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TRAI releases consultation paper on foreign investment in broadcasting sector

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today released a consultation paper on foreign investment in the broadcasting sector and has invited all stakeholders to respond to the issues raised in it by January 30.


TRAI had submitted its recommendations on Foreign Investment Limit for Broadcasting Sector on April 26, 2008. The methodology of calculation of indirect foreign equity is based on the proportionate method in broadcasting sector.


The Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (Ministry of Commerce & Industry) has issued Press Note No 2. (2009 Series) regarding the methodology to be used for calculating foreign investment, including foreign direct and indirect investment.


Recognizing the need to bring in clarity, uniformity, consistency and homogeneity into the exact methodology of calculation across sectors/activities for direct and indirect foreign investment in Indian companies, the Government of India proposed the guidelines for calculating direct and indirect foreign investment.


The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had, on September 30, 2009, requested TRAI to revisit its recommendations in view of the new Press Notes about the method of calculation of total foreign investment in Indian companies.


TRAI had placed this reference on its website on October 19, 2009 to solicit preliminary views of stakeholders on the subject. The consultation paper released today is based on these preliminary views.


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Delhi Metro to begin trial runs for Gurgaon section from Jan 29


The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) today said trial runs for the Metro section commencing from Gurgaon in Haryana would start on January 29.


The inauguration of the trial run will be carried out between the HUDA City Centre station and the Sultanpur station in the presence of Union Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.


The first trial Metro train will be flagged off from the HUDA City Centre station at noon on January 29, DMRC spokesman Anuj Dayal said.


He said the trial runs on this section would cover a distance of approximately 11 kms, covering the HUDA City Centre, IFFCO Chowk, M G Road, Sikandarpur, Guru Dronacharya, Arjangarh, Ghitorni and Sultanpur stations.


Delhi Metro had crossed the border of the capital on November 12, 2009 when the link from Yamuna Bank to Noida in Uttar Pradesh was opened. Later, on January 6, the DMRC commissioned the Yamuna Bank-Anand Vihar link, which terminates on the border with Ghaziabad district, also in Uttar Pradesh.


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Editors Guild urges editors to take pledge against "paid news"

The Editors' Guild of India has, as part of its campaign against the practice of "paid news" allegedly resorted to by some newspapers, has written to all editors and senior journalists urging them to pledge that they would act against any attempt to put out advertising as news without proper disclosure.


"We do hope that the entire journalist fraternity will come together on this issue," the Guild's president Rajdeep Sardesai and Secretary General Coomi Kapoor said in a statement here today.


The Guild had, at its annual general meeting last month, taken up the issue which has generated widespread concern in recent weeks.


According to the statement, members of the Guild felt strongly that the practice of putting out advertising as news amounted to grave journalistic malpractice. It also threatened the foundations of the media, and of the journalist profession, by eroding public faith in the credibility and impartiality of news reporting.


The statement felt that editors and other journalists should stand up to defend their credibility, and make public declarations on the subject in order to restore the reading and viewing public's faith in the media by undoing the damage that has already been done.


The Guild has decided to make this issue, and the campaign to tackle the "paid news" menace, the focus of its activities through 2010.


The Guild has followed up its statement of last month on the subject with an "Editorial Statement" that it is requesting every editor to endorse and sign as a token of such endorsement. They have also urged the editors to publish the statement in their newspapers or telecast it on their channels.


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Fog affects 14 flights at Delhi airport

Foggy conditions over Delhi disrupted flight operations for some time at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the capital, affecting 14 flights in all.


Airport officials said the low visibility conditions lasted from 0146 hours to 1045 hours (a total of 9 hours 1 minute) on runway 28 and from 0614 to 1045 hours (4 hours 31 minutes) on runway 29.


During this period, five flights - three international and two domestic flights - were diverted to other airports, four flights - two domestic arrivals and two domestic departures - were cancelled and five flights were rescheduled.


A total of 138 flights were operated using low visibility procedures (LVP) during this period, the officials added.


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Tharoor to visit Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic Jan 18-25


Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor , Minister of State for External Affairs will pay an official visit to Colombia, Peru and Dominican Republic from January 18-25 as part of India's efforts to boost cooperation with Latin American countries.


