Authorised share capital of NMDFC raised to Rs 1000 crore

The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal to increase the authorised share capital of the National Minorities Development Finance Corporation (NMDFC) from Rs 850 crore to Rs 1000 crore.

The share of the Government of India, the State Governments and individuals/institutions will be Rs 650 crore, Rs 260 crore and Rs 90 crore, respectively.

NMDFC is a not for profit company, registered under Section 25 of the Companies’ Act with share contribution from Government of India (65%), State Governments (26%) and individuals/institutions (9%).

It provides financial assistance to people belonging to minorities living below double the poverty line for self employment.

An official press release said NMDFC was greatly dependent on Central equity contribution and the enhanced authorised share capital would enable the Central Government to release its full budgetary provision of Rs.125 crores towards equity of the company in 2009-10.

The equity contribution from Government of India, together with contribution from State Governments and individuals/institutions and also the recovery of loans from beneficiaries, will be spent for providing term loans and micro-finance through State Channelizing Agencies (SCAs) and for providing micro- finance through non-governmental organisations (NGOs), it said.

According to the release, NMDFC also provides educational loans and has promotional schemes like vocational training. Its schemes are aimed at the economic upliftment of people from minority communities living below double the poverty line through self-employment.

The budgetary provision of Rs.125 crores will be released to NMDFC by way of equity contribution of the Central Government during 2009-10.

As per the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of India and NMDFC, 66,000 beneficiaries are to be covered during 2009-10.

As on March 31 this year, NMDFC has disbursed an amount of Rs.1190.84 crores covering 4,34,329 beneficiaries belonging to the minority communities through their term loan and micro-finance schemes.


Three more H1N1 deaths, 123 new cases in India

Three more deaths due to swine flu have been reported in India since yesterday, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 78, an official statement said here today.

Two of the deaths occurred in Maharashtra and one in Karnataka, the statement said.

Besides, there have been two deaths in Maharashtra for which the laboratory confirmation report for influenza A (H1N1) was awaited, the statement said.

Maharashtra now accounts for 43 of the deaths so far, while 20 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 7 in Gujarat, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Delhi and 1 each in Kerala and Uttarakhand.

Meanwhile, 123 new cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 31 in Andhra Pradesh, 24 in Maharashtra, 21 in Karnataka, 14 in Tamil Nadu, 13 in Delhi, 9 in Uttar Pradesh, 5 in Kerala, 2 each in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh, and 1 each in Goa and Assam.

According to the statement, all except three of these new cases had got the infection from within India. The three had history of recent travel abroad.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far from India has risen to 3396, the statement added.


IAF scrambles MiG-29 after Air France flight enters airspace without IFF code

File photo of an Air France A340.
File photo of an Air France A340.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) today scrambled a MiG-29 fighter jet to intercept and investigate the identity of an aircraft that had entered Indian air space without being in communication with air traffic control and without transmitting the correct identification code.

According to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, the aircraft was picked up by IAF radars at about 0610 hours south-east of Amritsar in the Northern sector.

He said the aircraft was flying at a flight level of 37,000 feet and had entered Indian airspace on an established border entry point on the air traffic services (ATS) route.

The aircraft was not in communication and its secondary radar response code (Identification Friendly or Foe), the squawk code of the aircraft, was not correct, he said.

The spokesperson said the aircraft was identified as "unknown" and a MiG-29 fighter jet of the aircraft of the IAF was scrambled to intercept and investigate its identity.

It was only after this that the aircraft started transmitting the correct secondary radar response code and was picked up and identified by Air Defence radar as a civil airliner, an Airbus A 340-300 of Air France. It was on a flight (AF 164) from Paris to Bangkok.

The MiG-29 was then instructed to break off and return to base, the spokesperson said, adding that a formal report of the incident had been forwarded to the Airports Authority of India (AAI).


Interest subsidy during moratorium on loans for EWS students

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved a scheme to provide full interest subsidy during the period of moratorium on loans taken by students belonging to economically weaker sections (EWS) from scheduled banks under the Educational Loan Scheme of the Indian Banks' Association (IBA).

The loan scheme of the IBA is for pursing any of the approved courses of studies in technical and professional streams in recognised institutions in India.

