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US Ambassador calls on C P Joshi

United States Ambassador in India Timothy J Roemer called on Union Rural Development Minister C P Joshi here today and the two discussed cooperation between the two countries in the area of rural development.


Dr. Joshi highlighted the efforts made to streamline the functioning of various schemes in the country with the involvement of civil society, experts, academicians and premier agencies, both at the national as well as international level.


He said that the measure were being taken to strengthen the implementation of the flagship schemes for the benefit of the rural population in India.


Mr. Roemer evinced keen interest in the measures undertaken by the Government of India and appreciated the efforts in this direction.


The US Ambassador was accompanied to the meeting by USAID Director Martha Erin Soto, an official press release added.


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Home Ministry clarifies on Biometric Attendance Control System

The Union Home Ministry today said that all staff of the Ministry were expected to work for a minimum of eight hours a day and forty hours a week.

"A working day consists of 8 hours ( 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m with half an hour lunch break in MHA) and all officers/officials are expected to work for this minimum period," it said in a clarification on the Biometric Attendance Control System installed in the Ministry.

The web-based system was inaugurated by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram yesterday as part of initiatives to improve systems in the Government. Since then, some queries have been raised in various quarters, the Ministry said today in a statement.

"The purpose of introducing the system is to regulate this aspect, i.e. 8 hours of work in a day and 40 hours in a week," it stressed.

The statement said that some persons may get delayed due to transport/traffic problem or some other reasons.

"Such late arrivals within a reasonable period of 15-25 minutes will be acceptable subject to their adjusting their working hours upto 8 hours by delayed departure," the statement added.

The system consists of 15 machines installed at gates in three buildings where the offices of the Home Ministry are housed---North Block, Jaisalmer House and Lok Nayak Bhavan.

Under this system, all officials of the ministry will have to register their arrivals in the morning and departure for the day.

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PM gets overview of Delivery Monitoring Unit in PMO

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today got an overview of the Delivery Monitoring Unit set up in his office for monitoring the Government's "flagship programmes, new initiatives and iconic projects".

President Pratibha Patil had said in her address to Parliament on June 4 that such a unit would be set, and it was accordingly set up on July 7.

At a 90-minute meeting today, Dr Singh acquainted himself with the DMU's mechanism. The DMU is designed to ensure monitoring by the Prime Minister’s Office on selected programmes.

In the previous tenure of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government headed by Dr Singh, there were 101 items in the National Common Minimum Programme which were being "monitored" by the PMO.

Now these have been reduced to a select menu of 18 items of high visibility and high impact projects, an official press release said.

The role of DMU is to ensure effective delivery through regular monitoring of outputs, fast-track implementation and trouble-shoot through periodic reviews. The basic design is that the Prime Minister will be kept informed of the progress on these select programmes on a quarterly basis. Accordingly, the first report would be presented to the Prime Minister in early October. The primary objective is that this reporting will be placed in the public domain so that it is available to the citizens as well as to the Prime Minister.

However, it was also stressed that the DMU would in no way dilute the role of the administrative ministries in these programmes. The inputs/reports would be used to facilitate speedy implementation of these programmes and, if necessary, help ensure course correction.

Beginning September 15, 2009, the Ministries will start placing information in the public domain under the title "DMU Reports" on their respective website Home Page.

There are three categories of programmes to be monitored by DMU:

* Flagship Programmes: (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, National Rural Health Mission, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, Bharat Nirman, Multi-Sectoral District Plans for Minority Districts)

* New Initiatives: (Mission on Female Literacy; Rajiv Awas Yojana; NCHE; NCHRH; Innovation Universities – Decade of Innovation; Strengthening of Public Accountability through Right to Information, Public Date Policy, Independent Evaluation Office, Annual Reports)

* Iconic Projects: (Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Dedicated Railway Freight Corridor, Land Ports, Assam Gas Cracker Project, PM’s Reconstruction Plan for J&K, Infrastructure Development in North East)

The Prime Minister stressed that what is put on in the public domain should be real time data, accessible to the every citizen.

The DMU is part of the UPA Government’s commitment to bring about maximum transparency and accountability in the governing process, the release added.

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5 H1N1 deaths in India, 97 new cases

Five more deaths due to swine flu were reported from India today, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 106, an official statement said.

Two deaths each were reported from Maharashtra---one each in Pune and Thane---and Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, and one from Mysore in Karnataka.

Of the total deaths so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 57, while 27 people have lost their lives to the flu in Karnataka, 8 in Gujarat, 3 each in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, 2 in Andhra Pradesh and 1 each in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Goa.

Meanwhile, 97 fresh cass of the flu were reported today, including 31 in Karnataka, 22 in Tamil Nadu, 10 in Delhi, 9 in Gujarat, 8 in Maharashtra, 6 in Kerala, 5 in West Bengal, 3 in Uttarakhand, 2 in Haryana and 1 in Uttar Pradesh.

With these, the total number laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 4198, the statement added.

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President leaves on state visits to Russia, Tajikistan

President Pratibha Patil being seen off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues on her departure to the Russian Federation & Republic of Tajikistan.
President Pratibha Patil being seen off by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues on her departure to the Russian Federation & Republic of Tajikistan.
President Pratibha Patil left here today on a five-day state visit to Russia and a three-day state visit to Tajikistan, which are expected to give a boost to India's relations with both the countries.

The President was seen off at the Delhi airport by Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, among others.

This is the second Presidential visit to the Russian Federation after then President A P J Abdul Kalam's visit in May, 2005.