Dr Tharoor will visit Colombia from January 18-20 at the invitation of the country's Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez with whom he will hold talks.


An official press release said he would call on the President of Colombia Mr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez and other Ministers of his Cabinet. The visit to Colombia is coinciding with the celebrations of the establishment of 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Colombia.


During the visit, an agreement for cooperation in health will be signed which will provide opportunities for joint research in medical health as well as open up further opportunities for Indian pharmaceutical companies in Colombia, it said.


Dr Tharoor will be in Peru from January 20-22 at the invitation of Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde. He will call on the President of Peru, Dr. Alan Garcia Pérez and other Ministers of his Cabinet.


The release said Dr Tharoor would hold the first India-Andean Group dialogue during the Peruvian Presidency of the Andean Group beginning this year. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the setting up of an Indian IT centre in Peru and an agreement between the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and the Peruvian Centre for International Studies (CEPEI) will be signed during the visit.


Dr Tharoor will visit Dominican Republic on January 23-25 at the invitation of the country's President Leonel Antonio Fernandez Reyna. He will meet with Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso and other important ministers. An MoU for an IT Centre will be signed during the visit, the release added.


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Govt. planning medical degree course to produce rural doctors

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad addressing the State Health Secretaries Meeting, in New Delhi on January 15, 2010. Minister of State of Health and Family Welfare, Dinesh Trivedi is also seen.
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad addressing the State Health Secretaries Meeting, in New Delhi on January 15, 2010. Minister of State of Health and Family Welfare, Dinesh Trivedi is also seen.

Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad today said the Government was planning to introduce a three-and-a-half year medical degree course to meet the shortage of doctors in rural areas.

This would be a course leading to a Bachelor's degree in Medicine and Surgery to produce doctors who would work in rural areas and district hospitals with specified bed capacities could be utilised as medical schools, he said at a meeting of State Health Secretaries.

Mr Azad said the expansion of health services under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and emergence of non-communicable diseases had resulted in a high demand for specialists and doctors.

He said the Government had, therefore, initiated various reforms in medical education to increase the intake at the level of post-graduation and also rationalise the process of setting up new medical colleges in deficient States and regions.

He pointed out that the Post-Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000 had been amended recently, wherein the teacher-student ratio had been revised from 1:1 to 1:2.

He said the Medical Council of India (MCI) Regulations were amended in order to enable medical colleges to increase seats in post-graduate medical courses. He said the Ministry and the MCI had requested all the State Governments to instruct the Government Medical Colleges in their States to send the information with regard to availability of teaching faculty.

Mr Azad said the Government had so far received information from 64 Government Medical Colleges from 14 states only.

He said the MCI had, after considering the information furnished by these States, recommended to the Central Government for increase of approximately 1100 seats in various post-graduate medical courses.

He urged State Governments to send the details of teaching faculty in Government Medical Colleges in their states at the earliest so that they could be considered for increase of post-graduate seats in the light of the amended post-graduate regulations.

He said the Government had also formulated a scheme for strengthening and upgradation of the State Government Medical Colleges to increase the number of post-graduate seats and start new post-graduate courses.

He urged the State Governments to be pro-active in availing these benefits and take measures to increase the availability of human resources in their States.

The two-day meeting, being attended by senior health officials from the Union and the State Governments as well as various health agencies, will discuss disease control programmes, maternal and child health, immunisation, medical education and various new initiatives of the Government and chalk out action plans to take them forward.

He said the NRHM had helped improve the health infrastructure facilities and the availability of human resources. He said reports had shown encouraging trends in many states, such as increasing in-patient and out-patient cases, institutional deliveries, availability of drugs, provision of diagnostic facilies and availability of transport systems.

Mr Azad said people living in the most difficult and remote areas should also be able to access public health facilities easily and receive quality health care.

"We also have a long way to go, in achieving our goals relating to MMR, IMR, TFR, universal immunization and reduce the disease burden on account of malaria, T.B. and other infectious diseases," he said, adding that he had asked his Ministry to identify backward districts with poor health parameters for focused attention.