The IBA had formulated a comprehensive model educational loan scheme for adoption by all banks that was aimed at providing financial support from the banking system to deserving/meritorious students for pursuing higher education in India and abroad.

According to an official press release, one of the major concerns of the Government is to ensure that nobody is denied professional education because he or she does not have the financial means to study.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had, in his Independence Day address to the nation on August 15, announced a new scheme to help students from EWS by way of reduce interest rate on their education loans. He said this would benefit about five lakh students in getting technical and professional education.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had also, while presenting the budget for 2009-10, announced that a scheme would be introduced to provide full interest subsidy during the period of moratorium on education loans taken by EWS students.

According to the release, the broad parameters of the scheme are:

(i) The scheme would be applicable for studies in technical and professional courses in India. The interest subsidy shall be linked with the existing Educational Loan Scheme of IBA and restricted to students enrolled in recognized professional courses (after Class XII) in India in Educational Institutions established by Acts of Parliament, other Institutions recognized by the concerned Statutory Bodies, Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and other institutions set up by the Central Government.

(ii) Under the Scheme, interest payable by the student availing of the Educational Loan Scheme of the Indian Banks’ Association for the period of moratorium (i.e. course period, plus one year or six months after getting job, whichever is earlier) as prescribed under the Educational Loan Scheme of the Indian Banks’ Association, shall be borne by the Government. After the period of moratorium is over, the interest on the outstanding loan amount shall be paid by the student, in accordance with the provisions of the existing Educational Loan Scheme and as may be amended from time to time.

(iii) The benefits under the Scheme would be applicable to those students belonging to economically weaker sections, with an annual income upper limit of Rs. 4.5 lakh per year.

(iv) The interest subsidy under the Scheme shall be available to the eligible students only once, either for the first undergraduate degree course or the post graduate degrees/diplomas. Interest subsidy shall, however, be admissible for combined undergraduate and post graduate courses.

(v) Interest subsidy under this scheme shall not be available for those students who either discontinue the course midstream, due to any reason except on medical grounds, or for those who are expelled from the Institutions on disciplinary or academic grounds.

(vi) The National Minorities Development & Finance Corporation (NMDFC) has an Educational Loan Scheme for individual beneficiaries, which is implemented through State Channelizing Agencies (SCAs). The National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment also provides educational loan to the students of the target group for higher education. Interest on Educational Loan provided under these two schemes shall also be subsidized for the period of moratorium.

(vii) Modalities for implementation and monitoring mechanism shall be finalized in consultation with the Canara Bank. There would be a tag/marker on the degree course or student indicating his repayment liabilities.

(viii) The scheme shall be applicable from the academic year 2009-2010.


Cabinet okays Bill to hike reservation for women in Panchayats to 50 %

The Union Cabinet today approved the proposal for moving a Constitutional Amendment Bill to enhance the reservation for women in Panchayats at all tiers from one-third to at least 50 per cent.

This provision will apply to the total number of seats filled by direct election, offices of chairpersons and seats and offices of chairpersons reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs).

President Pratibha Patil had, in her address to Parliament on June 4, mentioned the intent of the Government to provide 50 per cent reservation for women in Panchayats as women suffer multiple deprivations of class, caste and gender and the move would lead to more women entering the public sphere.

According to article 243G of the Constitution, State legislatures may endow Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of local self-government (LSG) and to prepare and implement plans/schemes for economic development and social justice, including those in relation to matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Panchayats as such have a vital role to play in the welfare and development of the weaker sections of the society, including women, SCs and STs, an official press release said.

"Greater representation of these sections would enhance their voice in these bodies and promote inclusive governance which is critical to the inclusive growth," it said.

According to the release, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj will move a Bill for amendment to Article 243D of the Constitution at the earliest now that it has received approval from the Cabinet.

It said the enhancement of reservation for women in Panchyats will facilitate more women entering the public sphere and thereby lead to further empowerment of women and also make the Panchayats more inclusive institutions, improving governance and public service delivery.

There is no financial implication in operationalization of the proposal, the release said.