The visit to Tajikistan from September 6-8 will be the first ever by a President of India to the Central Asian region.

The President is accompanied on the visit by Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora, Minister of State for Textiles Panaba Lakshmi, Members of Parliament Anusuiya Uikey and Hassan Khan and a high-level delegation.

Ms Patil had last met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during his state visit to India on December 4-5 last year, when they had participated in the closing ceremony of the Year of Russia in India.

Besides meeting Mr Medvedev, Ms Patil will also meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Chairman of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov and Speaker of Duma Boris Gryzlov.

Tomorrow, the two Presidents will attend a special concert, "Saharsa Patra" that will be presented by 170 performers representing 18 art forms from 16 states of India at the New Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as part of the Year of India in Russia.

The event is being organised by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). "Saharsa Patra" means the Lotus of a Thousand Petals and is an attempt to present the living heritage of Indian civilisation.

The President will also meet the Indian community and friends of India at a reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador to Russia. She will also meet the students and staff of the Indian Embassy School in Moscow.

From Moscow, Ms Patil will travel to St Petersburg, where she will meet the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President to the North West District, Mr. Ilya Klebanov, and the Deputy Governor of St Petersburg, Mr. Alexander Vakhmistrov.

She will also visit a Russian school which teaches Hindi in St Petersburg.

Briefing journalists earlier this week about the visit, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said the Year of India in Russia, being celebrated this year, followed the successful celebration of the Year of Russia in India in 2008.

"Our relationship with Russia is a partnership based on mutual trust, friendship and all-round cooperation. A declaration on strategic partnership was signed in New Delhi in October 2000 during the then President Putin’s visit to India," she said.

"Our relationship is informed by a shared vision and common interest in pursuing peace and stability in the 21st century in our region and in the world. Our wide ranging cooperation in strategic areas such as defence, nuclear energy and space, forms the solid bedrock of our relationship. It is our expectation that the President’s visit will further consolidate the ties of deep and abiding friendship between the two countries and peoples," she added.

The President will reach Dushanbe in Tajikistan on the evening of September 6. She will meet Tajikistan President Emomali Rahman, both at the restricted level and at the delegation level.

Mr N Ravi, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister of Tajikistan would call on Ms Patil during her stay in Dushanbe.

He said that the President would also have a meeting with the Chairman and Members of the Lower House of the Tajik Parliament.

A visit to the Mausoleum of the Sufi Saint Said Hamadoni at Kulyab, outside Dushanbe, is also being planned.

Both Presidents will address the inaugural meeting of the India-Tajikistan Joint Business Forum, Mr Ravi said.

Ms Patil will also be the Guest of Honour at the National Day celebrations of Tajikistan, the first time that a foreign dignitary is being accorded the honour.

The Ambassador of India will host a reception in honour of the visiting President, which will give her a chance to meet the Indian community in the country.

"The visit is an opportunity for reaffirming bilateral ties at the highest political level which will also give an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest," Mr Ravi said.

The President of Tajikistan had visited India in 2001 and 2006. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Tajikistan in 2003.

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Centre releases Rs 400 crore for rural roads in Mizoram

The Ministry Of Rural Development has released grant-in-aid worth Rs. 400 crores to Mizoram for construction of rural roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY).

The sum is the second instalment of Phase-V of grants-in-aid to the Mizoram Rural Roads Development Agency (MRDA), which is the the state-level autonomous agency for implementation of works under PMGSY in the state.

PMGSY is a 100 per cent centrally-sponsored scheme to provide road connectivity in the rural areas of the country.

It envisages connectivity to all habitations with a population of 500 persons and more in the rural areas and about 250 persons and above in respect of the hill states, tribal areas and desert areas through good and all weather roads.

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Centre sanctions Intelligent Transport System for Mysore under JNNURM

The Ministry of Urban Development has sanctioned an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) for Mysore city in Karnataka under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

According to an official press release, the project, which is as per sustainable Urban Transport Policy, will consist of design, development, testing, installation, training, operation and management of traffic systems.

It is divided into eight components, such as vehicle tracking system, central control station, passenger information management system, communication sub-system, travel demand management system, incident and emergency management system and operation and maintenance specification, fleet management system.

According to the State Government, the ITS project has been designed in consultation with Global Environment Facility (GEF)/World Bank/United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The ITS components in nine cities of the state have been funded under Urban Transport Project, India funded by GEF.

Against the estimated cost of Rs.22.70 crore for the Mysore project, Rs.11.76 crore is proposed to be funded under JNNURM and the rest will be funded under GEF and contribution of State and parastatal/urban local bodies (ULB) share.

Once the project gets underway, it will facilitate a modern fleet management system, automatic vehicle location; and computer-aided dispatch for route optimization and reduction in waiting time for passengers.

It will also allow in vehicle self diagnosis with sensors, auto alert for maintenance, 3-tier computer information system at Bus Q shelters, onboard display and bus terminals, peak hour management system, incident management system for breakdown and dispatch of SOS team, and emergency management systems.

This will be available at the central control and display system for real time decision making in operation of buses, the release said, adding that the project would be completed in 24 months.

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Southern US Food Festival opens in Delhi

United States Ambassador Timothy J Roemer launched a week-long "Tastes of Southern US Food Festival" at the Park Hotel here today.

The festival began with a tasting of southern American cuisine prepared by American chef George Kaslow of the John Folse Culinary Institute in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

The food festival will feature southern American cuisine in New Delhi restaurants, cooking demonstrations for women’s groups, and training events with executive chefs and culinary students.