States have also been asked to identify health facilities in remote areas, especially in the hilly States, north-eastern States and tribal pockets so that a comprehensive package of additional incentives for doctors and health workers could be considered for encouraging them to work in these places.

The Minister said reproductive and child health was a key area and required focused attention. He said the percentage of fully immunised children in the country was not satisfactory called for close monitoring of the routne immunisation programme.

He said he had asked the Ministry to develop a system, for tracking pregnant mothers and children, to ascertain the status of ante-natal and post-natal care and institutional delivery and immunization of the children.

Mr Azad said vector borne diseases, particularly malaria, continued to be a major public health problem in the country, both in terms of mortality and morbidity. He said there was an increase in the burden of non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

He said the Government was in the process of formulating specific schemes to address these concerns. For diabetes, it was working out a strategy for checking all people in the age group of 30-40 years in the rural areas for diagnosing potential cases, he said.

He noted that, in Pune, the local authorities have decided to take up such an exercise in the entire district to diagnose people sufering from diabetes and blood pressure and urged all States to follow this example.

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BSNL to ensure uninterrupted mobile connectivity for Kumbh pilgrims

The public sector Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has taken steps to ensure uninterrupted mobile telephone connectivity for pilgrims and visitors to this year's Kumbh Mela, an official press release said.


It said Minister of State for Communications & Information Technology Sachin Pilot had held meetings in this regard with senior officials of the telecom major.


According to the release, there will be a comprehensive overhaul and refurbishment of the telecom infrastructure during the Kumbh Mela celebrations. Five new mobile towers are being constructed.


To give BSNL the flexibility to deploy mobile infrastructure in areas of air traffic congestion at short notice, two towers will also be mounted on trucks in areas where construction of permanent structures is difficult. Adequate diesel to operate power generators will be made available to reduce downtime to a minimum.


The release said the traffic handling capacity of BSNL in the area was being doubled and CDMA infrastructure had been upgraded to enable broadband connectivity at high speeds. To the extent possible, the infrastructure would also be shared with other operators. Additional technical and supervisory staff is being deployed to ensure adequate manpower during the Mela.

The Minister himself will periodically monitor the mobile traffic and preparedness of BSNL to ensure uninterrupted and quality service, the release added.


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Cold conditions abate slightly in Delhi, fog disrupts some flights

Foggy conditions over Delhi caused some disruption in the schedules of flights and trains and slowed down vehicular traffic in the capital, but overall there was an abatement of the intense cold conditions that people in the city had experienced for the past many days.


The maximum temperature recorded in the capital in the past 24 hours was 17.1 degrees Celsius, up from yesterday's 16.2 degrees, but 4 degrees below normal.


The minimum temperature in the past 24 hours remained at 8 degrees Celsius, the same as yesterday and one degree above normal for this time of the year, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.


Visibility at the airport had improved to more than 1700 metres by 1030 hours. The fog in the early hours of the morning had affected the schedules of about 10-15 flights, airport officials said.


By mid-morning, the skies had cleared and the sun was out, bringing some much needed warmth for people in the capital.


The IMD said the maximum and minimum temperatures today would be around 19 degrees and 6 degrees Celsius, respectively.


The IMD has forecast foggy conditions in the capital tomorrow morning and maximum and minimum temperatures around 20 and 5 degrees Celsius.


For Sunday, it said there would be misty conditions in the morning, with maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 21 and 6 degrees Celsius, respectively.


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Govt. to set up National Ambient Noise Monitoring Network

Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh addressing a press conference on the setting up of a monitoring network for ambient noise in New Delhi on January 14, 2010.
Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh addressing a press conference on the setting up of a monitoring network for ambient noise in New Delhi on January 14, 2010.

The Government is planning to set up a National Ambient Noise Monitoring Network in the country on the pattern of the existing air and water pollution monitoring networks.

An official press release said the roadmap in this regard would be ready by September thisyear and these noise monitoring stations would be set up on a pilot basis in seven cities, including Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Lucknow.

These seven cities will have ten stations each. The network will be extended to an additional 18 cities in 2011 with five stations in each of them.