At present, out of the total elected representatives of Panchayats numbering approximately 28.18 lakhs, 36.87% are women. With the proposed Constitutional Amendment, the number of elected women representatives is expected to rise to more than 14 lakhs.

All States/UTs and parts thereof to which Part IX of the Constitution applies would be covered by the provision. Part IX does not apply to Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram, tribal areas of Assam, Tripura and hill areas of Manipur, the release added.


Cabinet approves proposal for 7 new IIMs

A pergola at IIM Bangalore.
A pergola at IIM Bangalore.
The Union Cabinet today approved the proposal for setting up seven new Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) in Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan.

In the first phase, the four IIMs at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, Ranchi in Jharkhand, Raipur in Chhattisgarh and Rohtak in Haryana will be set up in the current financial year and would become functional from the academic session 2010-11.

Like the existing IIMs at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Lucknow, Kozhikode, Indore and Shillong, the new ones will also have a two-year post-graduate programme (PGP) in management as their flagship programme.

Besides, they will offer various executive programmes, including those in the public policy domain focusing on civil and municipal services and such other areas, an official press release said.

The remaining three IIMs in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan will be set up in the second phase in the financial year 2010-11. The locations of these institutes within these states are yet to be decided.

In phase I, there would be an intake of 140 students in the PGP and by the end of phase II the number would reach 560 students per year, the release said. The admissions will be through the Common Admission Test (CAT) conducted by the IIMs.

The XIth Five Year Plan, endorsed by the National Development Council in December, 2007 had envisaged, inter alia, the establishment of seven new IIMs in the country, of which the one at Shillong has already started functioning from the academic session 2008-09.

While referring to this decision in his interim budget speech in the Lok Sabha on February 16 this year, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had mentioned by mistake that Rajasthan would be the location of one of the remaining six IIMs.

Later, on February 25, he had informed the House that, due to a typographical error made by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, he had mentioned Rajasthan instead of Chhattisgarh. But, since an announcement had been made, he said the Government had decided to go ahead and set up an IIM in Rajasthan, too.

The Government expects the new IIMs to help create a highly competent and trained manpower which would be a major catalyst for developing a knowledge society that would inevitably impact the economic growth of the country.

"Apart from this, research in management and emerging areas would evolve a potential for generating significant intellectual properties that would generate sizeable revenue," the release said.

It said the Cabinet had also approved an outlay of Rs.451 crores (Rs.333.00 crores for non-recurring expenditure and Rs.118 crores for recurring expenditure) in the XIth Plan and the XII Plan for each IIM.

The projected outlay for the XIth Five Year Plan for each of the four IIMs to be established during 2009-10 is Rs.166 crore (Rs.135 crore for non-recurring expenditure and Rs.31 crore for recurring expenditure).

For the remaining three IIMs to be set up during 2010-11, the requirement for the XIth Plan would be Rs.131 crores each (Rs.107 crores non-recurring and Rs. 24 crores recurring expenditure). The total requirement of funds for establishment of seven new IIMs during XI Plan works out to Rs.1057 crores, the release added.

The Government had, earlier this month, begun the search for Directors to head the new IIMs at Raipur, Rohtak, Ranchi and Tiruchirapalli.


All-party meeting held on NREGS

Leaders of various political parties today expressed the view that though the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) had made a huge impact in the rural areas there was considerable scope for improvement in its implementation at different levels.

Speaking at an all-party meeting convened by the Ministry of Rural Development to discuss the government's flagship programme, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Prasad Yadav advised the government to set up vigilance and monitoring committees to ensure accountability.

Mr Rajendra Agarwal of the Bharatiya Janata Party said the scheme was not reaching the poor to the extent required. He said the government should go in for afforestation in a big way under the scheme in view of global warming.

Mr Ram Chander Dome of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) suggested that the government should make spot banks through banks in areas which do not have branches of banks.

Samajwadi Party leader D D Tiwary said state governments were more interested in their own schemes than a national programme such as the NREGS.

Mr Ramrao Adik of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) said it was necessary to expand the types of works permitted under the scheme as the usual works such as building of village roads and desilting of ponds had already been carried out.