Chef Kaslow will teach Indian culinary students and faculty as well as industry professionals how to prepare uniquely American Cajun, Creole and Tex-Mex cuisine.

The southern foods to be highlighted during the festival include pecan pie, jambalaya, red beans and rice New Orleans style, chicken gumbo and corn grits.

The festival is sponsored by the Southern United States Trade Association (SUSTA), a non-profit agricultural export trade development association comprising 15 Southern States and Puerto Rico’s Departments of Agriculture.

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One H1N1 death, 114 new cases in India

With the death of one person in Goa, influenza A (H1N1) has claimed a toll of 101 lives in the country so far, an official statement said here today.

Of the 101 deaths, Maharashtra accounts for 55, while 26 people have lost their lives to the swine flu in Karnataka, 8 in Gujarat, 3 each in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and 1 each in Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Goa.

Meanwhile 114 new cases of the virus have been reported today, pushing the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in the country to 4101.

Of the new cases, 48 were reported from Maharashtra, 22 from Karnataka, 18 from West Bengal, 10 from Delhi, 6 from Tamil Nadu, 3 from Orissa, 2 each in Chandigarh and Puducherry and 1 each in Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir and Chhattisgarh.

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President, PM greet people on Onam

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have greeted the people on the occasion of Onam, which will be celebrated tomorrow.

"On the joyous occasion of Onam, I extend my warmest greetings to everyone especially to all my brothers and sisters in Kerala," the President said.

"May this auspicious harvest festival, which underlines the importance of agriculture in our country, inspire us to work for the progress and prosperity of our nation and to promote harmony and compassion in our country," she added.

Dr Singh said Onam was an occasion to celebrate the secular traditions and rich heritage of the country.

"The harvest festival is also a joyous tribute to the farmer. The festival inspires us to unity and brotherhood and to cherish our environment.

"May the festival bring prosperity and happiness to all," he added.

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Bhardwaj to discharge AP Governor's functions

The President has appointed Karnataka Governor H R Bhardwaj to discharge the functions of the Governor of Andhra Pradesh.

This arrangement will continue during the absence of Andhra Pradesh Governor Narain Dutt Tiwari, a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique said.

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President to leave Wednesday on visit to Russia, Tajikistan

President Pratibha Patil will leave here tomorrow on a five-day state visit to Russia followed by a three-day state visit to Tajikistan, which are expected to give a boost to India's relations with both the countries.

This will be the second Presidential visit to the Russian Federation after then President A P J Abdul Kalam's visit in May, 2005.

The visit to Tajikistan from September 6-8 will be the first ever by a President of India to the Central Asian region.

The President will be accompanied on the visit by Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora, Minister of State for Textiles Panaba Lakshmi, Members of Parliament Anusuiya Uikey and Hassan Khan and a high-level delegation.

Ms Patil had last met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during his state visit to India on December 4-5 last year, when they had participated in the closing ceremony of the Year of Russia in India.

Besides meeting Mr Medvedev, Ms Patil will also meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Chairman of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov and Speaker of Duma Boris Gryzlov.

On Thursday, the two Presidents will attend a special concert, "Saharsa Patra" that will be presented by 170 performers representing 18 art forms from 16 states of India at the New Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as part of the Year of India in Russia.

The event is being organised by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). "Saharsa Patra" means the Lotus of a Thousand Petals and is an attempt to present the living heritage of Indian civilisation.

The President will also meet the Indian community and friends of India at a reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador to Russia. She will also meet the students and staff of the Indian Embassy School in Moscow.

Briefing journalists about the visit, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said that, from Moscow, Ms Patil will travel to St Petersburg, where she will meet the Plenipotentiary Representative of the President to the North West District, Mr. Ilya Klebanov, and the Deputy Governor of St Petersburg, Mr. Alexander Vakhmistrov.

She will also visit a Russian school which teaches Hindi in St Petersburg, Ms Rao said.

Ms Rao said the Year of India in Russia, being celebrated this year, followed the successful celebration of the Year of Russia in India in 2008.

"Our relationship with Russia is a partnership based on mutual trust, friendship and all-round cooperation. A declaration on strategic partnership was signed in New Delhi in October 2000 during the then President Putin’s visit to India," she said.

"Our relationship is informed by a shared vision and common interest in pursuing peace and stability in the 21st century in our region and in the world. Our wide ranging cooperation in strategic areas such as defence, nuclear energy and space, forms the solid bedrock of our relationship. It is our expectation that the President’s visit will further consolidate the ties of deep and abiding friendship between the two countries and peoples," she added.

The President will reach Dushanbe in Tajikistan on the evening of September 6. She will meet Tajikistan President Emomali Rahman, both at the restricted level and at the delegation level.

Mr N Ravi, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister of Tajikistan would call on Ms Patil during her stay in Dushanbe.

He said that the President would also have a meeting with the Chairman and Members of the Lower House of the Tajik Parliament.

A visit to the Mausoleum of the Sufi Saint Said Hamadoni at Kulyab, outside Dushanbe, is also being planned.

Both Presidents will address the inaugural meeting of the India-Tajkistan Joint Business Forum, Mr Ravi said.

Ms Patil will also be the Guest of Honour at the National Day celebrations of Tajikistan, the first time that a foreign dignitary is being accorded the honour.

The Ambassador of India will host a reception in honour of the visiting President, which will give her a chance to meet the Indian community in the country.

"The visit is an opportunity for reaffirming bilateral ties at the highest political level which will also give an opportunity for the two leaders to discuss bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest," Mr Ravi said.

