press release said today.

Before permitting a foreign airline to operate in the US, the FAA, backed by US legislation, conducts an audit of the concerned country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)/ Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to ensure its capability for providing safety certification and continuing oversight on its international carriers.

The audit is conducted under an "International Aviation Safety Assessment Programme" (IASA) and focuses on the country's ability to adhere to standards and recommended practices of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) for aircraft operations and maintenance.

Under the IASA programme, the FAA in the year 1997 had conducted an audit of India's DGCA and had awarded Category 1 status to India.

This year, in March 2009, the FAA, based on the report of an audit conducted by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in October 2006, conducted a reassessment of DGCA.

While the FAA’s IASA team had found India to be compliant in areas of aviation legislation, operating regulations, civil aviation structure and safety oversight functions, and licensing and certification obligations, it raised concerns in the areas of adequate technical guidance for DGCA inspectors, hiring and retaining technical personnel in DGCA, establishment of an on-going surveillance programme of air operators and the resolution of identified safety issues.

According to an official press release, the DGCA was required to rectify the concerns in the identified areas in a short time frame of about five months. Repercussions of non-action could have resulted in India being downgraded to Category 2 status from the Category 1, which has been held by India since 1997. Under Category 2, no expansion/ changes to the services of Indian air carriers would have been permitted by US and the existing operations would have been subjected to "heightened FAA surveillance".

It said such a downgrade would not only have had an economic impact on the nation but would also have been a setback to India’s image worldwide in ICAO, the European Union (EU), the US and in the international aviation community.

The FAA IASA team visited the DGCA again today to confirm and validate the action taken on the concerns since the audit in March 2009. The visit was also made to ascertain the information which was provided to the FAA by DGCA from time to time in the past few months on the progress made to make good the deficiencies.

During the discussions, the FAA team confirmed the action taken by DGCA to make good the identified concerns of the earlier March 2009 audit, the release said.

According to the release, the team confirmed DGCA meeting the international standards in the area of aviation law and regulations and confirmed that the powers of Director General were well laid down in the various parts of the Aircraft Act, 1934 and Aircraft Rules, 1937 and the regulations were available to all users.

In the area of CAA structure and safety oversight functions, the team acknowledged that lack of financial resources was not a constraint for DGCA and that there had been an eight-fold increase in the annual budget for DGCA this year.

In 2009-10, DGCA had 40 crores under Plan and Rs 22 crores under its non-plan budget. The FAA was informed by DGCA that a feasibility study for establishment of Civil Aviation Authority had been commissioned and would commence next month.

The FAA team was shown the technical guidance, which was prepared in areas of operations, airworthiness and enforcement for the use of safety inspectors of DGCA for day-to-day functioning, including the training provided to the inspectors on their use.

The FAA team also confirmed the availability of an increased number of flight operations inspectors on board with DGCA which now includes 14 full time Government Flight Operations Inspectors (FOI) and 18 FOIs on secondment from industry. There were only four FOIs in March 2009. It was emphasized to the team that current increased salary levels based on the 6th Pay Commission had increased the attractiveness of Government positions and retention had improved.

The release said the Government had approved and revised about 560 technical positions and 150 non-technical positions in addition to the existing 160 technical and 177 non-technical positions. An aggressive action plan for recruitment is under way, it said.

It said 72 technical officers were being hired in September–October on short-term contracts.

The release said a higher level of financial delegation had given to the DGCA by the Government. The DGCA has, in turn, delegated financial powers to regional offices.

It said DGCA now had 13 directorates as against nine earlier. Four new directorates have been added. A DGCA-wide internal and external training programme has been developed. Further, a big project of IT-led solutions in DGCA is in an advanced stage of implementation.

The FAA team found that DGCA India fulfilled all international standards regarding licensing and certification obligations.

The release said the DGCA-wide surveillance programme was shared with the team and it was emphasized that all airlines, including foreign airlines, were included in it.

The programme includes Indian registered as well as aircraft taken by Indian operators on wet lease. The current programme for 2009 includes 4,327 surveillance activities, of which 2,545 had been conducted till August.

The meeting also discussed the system for addressing deficiencies arising out of the surveillance. The FAA team was informed of the setting up of Surveillance and Enforcement Division (SMED) and the Board for Aviation Safety (BFAS) in headquarters for monthly monitoring of identified Level I deficiencies and progress of other deficiencies.

The release said 87 enforcement actions had been taken against personnel and operators. In addition to the surveillance programme, DGCA has put in place a System of Quality Check of foreign flying training facilities used by Indian students for obtaining pilot licenses. DGCA officers had recently conducted an inspection of a flying institute in the Philippines in consultation with the civil aviation authority of the country.

The recently-introduced system of financial surveillance of airlines was also discussed, based on the current economic slowdown and consequent pressures on the airlines.

The release said DGCA shared with the team the revised Schedule VI of the Aircraft Rules 1937on Penalties, in which the substantial increase in financial penalty for non-adherence to regulations has been addressed.

The DGCA Enforcement Policy and Procedures Manual, issued on May 20 this year and effective from June 15, was provided to the team. The manual establishes and publicizes internal deadlines for taking action, appeal actions, and monitoring compliance with enforcement decisions throughout the regions, and implements an effective internal staff process to ensure timely action. The DGCA Officers at headquarters and in the regions have been trained on the manual. Stakeholders are aware that they are subject to enforcement, and the programme constitutes an effective deterrent.

According to the release, the FAA team was impressed with the amount of work accomplished by DGCA. It also acknowledged the commitment and support of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Goverment India.

The release said India was found fully compliant with FAA observations and ICAO Annexes 1, 6 and 8. The DGCA said India fully met the eligibility criteria to retain current Category I status under FAA IASA.

"Based on the discussions held and the information shared, FAA at the close of the discussion informed DGCA of being in compliance with international standards for aviation safety and reported India to continue to be maintained in Category I. This determination will be made public under FAA public disclosure policy," the release added.

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Two more H1N1 deaths in India, 219 new cases

Two more influenza A (H1N1) deaths were reported from India today, taking the toll due to the pandemic in the country so far to 264, an official statement said.

One of the deaths occurred in Ahmednagar in Maharashtra and the other in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh.

With these, Maharashtra now accounts for 108 of the deaths reported so far, while 82 have lost their lives in Karnataka, 26 in Gujarat, 23 in Andhra Pradesh, 9 in Delhi, 4 in Kerala, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Goa, 2 in Haryana and 1 each in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, as many as 219 fresh cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 80 in Delhi, 45 in Maharashtra, 26 in Haryana, 17 each in Tamil and Karnataka, 11 in Andhra Pradesh, 10 in Uttarakhand, 8 in Kerala, 2 each in Uttar Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir and 1 in Gujarat.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has crossed the 8000-mark and touched 8696, the statement added.

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