Congress Member of Parliament Sandeep Dikshit said that, since farmers had to pay more wages to their workers due to the impact of the NREGS, it is necessary for the government to write to the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices asking them to take this into account while recommending procurement prices for crops.

Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj C P Joshi promised to convene another such meeting before the next session of Parliament to elicit the detailed views of political parties about the programme.

Dr Joshi said the priorities of his Ministry was the convergence of NREGS with other schemes, its implementation through Panchayats, social auditing, district-level ombudsman and the creation of unique identification numbers for the beneficiaries.

He also told the meeting that the Government had placed adequate funds with the States to tide over the crisis caused by the drought in 250 districts of the country. Listing out the problem areas of NREGA, the Minister said these included lack of awareness, inability of workers to submit written applications, delayed payment of wages, non-maintenance of proper records such as muster rolls, and quality of assets created under the scheme.

The representatives of the political parties lauded the minister for his initiative in holding such consultations. Dr Joshi assured them that this would be a continuous process and requested them to hold detailed discussions internally in their parties so that the dialogue could become broad-based.

The meeting was part of a national dialogue initiated by the Ministry of Rural Development to ensure the implementation of NREGS in a transparent, accountable and responsive manner so that the benefits reach the poor and the needy in the rural areas, an official press release added.


8 H1N1 deaths, 177 new cases in India

Eight more deaths due to swine flu have been reported in India since yesterday, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 75, an official statement said here today.

Four of the deaths ocurred in Karnataka, three in Maharashtra and one in Uttarakhand, the first in the state.

Besides, there have been two deaths in Maharashtra for which the laboratory confirmation report for influenza A (H1N1) was awaited, the statement said.

Maharashtra now accounts for 41 of the deaths so far, while 19 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 7 in Gujarat, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Delhi and 1 each in Kerala and Uttarakhand.

Meanwhile, as many as 177 new cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 52 in Tamil Nadu, 31 in Maharashtra, 30 in Delhi, 22 in Karnataka, 15 in Kerala, 7 each in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, 4 each in Haryana and West Bengal, 2 each in Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir and 1 in Rajasthan.

Only one of the new cases has a history of recent travel abroad, while all the others have got the infection within the country, the statement said.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu reported so far in India has gone up to 3273, it said.


Centre, Haryana sign MoU for Digital Base Mapping

Haryana will become the first state in the country which will have open series maps having high resolution satellite data.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) in this regard was signed here today between the Survey of India and the Haryana Space Applications Centre (HARSAC) for base mapping of towns in the state using high resolution satellite data.

Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan and Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda were present on the occasion.

The Survey of India (SOI) is a national mapping and surveying organisation under the Department of Science and Technology at the Centre while HARSAC is an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology, Haryana.

Mr Chavan said the fast-developing technology of remote sensing, geographical information system and global positioning system (GPS) had brought about a sea change in spatial planning.

Mr Hooda said that with the establishment of new industrial, commercial and academic ventures in the National Capital Region, the process of urbanisation had speeded up, posing a greatr challenge for planning and management of urban areas. He said the Digital Base Maps would help to address such issues.


Ravi tells Ambassadors to take strategic view of overseas Indian community

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi today told Indian diplomats posted around the world that they must take a strategic medium to long-term view of the overseas Indian community and recognise it as a resource for inclusive and effective engagement.

Addressing the second Conference of Heads of Indian Missions abroad organised by the Ministry of External Affairs here, Mr Ravi pointed out that several overseas Indians, individually and collectively, and some overseas Indian institutions had grown in stature and today constituted strong allies in articulating India’s strategic interests.

He said the role played by Indo-Americans in the Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation deal was a good example. He also pointed out that, besides their economic success, overseas Indians across the world had emerged as leaders in their chosen fields.

"They have distinguished themselves as lawyers, doctors, academicians, IT professionals, and businesspersons. Virtually in every walk of life," he said.

He said Indians abroad were also beginning to take leadership positions in the political processes of those countries. Whether as members of senates or parliaments, as governors, as ministers or mayors or by virtue of holding important positions in administrations, overseas Indians are increasingly influential, he stressed.

"As heads of missions, you must take a strategic, medium to long-term view of the overseas community. You must go beyond the standard mailing list that most of you have and the few familiar faces that turn up at the national day functions," he remarked.