The President of Tajikistan had visited India in 2001 and 2006. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had visited Tajikistan in 2003.

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Biometric Attendance Control System installed in Home Ministry

A Biometric Attendance Control System has been installed in the Ministry of Home Affairs here as part of initiatives to improve systems in the Government.

The web-based system was inaugurated by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram this morning and became operational immediately thereafter, an official press release said.

The system consists of 15 machines installed at gates in three buildings where the offices of the Home Ministry are housed---North Block, Jaisalmer House and Lok Nayak Bhavan.

Under this system, all officials of the ministry will have to register their arrivals in the morning and departure for the day, the release added.

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President to visit Russia, Tajikistan from Sep 2-8

President Pratibha Patil will pay a State Visit to Russia from September 2 to 6 at the invitation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, an official announcement said here today.

Later, the President will pay a State Visit to Tajikistan from September 6 to 8 at the invitation of Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, it added.

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Sibal urges States to partner Centre in education reforms

Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal briefing the press after the 56th Meeting of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari and the Secretary, Department of Higher Education & Member Secretary (CABE), R P Agrawal are also seen.
Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal briefing the press after the 56th Meeting of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE). Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari and the Secretary, Department of Higher Education & Member Secretary (CABE), R P Agrawal are also seen.
Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal today urged the States to support and partner the Centre in the effort to usher in educational reforms in the country.

Inaugurating the meeting of the Central Advisory Board on Education (CABE) here, Mr Sibal said expansion, inclusion and excellence were the three underlying principles for educational reforms.

He particularly sought the collaboration of the State Governments in the implementation of the Right to Education (RTE). He said Rs 1,50,000 crore would be needed to implement the RTE.

Mr Sibal said that, in order to provide equal opportunity for all students trying for admission to professional courses, a core curriculum in mathematics and science needed to be formulated.

He said the idea had been endorsed at the recent meeting of the Council of Boards of School Education (COBSE) and a committee had been formed to draft the outlines of such a curriculum in two months. He said diversity in education was to be respected and there was no intent of having a single board in the country.

The minister said the HRD ministry was in the process of formulating the structure for an overarching body for higher education that would be responsible for policy in this segment.

He said that some of the proposals for higher education included complete autonomy to universities for devising courses, cross fertilization of courses, research oriented universities and so on. He also said that he was open to the idea of Indian universities collaborating with foreign universities or with the corporate sector. He pointed out that the corporate sector was showing increasing interest in education as they require trained manpower.

Mr Sibal said he was in the process of dialogue for the creation of a Central Madrasa Board. He clarified that he did not want to interfere at all with religious education. But he emphasized that he wanted to empower minorities with equivalence of Board exams so that they could move into the university system and be eligible for jobs.

He also underlined commitment towards the Schedule Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Minorities, the differently abled, and other disadvantaged sections for which the same opportunity as the rest of the children of the country must be provided.

Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj C.P. Joshi, Union Minister for Labour & Employment Mallikarjun Kharge, Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports M.S. Gill and Union Minister of Tribal Affairs Kantilal Bhuria also addressed the meeting.

Among others, Minister of State for Human Resource Development D. Purandeswari, Mr R P Agrawal, Secretary, Department of Higher Education, and Ms Anshu Vaish, Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, education ministers from the states and nominated members such as lyricist Javed Akhtar and activist Teesta Setalvad were also present at the meeting.

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CCEA reviews drought situation, prices

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) met here today to review the situation arising out of the drought in nearly half the districts of the country as well as the rising prices and decided on a strategy to be adopted for drought mitigation and to achieve additional production and higher productivity in Rabi 2009.

The committee, which met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the chair, noted that, as on August 27, rainfall during the South-West Monsoon 2009 was deficient by 24 per cent in the country as a whole.

This has resulted in loss of crop sown area in Kharif 2009 and 278 districts in 11 states are affected by drought. The committee also took note of the Action Plan agreed to in the Agriculture Ministers' conference held here on August 21.

The CCEA was of the view that the need of the hour was for every Government agency to focus its attention on the measures that could be adopted for drought mitigation, maximising production from the standing Kharif crops and prepare for additional production and higher productivity in Rabi 2009.

The strategy to achieve this includes providing power and diesel to save standing Kharif crops, shifting to alternative less water-intensive crops and trying for area and productivity gains in Rabi through area-specific programmes and making available seeds and other agricultural inputs, an official press release said.

The strategy also includes the provision of flexibility to the States to utilise Central Scheme funds for catching up with late Kharif crops and issuing of periodical advisories by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

As far as relief operations are concerned, the strategy will be to release Central share of Calamity Relief Fund instalments of the States affected by drought, sending of Central teams to the States which have submitted memorandum for assistance under the National Cooperative Consumers' Federation of India (NCCF), convening of meeting of Relief Commissioners to take stock of the situation and organisation of logistics, including tying up fodder with Punjab and Haryana.

The meeting noted that the Department of Drinking Water Supply had made available sufficient funds to the states and that the Department of Rural Development had provisioned availability of adequate funds under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) for alternate employment opportunities and under the Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP) for taking up activities to retain moisture for agriculture.

The release said the Railways had been alerted to the need for carrying drinking water/fodder and operations in this regard had started in Rajasthan.

There will be weekly meetings of the Inter-Ministerial Group to monitor the situation and coordinate the various efforts, the release said.

On the price front, the CCEA reviewed the prices of essential commodities and noted that the major areas of concern were the prices of pulses and sugar.