The setting up of the network and development of infrastructure for noise mapping in the country is expected to be in place within five years. In the first phase, a total of 160 stations in 25 cities shall be established in the remaining two years of the XIth Five Year Plan (2007-12). This is estimated to cost about Rs 10 crore.

Till now, Central and State Pollution Control Boards have been carrying out sporadic or isolated noise monitoring in urban areas. With the new system in place, a systematic national level monitoring and reporting network in the country will be available as in the case of air and water pollution, the release said.

According to it, the network would help crease baseline data and facilitate its analysis for policymakers and implementing agencies to take appropriate action for noise control at the regional and national levels.

In the recent amendments to the noise rules carried out on January 11, stress has been laid on making the night peaceful. "Night time" has been defined as 2200 hours to 0600 hours and restrictions have been imposed on the use of horns, sound emitting construction equipment and bursting of fire crackers during this period.

"Public place" has been defined and the occupant of a public place has to restrict the volume of public address system, so that the noise emitting from its activity would not exceed the noise limit by more than 10 dB (A).

Similarly, the occupant of a private place has to restrict the volume of music system, so that the noise emitting from its activity would not exceed the noise limit by more than 5 dB (A).

A duty has been cast upon the concerned State Governments to specify in advance, the number and particulars of days, not exceeding fifteen in a year, on which 2 hours exemption (10.00 pm to 12.00 midnight) would be operative. State would be the unit for such an exemption. These amendments are in line with the Supreme Court orders from time to time, the release said.

Earlier on 14 February, 2000, the Central Government notified the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000. Two types of noise standards were prescribed: ambient air quality standards in respect of noise and emission limits for designated types of machinery, appliances and fire crackers.

The emission equipment standards prescribed in Schedule VI of the Environment (Protection) Rules of 1986 relate to motor vehicles, air conditioner, refrigerator, diesel generators and certain types of construction equipments.

The Noise Regulation Rules, 2000 regulate noise levels in industrial, (75 decibels) commercial (65 decibels) and residential zones (55 decibels), and also establish zones of silence (100 meters) near schools, courts, hospitals, and so on.

Separate ambient levels are fixed for industrial, commercial and residential areas and silence zones. The prescribed day time levels (0600 hours to 2200 hours) are typically ten decibels higher than the corresponding levels for night time except in industrial areas, where the difference is five decibels.

The Noise Rules require the States to designate an authority or officer responsible for maintaining the ambient standards. The designated authority could be the district magistrate or police commissioner or any other official. The designated authority is also empowered to issue directions to prohibit or control noise pollution. Any person violating the Rules is liable to be prosecuted under the provisions of the EPA.

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Systems crash at Delhi ATC stalls flights for two hours

Flight operations at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) were stalled for nearly two hours during the peak period this evening when the computer systems at the Air Traffic Control (ATC) crashed.


A senior airport official told NetIndian that the ATC shifted temporarily to the standby "procedure mode" for tracking aircraft.


According to the official, all the display units in the ATC tower, which help the air traffic controllers keep track of approaching and departing aircraft, had stopped functioning.


He said this was the first time that all the units had stopped functioning simultaneously, though a few units have crashed at a time in the past. He said the cause of the crash was being ascertained.


The system had stopped functioning around 1745 hours and had been restored by about 1930 hours, he said. He said the stand-by system was used to clear the stalled flights as quickly as possible, but the distance between two aircraft, generally maintained at around 10 nautical miles, was increased to about 80 nautical miles.


Sources said the failure happened while an upgradation of the system was being carried out.


The snag meant that no flights could land or take off for about an hour at the airport. The system crash came on a day when at least 86 flights were affected by a fog that had enveloped the capital since last night till this morning. All this was expected to have a major cascading effect on the entire network.


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Mayawati hits out at Centre on food prices, says it is "pro-capitalist"

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati today reacted sharply to the Centre for blaming the states for the rising food prices and accused it of being under the influence of capitalists. .
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati at a press conference in Lucknow on January 14, 2010.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati at a press conference in Lucknow on January 14, 2010.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati today reacted sharply to the Centre for blaming the states for the rising food prices in the country, saying the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government was under the influence of capitalists, and threatened a nation-wide protest campaign if measures to curb inflation were not taken promptly.