The meeting noted that several steps had been taken to increase the availability of pulses and sugar. These steps would help in controlling the price increase, it felt.

It also noted that, at the meeting earlier this month with the State Governments, the need to enforce stock limits, carry out de-hoarding operations and use the powers available under the Essential Commodities Act and the Prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act had been emphasised.

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H1N1 toll touches 100 in India with 7 more deaths

Seven more deaths due to swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 100, an official statement said.

Four of the deaths were reported from Maharashtra, two from Karnataka and one from Chhattisgarh, the first in that state, it said.

Maharashtra now accounts for 55 of the deaths so far, while 26 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 8 in Gujarat, 3 each in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and 1 each in Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh.

Meanwhile, 106 fresh cases of the virus were reported from different parts of the country today, including 48 in Maharashtra, 15 in Tamil Nadu, 12 in Delhi, 11 in Karnataka, 7 in Uttar Pradesh, 5 in Kerala, 2 each in Haryana and West Bengal and 1 each in Goa, Uttarakhand, Mizoram and Rajasthan.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has gone up to 3987, the statement added.

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Moderate quake on India-Myanmar border

An earthquake of moderate intensity was recorded in the India-Myanmar border region early today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

The quake, which had a magnitude of 5.3 on the Richter scale, hit the area at 0057 hours IST and had its epicentre at 25.4 N, 94.8 E, the IMD added.

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Govt employees to get non-productivity linked bonus of 30 days emoluments

The President has sanctioned the grant of non-productivity linked bonus (ad hoc bonus) equivalent to 30 days' emoluments for 2008-09 to the Central Government employees in Group C and D and all non-gazetted employees in Group B, who are not covered by any productivity linked bonus scheme.

An office memorandum dated August 28 from the Ministry of Finance said the calculation ceiling of Rs 3500 would remain unchanged.

The payment would also be admissible to the Central Police and Para-military Personnel and Personnel of the Armed Forces, it said.

Further, the orders would be deemed to be extended to the employee of Union Territory Administrations which follow the Central Government pattern of emoluments and are not covered by any other bonus or ex-gratia scheme.

It said only those employees who were in service on March 31 this year and had rendered at least six months of continuous service during the year 2008-09 would be eligible for payment under these orders.

Pro-rata payment will be admissible to the eligible employees for period of continuous service during the year from six months to a full year.

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4 more H1N1 deaths, 128 new cases in India

Four more deaths due to swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, taking the toll due to the A(H1N1) virus in the country so far to 93, an official statement said.

Two of the deaths were reported from Pune in Maharashtra and one each from Kerala and Gujarat. Laboratory test results for the Gujarat case were still awaited, it said.

Laboratory test results have, meanwhile, confirmed that two deaths reported earlier in Maharashtra were due to the flu, the statement said.

Maharashtra now accounts for 51 of the deaths so far, while 24 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 8 in Gujarat, 3 each in Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Kerala and 1 in Uttarakhand.

Meanwhile, as many as 128 new cases were reported from different parts of the country today, including 27 in Uttar Pradesh, 22 in Delhi, 21 in Tamil Nadu, 17 in Karnataka, 12 in Maharashtra, 10 in West Bengal, 8 in Andhra Pradesh, 2 each in Gujarat, Goa and Chandigarh, and 1 each in Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir.

The statement said all about two of the new cases were people who had got the infection from within the country.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in the country has risen to 3881.

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Rajnath Singh calls for action plan to tackle drought

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Rajnath Singh today expressed serious concern about the drought situation in nearly half the districts of the country and stressed the urgent need to resolve the deepening agrarian crisis through a dynamic and long-term action plan.

"The devastated poor and farmers in the country cannot wait any longer. We must act today and not tomorrow," Mr Rajnath Singh said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He demanded that a National Task Force on Adaptation to Climate Change and Sustainable Agriculture should immediately be created for intimately and urgently addressing the various suggestions.

Mr Rajnath Singh said climate change and its adverse impacts on the people, agriculture and national economy were more than obvious.

He noted that nearly 250 districts had alrady been declared drought-affected, the foodgrain production might dip substantially by about ten per cent and the overall economy might not grow by more than six per cent.

"Worst, our farmers, most of whom are marginal and sub-marginal and who constitute the bulk of the poor of the country, are hit the hardest. The meteorological distresses have highly aggravated their input-risk-output imbalances and rendered them extremely vulnerable to the uncertainties of the climate change. Thus, they have further been marginalized and pushed to the edge," he said.

Mr Rajnath Singh said he understood that India and the neighboring South Asian countries would be the world’s greatest victims of the climate change.

"It is projected that mean annual temperature in India by the end of the 21st Century will increase by 3 to 6° C and the rainfall by 15 to 40 per cent, but would be more erratic. I further understand that the warming will be more pronounced in northern India – the bread basket of India, causing an annual reduction of about 4 to 5 million tonnes in wheat production with every rise of 1° C temperature," he said.

According to him, the drought in kharif season, which would also affect water availability in the ensuing rabi, and high temperature in rabi season would respectively weaken rice and wheat economy, the two legs of food security and agrarian prosperity of the nation.

"A determined national alliance and action by all stakeholders, including the Government, policy planners, scientists, civil society, and, of course, the farmers, is a must to blunt the disaster," he said.

The BJP leader said that he was aware that recently a National Action Plan on Climate Change, including a Mission on Sustainable Agriculture, had been released by the Government of India to propose actions to increase our adaptive capacity to climate change.