Addressing a press conference in Lucknow, Ms Mayawati said the Union Government's wrong economic and export-import policies were aimed at benefitting businessmen and had led to the soaring prices of food articles.

She said not only had the Centre failed in taking action in time to stem the rising prices of items like sugar, pulses and foodgrains, but ministers had also, through "irresponsible" statements, encouraged hoarders and blackmarketeers.

The Chief Minister was reacting to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who had, at a press conference here yesterday, said the state governments to take stringent action against hoarders and blackmarketeers.

He also said that the states were not lifting the foodgrains allocated to them by the Centre and not implementing subsidy schemes for items such as edible oil.

Most importantly, Mr Pawar said some sugar mills in UP, which had imported huge quantities of raw sugar, did not lift them from the Kandla and Mundra ports because the state government had, despite repeated requests, banned them from processing the imported sugar.

As a result, Mr Pawar announced yesterday that the Central Excise rules had been amended to enable the mills to get the raw sugar processed in any other state. He said this would increase the availability of sugar in the country. Further, the Centre yesterday announced that duty free of imports of sugar would continue till the end of this year.

Ms Mayawati said she had banned the processing of imported raw sugar because she wanted the mills in Uttar Pradesh to first process the sugarcane grown in the state. She also said her government had initiated steps against hoarders and blackmarketeers.

The UP Chief Minister said the Centre had failed to create a buffer stock of sugar in 2006-07 and 2007-08 when production had been good. On the contrary, the Centre had allowed exports at low prices at that time, she said.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was also critical of the Centre today, saying that prices of food articles had always gone up when the Congress was in power at the Centre. He said the present Opposition parties had a better record on this front whenever they were in office.

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8 more swine flu deaths in India take toll to 1106

Eight more deaths caused by influenza A (H1N1) have been reported in India, taking the toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1106, an official statement said here today.


The statement said one death was reported during the day from Gujarat. Besides, reports of seven deaths that occurred in recent days - two each in Rajasthan and Gujarat and one each in Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra - were conveyed to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare by the respective state health authorities.


Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 297, while 170 lives each have been lost in Rajasthan and Gujarat, 137 in Karnataka, 88 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 37 in Punjab, 34 in Kerala, 33 in Haryana, 17 in Uttar Pradesh, 14 in Madhya Pradesh, 13 in Uttarakhand, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 in Tamil Nadu, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 3 in Orissa, 2 each in Assam, Jammu & Kashmir and Chhattisgarh and 1 in Mizoram.


The statement said 62 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 17 in Karnataka, 16 in Maharashtra, 12 in Gujarat, 7 in Rajasthan, 4 in Delhi, 3 in Uttar Pradesh and 1 each in Chandigarh, Punjab and Tamil Nadu.


With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 28,047, the statement added.


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Thick fog over Delhi affects 86 flights on Thursday

A dense fog that enveloped the capital and many other parts of North India disrupted flight operations to and from the Indira Gandhi International Airport here since last night after five fog-free days, airport officials said today.


The officials said the fog had started descending on the airport late last night, drastically reducing visibility. According to them, visibility had improved to 250 metres by 0800 hours this morning, to 400 metres by 0900 hours and more than 1100 metres by 1100 hours.


As many as 50 flights were cancelled during the 16 hours from 2036 hours last night to 1135 hours this morning during which the airport had to resort to low visibility procedures.


Besides, 13 domestic and five international flights were diverted to other airports and 18 others were rescheduled. Several flights were delayed, and there were cascading effects on the entire network.


The officials said 94 flights were operated using CAT I procedures, 31 CAT II, 67 CAT IIIA and 35 with CAT IIIB.


Passengers had to contend with fresh problems in the evening when the data processing system of the Air Traffic Control crashed this evening, stalling all flight operations for about an hour.


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India-France civil nuclear deal comes into force


The Cooperation Agreement between India and France on the Development of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, signed in Paris on September 30, 2008, came into effect from today.


Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Mr Jerome Bonnafont, the Ambassador of France to India, exchanged the instruments of ratification of the agreement today.


In accordance with the provisions of the agreement, it enters into force on the date of exchange of instruments of ratification.


Under the agreement, India and France, as responsible States with advanced nuclear technologies, intend to develop multi-faceted civil nuclear cooperation covering a wide range of activities including nuclear power projects, fuel supply, R&D, nuclear safety, education and training.


The entry into force of the agreement gives a new impetus to the Indo-French partnership and will further strengthen the deep ties of friendship and longstanding cooperation between the two countries, an official press release from the Minstry of External Affairs added.


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Snag in ATC computer system stalls flights in Delhi

The data processing system of the Air Traffic Control (ATC) crashed this evening, stalling all flight operations at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here this evening, officials at the airport said.


The officials told NetIndian that the stand-by system would be used to clear the stalled flights as quickly as possible. They also said that efforts were being made to restore the main system at the earliest.


The snag meant that no flights could land or take off for more than an hour from about 1800 hours at the airport during the peak evening period.


The technical problem has come on a day when many flights were cancelled, diverted, rescheduled and delayed because of a thick fog that had enveloped the capital and surrounding areas from late last night till this morning.


The systems crash is expected to lead to long delays and have a cascading effect on the rest of the network, too,


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India to give $ 1 million in cash to Haiti for immediate relief efforts


India has decided to give $ 1 million in cash to Haiti for immediate and emergency relief operations after the country's capital Port-au-Prince was left devastated by a magnitude 7 earthquake on Tuesday afternoon.


Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by the quake and thousands are feared dead and most of Port-au-Prince's major landmarks have been destroyed or significantly damaged.


"Government of India is deeply saddened at the death and destruction caused by the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement here today.


The statement said communications with Haiti were currently difficult but it had been ascertained that all 140 personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) deployed with the United Nations were safe.


"So are all civil police officers deployed with the United Nations Mission in Haiti," the statement said.


It said the Ministry of External Affairs was in contact with the Indian Embassy in Havana, which is concurrently accredited to Haiti, to ascertain the welfare of other Indian nationals who are presently in Haiti.


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Annular solar eclipse on Friday, partial phase to be visible throughout India


An annular solar eclipse will occur tomorrow, with its path passing through the southern tip of India and its partial phase visible throughout the country.


In general, the partial phase can be seen from the most of Africa, eastern Europe, Asia and the Indian Ocean, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said in a press release.


The release said that the eclipse would begin at 0935 hours IST when the shadow of the Moon touches the Earth at local sunrise at a point in Central Africa. The eclipse ends at 1538 IST when the Moon's shadow finally leaves the Earth at local sunset at a point in South China.


At approximately 1048 hours IST, the annular path of the eclipse will touch the Earth at sunrise at a point in the Central African Republic. The shadow will cross over the southern tip of Chad, the Central African Republic, northern Congo, Uganda, Kenya, southern tip of Somalia, the Indian Ocean, the southern tip of India, northern Sri Lanka, the south-eastern tip of Bangladesh, Myanmar and south-eastern China.


The maximum duration of annularity of 11 minutes and 4 seconds will ccur at 1237 IST at a point in the Arabian sea, the release said. The annular phase will end at 1425 ISt at a point in south-east China near the Yellow Sea coast, the release said.


Some of the places in India from where the annual phase will be visible are Kanyakumari, Madurai, Rameswaram, Tanjore and Thiruvananthapuram.


According to the release, the best place in India to see the annual phase is Dhanuskodi in Pamban Island off the Tamil Nadu coast, which falls on the central line of the annular path.


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Krishna to pay three-day visit to Nepal from Friday


External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will pay a three-day visit to Nepal from tomorrow for talks on strengthening and deepening the bilateral relations between the two countries.


This would be Mr Krishna's first visit to Nepal after assuming charge of External Affairs Minister in May last year.


An official press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said the visit was in consonance with the ongoing high-level bilateral interaction between the two countries.