"Notwithstanding the good intention of the proposal, time is not on our side. While the planners would be busy rediscovering the wheels and preparing formal action plans, we must act today. A few days ago, you yourself had suggested contingency planning and action to mitigate the adverse effects of failed Monsoon," he stressed.

Mr Rajnath Singh said that due to the weak monsoon, the spiralling prices of foodgrains were further shooting up, affecting the poor and other weaker sections. He urged the government to make arrangements to ensure immediate supply of foodgrains to the poor and needy at nominal/token prices.

He said the actions proposed by various organisations, particularly by the National Commission on Farmers, should be translated into action at the ground level. Some of these suggestions include the creation of a National Risk Fund, Market Stabilisation Fund, National Soil and Water Board, and establishment of an Indian Trade Organisation for linking farmers, especially small farmers, with markets to avoid the risks in the marketplace and to buttress the poor from the external violent fluctuations.

"Drought, flood and good weather codes should be dynamically developed and judiciously implemented. Establishment of village seed banks, foodgrain banks, feed and fodder banks, water banks and village knowledge centres for early warning and information sharing will also go a long way in mitigating the adverse impacts arising from climate change," he said.

"Trained climate change management agents, one man and one woman, should be appointed in each block to begin with to advise villagers on the spot," he said.

Mr Rajnath Singh said that since the adaptation strategy would involve development of appropriate technologies to provide short, medium and long term solutions, a highly focused research, technology generation and transfer and innovation system must be in place.

"Such a system should have a human face and be development-oriented, especially keeping in mind the needs of the resource-poor. A strong monitoring, evaluation, impact assessment and mid-course correction mechanism should be a part of the research and technology agenda for adaptation to climate change," he added.

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IIMs issue notification for CAT 2009

A pergola at IIM Bangalore.
A pergola at IIM Bangalore.
The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) today issued the notification for their Common Admission Test (CAT) 2009, will be held between Saturday, November 28 and Monday, December 7 this year.

The CAT is being conducted as a Computer Based Test from this year onwards. It 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.

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. Three others in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan will be set up the following year.

Today's advertisement, however, does not mention the new IIMs.

It said separate advertisements would appear for the Fellow Programme of each institute, equivalent to Ph.D., as well as the PGP programmes in AgriBusiness Management (ABM) of IIM Ahmedabad and IIM Lucknow, the Post Graduate Programme in Software Enterprise Management (PGSEM) and Post Graduate Programme in Planning and Policy Management (PGPPM) of IIM Bangalore, the Post Graduate Diploma in Computer-Aided Management (PGDCM) of IIM Calcutta and the Executive Post Graduate Programme in Management (EPGP) of IIM Indore.

Several non-IIM institutions also use the CAT scores in the admission process for their management programmes and a list of these is available at the CAT website.

According to the notification, a candidate can appear for CAT 2009 only once during the 10-day testing window.

Candidates must hold a Bachelor's degree, with at least 50 per cent marks or equivalent CGPA (45 % in case of the candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribe (ST) and Differently Abled (DA) categories).

Candidates appearing for the final year of bachelor's degree/equivalent qualification examination and those who have completed degree requirements and are awaiting results can also apply.

Prospective candidates must maintain a valid e-mail account throughout the selection process, the advertisement stressed.

The CAT 2009 Vouchers can be obtained from branches of Axis Bank and their associated outlets between Wednesday, September 9 and Thursday, October 1 for Rs 1400 (Rs 700 for SC/ST/DA candidates). A candidate needs to buy only one CAT 2009 Voucher irrespective of the number of institutes he/she is applying to.

On purchasing the CAT 2009 Voucher, prospective candidates must log on to the CAT website to register for the examination. The registration window starts on September 9 and will close on Thursday, October 1.

The test will be conducted in venues across many centres. These centres are Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Chandigarh, Chennai, Cochin (Kochi), Coimbatore, Delhi, Durgapur, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Greater Noida, Gurgaon, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Jamshedpur, Kolkata, Kozhikode, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Noida, Patna, Pune, Ranchi, Siliguri and Varanasi.

Candidates can choose a test date, session (morning/afternoon) and venues across these centres, subject to availability.

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.

"This has resulted in severe strain on the administrative system of IIMs to conduct CAT in its existing format," a statement issued by the IIMs in April this year to announce the switchover to CBT format said.

Traditionally, the CAT used to be held on the third Sunday of November every year.

While announcing the shift to the new format, the IIMs had said that the CBT CAT would be a candidate-friendly test in terms of flexibility in the selection of test date, ease of registration process, better physical environment and test experience, and enhanced security in terms of biometric identification of candidates and video monitoring.

They said the CBT format would also improve communication between candidates and the IIMs in terms of programme information, test delivery, receipt of admit cards, and receipt of score reports.

They said CBT was a natural culmination of the modernization CAT has undergone. In the late 1960s, multiple choice questions (MCQ), an educational testing innovation, was introduced for the first time in the entrance examinations of IIMs. Later, in the late 1970s, entrance tests of different IIMs were merged to form CAT. In the late 1980s, another technology feature was introduced in the form of optical machine reading (OMR) of the answer-sheets. As a CBT, the CAT format will be comparable to existing tests such as GMAT, GRE, and TOEFL.

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

NNN

Related Stories

Centre issues guidelines to states on tourism infrastructure

The Union Tourism Ministry has written to all states urging them to follow a set of guidelines in the implementation of tourism projects.

The letter, written by Tourism Secretary Sujit Banerjee to Chief Secretaries of all states, is based on the guidelines framed by the ministry on the basis of recommendations made at a recent workshop on Development of World Class Tourism Infrastructure.

The workshop was attended by architects, engineering organisations, tourism managers and consultations and was focused on sensitising the various stakeholders of the industry towards the emerging trends in world class tourism.

The workshop focused on four broad categories--urban civic amenities, built heritage and signages, climatically responsive and vernacular architecture and urban landscape.

In general, the workshop felt that state governments should, as far as possible, employ architects, including conservation and landscape architects, following codal formalities and these should be funded from their own resources.

It said efforts should be made by the state governments to have single-window clearance for tourism-related projects.

While formulating schemes under mega destinations projects/circuits, attempts should be made to bring convergence with the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), it said.

Mr Banerjee said the guidelines would form the basis of any further tourist development project in states.

The following are the guidelines:

URBAN CIVIC AMENITIES

1. States should create all weather circulation networks and connectivity including creation of barrier free environment in and around tourist destinations for all users.

2. Proper attention would need to be given to the following:

(i) Design Codes, Aesthetics and Anthropometrics, choice of materials, fabrication, durability, weathering and maintenance

(ii) Signage: Adequacy and Placement

(iii) Litter/recycling bins

(iv) Information/way finding

(v) Information and Tourist Facilitation/ Convenience centre

(vi) Public toilets

(vii) Parking units, including parking for two-wheelers and parking facilities for the physically challenged

3. States/Union Territory Administrations should encourage free and frequent distribution of high quality tourist maps, guides, CDs, posters, tourism calendars, fold and take along maps; also very strong graphic display to promote India’s vibrant and diverse culture.

4. Detailed project report must make clear that the land is available with the implementing agency. If a project sanctioned by the Ministry has not been started due to non-availability of land even after one year, the project will be dropped and the funds will be recovered or adjusted.

5. Wayside amenities should be located after about every 50 kms on the way leading to the tourist destinations/ circuits.

6. Signages must conform to, as far as possible, international code (World Tourism Organisation Web Sites for Signages).

7. States/UT Administrations should make effort to upgrade and strengthen existing tourist facilities as a part of the tourism policy from their own resources.

8. States should put in place, as far as possible, institutional mechanism for management through any appropriate agency, of public conveniences after following codal formalities.

BUILT HERITAGE & SIGNAGES

1. States/Union Territory Administrations should formulate, as far as possible, a Comprehensive Conservation Master Plan including research, documentation, value-significance, damage assessment, conservation, management, tourism infrastructure, risk assessment (carrying capacity), site interpretation, safety/first aid and security, universal access, waste management, community consultations and engagement implementation strategy, business plan etc.

2. States/Union Territory Administrations may follow international norms and guidelines/UNESCO Charters for World Heritage Sites in particular and for other heritage sites/monuments in general (http://whc.unesco.org/en/guidelines).

3. For signages, UNWTO guidelines and NHAI guidelines (directional signages) are recommended to be followed.

4. The conservation and tourism development plans of the States/Union Territory Administrations should have sound financial and maintenance plans.

5. States/Union Territory Administrations should put in place appropriate institutional mechanism for timely completion and post implementation maintenance of the project/ destination.

6. For operation and maintenance, public private partnership (PPP) mode should be encouraged.

CLIMATICALLY RESPONSIVE AND VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE

1. Attempts should be made to design climatically responsive and location sensitive tourism architecture.

2. Emphasis should be given on available local material and technology, vernacular design principles.

3. Efforts should be made for capacity building of all tourism personnel regarding location, environment and contextual characteristics of tourist spots. This could be funded from the Ministry of Tourism’s CBSP Scheme.

URBAN LANDSCAPE

1. Local ambience should be reflected in landscape with the use of local materials.

2. Use of Indigenous species/ Native species should be encouraged in plantscape.

3. Use of traditional methodology in construction techniques if found appropriate, should be explored and encouraged.

4. States/Union Territories should try to ensure that:

(i) Bare minimum earthwork should be resorted to by retaining existing land profile as far as possible.

(ii) Rainwater harvesting, ground water recharging and zero discharge should be adopted.

(iii) Appropriate designs for the boundary work should be evolved keeping in view aesthetics, security and cost factor. The cost should not generally exceed 20% of allocated budget of a particular scheme.

(iv) Solar lighting and use of renewable energy are encouraged.

(v) Minimal use of Hardscape materials is adopted.

5. States/Union Territories should:

(i) Discourage fountains and such water-based elements in areas with water paucity.

(ii) Discourage large scale illumination in areas with electricity shortage without compromising security.

(iii) Ensure that water source, required quantity of water and irrigation system are available before commencing the project.

(iv) Promote ‘accessible’ infrastructure.

(v) Prepare and present maintenance Plan and maintenance budget to be presented for 5 years to ensure sustainability of projects. This should be funded through State Government/UT Administration or Public-private partnership.

For Food Craft Institutes and hotel management institutes

Food Craft Institutes and Hotel Management Institutes should be on a developed plot of land.

1. Areas of future expansion should be undertaken but no auditorium should be constructed.

2. Master plan of the whole complex should be planned.

3. Landscape for project should be only to meet the essential requirements.

GENERAL

1. State/UT Administration should, as far as possible, employ architects, including conservation and landscape architects following codal formalities and these should be funded from from their own resources.

2. Efforts should be made by the State/UT Administration to have one window clearance for tourism related projects.

4. While formulating the schemes under mega destinations projects/ circuits by the States/UTs, attempts should be made to bring convergence with the JNNURM.