During the visit, Mr Krishna will call on the President and the Prime Minister of Nepal. He will hold talks with his counterpart Sujata Koirala and also meet some other Nepalese leaders.


"The purpose of the visit is to exchange views on strengthening and deepening of our bilateral relations with Nepal," the release added.


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Fire at Gurdwara premises in Melbourne: India takes up matter with Australia


India today said it was following up with the Australian authorities on the incident in which some unidentified miscreants allegedly set fire at a building under construction on the premises of a Gurdwara in Melbourne last night.


Responding to a query on the incident, the official spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs said the Government was aware of reports that the building under construction on the premises of the Nanaksar Taath Gurdwara in Cranbourne, a suburb of Melbourne, was damaged by a fire that broke out last night.


"It is learnt that some unidentified miscreants had set fire at the construction site, which is located at about 300-odd metres from the Nanaksar Taath Gurdwara," he said.


According to the spokesperson, no one was injured and no structural damage has been caused to the building.


"Our Consulate in Melbourne is in the process of ascertaining details from the Gurudwara Management Committee and also following up on the incident with Australian authorities," he added.


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Dense fog disrupts flight operations in Delhi on Thursday

A dense fog that enveloped the capital and many other parts of North India has disrupted flight operations to and from the Indira Gandhi International Airport since last night after five fog-free days, airport officials said today.


The officials said the fog had started descending on the airport late last night, drastically reducing visibility.


According to the officials, visibility had improved to 250 metres by 0800 hours this morning, to 400 metres by 0900 hours and more than 1100 metres by 1100 hours.


They said as many as 33 flights had been cancelled since last night, 17 had been diverted and 18 rescheduled. Several flights were delayed, some due to poor weather conditions at the destinations.


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Thick fog over Delhi on Thursday morning, cold conditions abate slightly

Delhi and many other parts of north India were covered by a thick fog in the early hours today, slowing down vehicular traffic, delaying trains and disrupting flight operations in the capital.


The maximum temperature recorded in the capital in the past 24 hours was 16.2 degrees Celsius, up from yesterday's 14.9 degrees but 4.8 degrees below normal.


The minimum temperature in the past 24 hours was 8 degrees Celsius, marginally lower than yesterday's 8.1 degrees and one degree above normal for this time of the year.


The fog had begun descending on the capital late last night, reducing visibility drastically. But visibility had improved to 250 metres by 0800 hours, 400 metres by 0900 hours and to more than 1100 metres by 1100 hours. By then the sun had also come out, providing some welcome warmth to the people of the city who had been reeling under cold wave conditions for several days running.


The India Meteorological Department (IMD) said Delhi and its surrounding areas would have fog till forenoon and mainly clear sky later. It said the maximum and minimum temperatures will be around 17 degrees and 6 degrees Celsius, respectively, it said.


The IMD has forecast foggy conditions in the morning for the next two days. It said the maximum and minimum temperatures would be around 18 and 6 degrees Celsius tomorrow and 19 and 5 degrees Celsius, respectively, on Saturday.


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Indian contingent for UN Mission to Sudan flagged off

The Indian Air Force contingent as part of Indian UN Peace Keeping Mission, in New Delhi on January 13, 2010.
The Indian Air Force contingent as part of Indian UN Peace Keeping Mission, in New Delhi on January 13, 2010.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent that will join the Indian UN Peace Keeping Mission in Sudan was flagged off at a function here today.

The contingent, led by Group Captain T A Dayasagar, was flagged off by IAF's Director General (Inspection & Safety) Air Marshal TS Randhawa.

Sudan has been in a state of turmoil since it attained freedom in 1956. Indian Armed Forces have been contributing to peace missions in the strife torn state since 2005 and have been instrumental in bringing a semblance of normalcy to the state.

The departing contingent will replace the IAF aviation contingent staioned at Kadugali, situated in the south-central region of Sudan.

An official press release said the contingent comprises 196 IAF personnel of diverse specializations. Flying operations, administration, logistics, technical and medical services form a part of the base set up in Sudan as the contingent is modeled on the lines of a regular Air Force base. The contingent includes six Mi-17 utility helicopters. The twin purpose of the contingent is to provide mobility to the UN staff/forces and logistical support.

The Mi-17s would be primarily used for troop insertion/extraction, casualty evacuation, logistic supply, search and rescue, reconnaissance and observation. The Indian contingent would also be maintaining an Aero Medical Evacuation Team at Sudan, the release said.

Air Marshal Randhawa told the Sudan-bound Air Warriors that the nation had very high expectations from them in terms of discipline, integrity and professional standards.

"Your predecessors have set high standards and you should aim to achieve even higher standards," he added.

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CBI files chargesheets against ex-Cong. MP Sajjan Kumar in 1984 cases

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today filed two chargesheets against former Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Sajjan Kumar and others in connection with the 1984 anti-Sikh violence in Delhi that had followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.


The first chargesheet is related to the killing of seven people in the Sultanpuri area and the second to the killing of four people in Raj Nagar area, Palam, in the capital in the days that followed the October 31, 1984 assassination of Ms Gandhi.


The chargesheets under sections 109 of the Indian Penal Code read with sections 147, 148, 149, 153(A), 302, 436, 295 and 201 IPC and substantive offences thereof against five persons in all in the Sultanpuri case and against eight people in the Raj Nagar case.


Delhi Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna had recently given the mandatory sanction required for filing the chargesheets.


The chargesheets were filed in the court of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Tiz Hazari in Delhi, who transferred the matter to the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate, Karkardooma Court, where other cases relating to the 1984 riots are being heard.


A CBI press release said the agency had also filed a closure report in the case relating to incidents in the Mongolpuri area.


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18 more H1N1 deaths in India, toll goes up to 1098

As many as 18 more people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India, taking the toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1098, an official statement said here today.


Four of the deaths - two in Maharashtra and one each in Delhi and Gujarat - were reported during the day, it said.


Besides, reports of 14 deaths that occurred earlier - 10 in Maharashtra, 3 in Gujarat and 1 in Rajasthan - were conveyed by the respective states to the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare today, tbe release said.


Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 296, while 168 lives have been lost in Rajasthan, 167 in Gujarat, 137 in Karnataka, 88 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 36 in Punjab, 34 in Kerala, 33 in Haryana, 17 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 each in Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 in Tamil Nadu, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 3 in Orissa, 2 each in Assam, Jammu & Kashmir and Chhattisgarh and 1 in Mizoram.


The statement said 84 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 25 in Maharashtra, 18 in Gujarat, 13 in Karnataka, 6 each in Punjab and Rajasthan, 5 in Delhi, 3 in Chhattisgarh, 2 each in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh and 1 each in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.


With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 27,985, the statement added.


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Govt launches Tigernet, a website on tiger conservation

The Government has set up a national website on tiger conservation http://www.tigernet.nic.in that will give the directors of tiger reserves and chief wildlife wardens in the country the ability to key in crucial information about tiger deaths, poaching and seizures immediately.


An official press release said the website, launched last week by Environment and Forests MInister Jairam Ramesh, would be the first consolidated database on mortality and details on poaching related to tigers and other protected species within tiger reserves.


Gathering accurate information on such tiger activities was crucial to assisting anti-poaching efforts, it said.


According to the release, the new system will allow enforcement officers to record information on tiger mortalities, monitor patterns of where poaching incidents are occurring and use this information to strengthen anti-poaching efforts.


The information will be available in the public domain, while Field Directors and Chief Wildlife Wardens will be required to log in to key in information on tiger-related issues.The accurate reporting of tiger deaths and the circumstances surrounding them have been a contentious issue in India, with conflicting information from official sources and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and accusations of secrecy over some findings.


The Government expects that the new website will simplify the whole tiger death reporting system and allow a more accurate and transparent picture to be generated of the poaching and other threats facing the nation's tiger population.


The release said automatc reminders would be sent to official staff to upload details surrounding any tiger mortalities, including the findings of post mortem examinations.


The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) recently made funding available for the purchase of cold storage facilities so that tiger carcasses could be preserved until a thorough post mortem examination could be carried out.


TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, has helped develop the new website, in collaboration with the government's NTCA, the release added.


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