NNN

4 H1N1 deaths, 218 new cases reported in India

Four more deaths due to swine flu were reported in India since yesterday, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 87, an official statement said.

Three of the deaths occurred in Maharashtra--2 in Mumbai and 1 in Pune--and one each in Bangalore and Pathanamthitta, Kerala.

Maharashtra now accounts for 47 of the deaths so far, while 24 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 7 in Gujarat, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Delhi, 2 in Kerala and 1 in Uttarakhand.

Meanwhile, as many as 218 new cases were reported from different parts of the country today, including 60 in Maharashtra, 44 in Delhi, 29 in Andhra Pradesh, 21 in Karnataka, 20 in Uttar Pradesh, 19 in Tamil Nadu, 4 each in Kerala and Haryana, 3 each in Goa, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand, 2 each in Gujarat and Rajasthan, and 1 each in Punjab, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

The statement said that except for six of these cases, all the others were people who had got the infection from within the country.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in the country has risen to 3753.

NNN

Jaswant says Advani has "singularly failed" as leader

Former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who was expelled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) somedays ago for his views on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah and India's first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, has said that party stalwart Lal Krishna Advani had "singularly failed" in his function as a leader.

"Do you know the function of leadership? To me, it's a matter of great sadness that Advaniji has singularly failed in his function as a leader to lead," he told Outlook magazine in an interview, carried in its latest edition.

"A leader will have to lead by example. Not through diktats, not through vague and unspecified insinuations and fears," he remarked.

"If you transfer responsibility, and if you do not stand up for those who are colleagues, then you are not a leader," he said.

Mr Singh said there were numerous examples of how Mr Advani, on occasions that troubled him or where he was likely to come under fire, either kept quiet or immediately transferred responsibility to somebody else. "This is not the trait of a leader," he said.

Asked to cite an example, Mr Singh mentioned the time in 1998 when he was to be sworn in as a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. After confirming this with Mr Advani, he told his family about it.

"Early in the morning, I get a call saying no. Advaniji could have stood up for me. But he just said that some senior members of the Sangh were against swearing me in. He kept quiet and transferred the responsibility. So I said fine. Atalji wanted to argue with them and was upset. Advaniji just said you will not be sworn in," he said.

According to him, there were many other examples, like Kandahar. "I feel bad saying this now, it's almost like tattling. I have to live with myself. I can't behave like they behave. I want to be comfortable with myself. I want to be able to relax when I take a drink in the evening.." he said.

Mr Singh had said earlier that he was upset that Mr Advani had not called him personally to convey to him the party's decision to expel him and that it was conveyed on the telephone by BJP President Rajnath Singh.

He said he was not driven by a sense of revenge. "It's a great sense of pity for Advani. Here was a man who was consumed by an ambition to be prime minister, and that desire made him commit so many mistakes," he said.

Mr Singh went on to say that Mr Advani was at the centre of the money-for-votes drama in Parliament, describing it as a classic example of wrong decision-making. He said it was extremely troubling that Mr Advani did not stand up and say no.

"Advaniji was at the centre of this whole drama. The facts are clear. I stumbled on to the whole thing when a very strange-looking fellow was brought here to my house by Sudheendra Kulkarni. I was not consulted but I was appalled that Advaniji was giving the MPs the go-ahead to display money in Parliament. Advaniji said they had two choices. They could take the money to the Speaker or into the House. But Advaniji told the MPs to display the money in Parliament," he said.

Mr Singh described his meeting with Mr Vajpayee after his expulsion. He said the former Prime Minister is able to speak through a voice box, and the speech is guttural.

"He said, 'kya ho gaya, kya ho gaya (what happened, what happened)'. It's enough actually. I asked for no comments about the furore after the book. He just said, 'kya ho gaya, kya ho gaya'. That was all," Mr Singh said.

The former minister said he was distressed that Mr Advani was using the party for his various book launches. He said the launches of the language editions of his autobiography, My Country, My Life, were actually organised by the party.

"The party congregates for his launches. This is a demonstration of sycophancy. Misuse of the party. It's sickening. You go there because the party has organised everything," he said.

Asked about his view of the book itself, Mr Singh said, "It's written in a variety of styles. It is as if one person has written one chapter. Another chapter has been picked from some speeches. That sort of thing. You know they hate me. I don't want to hit below the belt," he said.

Mr Singh said Mr Rajnath Singh was just a provincial leader who should never have been pushed up. "He is a UP state-level leader who has been prematurely pushed up without sufficient preparation or thought," he remarked.

Mr Singh said the BJP was no longer a political party but a cult or a sect. He said it had been reduced to the proprietary partnership of a few.

"This has come about under the leadership of Advani. If you allow this to happen, I say you are then not a fit instrument to serve the interests of the country," he remarked.

He said it was misleading to say that India had now achieved a bipolar polity. "Don't mock the intelligence of the country. Bipolar it was when the NDA was a healthy organism. To explain superficially, the 116 BJP MPs today are really like lost waifs," he said.

To a question, he said he intended to continue as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament and discharge his duty.

Mr Singh said that Mr Advani's controversial remarks about Jinnah during his visit to Pakistan, which ultimately led to his resignation as BJP President, were "public relations."

"He was born in Karachi and left the city when he was in 20s. I think he had seen Jinnah in his youth. Perhaps there were electoral considerations in his mind," he said.

Mr Singh said he thought that the remarks were also aimed at making amends for Ayodhya. "Because it weighs heavily on him--Ayodhya is a millstone in legal, personal and political terms. His assessment is that Ayodhya is a negative," he added.

NNN

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