"As heads of missions, you must take the initiative to transform the overseas community into an effective resource through sustained and consummate engagement to further India’s interests," he said.

Mr Ravi said that as India’s global profile grew, public diplomacy needed to be used as an instrument of active engagement with the world.

"The traditional areas of diplomatic engagement have to widen. We need to reach out to multiple actors and networks, and cultivate a nuanced understanding of new issues and newer contexts," he said.

He said that another reason for pro-active engagement was that in several countries where overseas Indians were a force to reckon with, they seemed to be in real danger of losing that sphere of influence to other countries or other expatriate groups. In this context, he mentioned that the position of overseas Indians in some of the old diaspora countries in the Caribbean was indeed a cause for worry.

Mr Ravi said India's sphere of influence in the emerging economies also needed to be built and enhanced. According to him, several countries with aging populations in Europe will face severe labour shortages and a deficit of skills that their economies will need if they are to sustain their current growth rates.

"The demographic dynamic will necessitate opening their markets to third country workers and professionals. Indians are much sought after for their knowledge, skills and discipline. India must gain the first mover advantage. We must, in the foreseeable future, emerge as a supplier of skilled and trained manpower," he said.

The minister said India was increasingly perceived as a future engine of growth, a safe destination for investment and an emerging educational and technological hub.

"For overseas Indians, spread across more than 110 countries, the bonds tying them to the land of their origin have hitherto been social and cultural. In the changing economic paradigm, they increasingly look at India as a land of opportunity. As heads of missions, you must nurture this bond, develop an agenda for mutual benefit and ensure that the overseas Indian community can benefit from the surging growth and change in India," he stressed.

Mr Ravi spelt out details of some of the flagship programmes launched by the ministry, including the India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF), which is meant to facilitate philanthropic activities by overseas Indians, including innovative projects and instruments such as micro credit for rural entrepreneurs, self-help groups for economic empowerment of women, best practice interventions in primary education and technology interventions in rural health care delivery.

He said the IDF would provide a credible window to optimally utilise the potential of philanthropic capital flows from overseas Indians.

"With a large diaspora population, we must creatively and constructively leverage overseas philanthropy. As heads of missions, you have an important role to play in publicising and popularizing the IDF so that its potential is maximized," he said.

Another initiative taken by the ministry is the Global-Indian Network of Knowledge (Global INK), an electronic platform designed to connect people of Indian origin from a variety of disciplines including doctors, scientists, and academicians working abroad, with knowledge users in India.

The network will serve as a strategic "knowledge bank" aiming to generate ideas on development and its challenges, as also seek solutions through innovation and technological interventions.

"I can assure you, it will be a great asset for the future generations. India has the potential to emerge as a leader in the knowledge and education arena, and Global INK can play a major role in this direction. It can be used as a platform to encourage children of overseas Indians to study in Indian institutions. As heads of missions, you can play an important role in publicising and providing visibility to Global INK, especially amongst the scientific and academic community," he said.

Mr Ravi also stressed that the Ambassadors must be pro-active and sensitive in addressing the problems faced by overseas Indians, whether they are non-resident Indians (NRIs), persons of Indian origin (PIOs) or the workers in the Gulf, especially when they approach the missions for help.

"While there is positive feedback about some missions, there remains a widespread perception of poor accessibility, lack of courtesy and the absence of a helpful approach in many missions. You must make the Indian missions more welcoming institutions.

"Heads of missions must make it a point to conduct open houses themselves, at least once in a quarter. Meet the people; hear them out. Half the problems are solved once people get the feeling that they have been heard.

"Let me urge you to remember that in a foreign land, for the overseas Indian community, the mission is the first and last bastion of recourse. People look to their embassies with hope. A compassionate and sensitive approach would go a long way in giving people the confidence that they will get the help they deserve from their mission," he added.


Khurshid says govt. committed to betterment of Muslim women's lot

Union Minister for Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid has reiterated the Government's commitment to pursue all the issues related to the betterment of the conditions of Muslim women under the implementation of the Sachar Committee Report.

He gave this assurance to a delegation led by Ms Subhashini Ali, President of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA), which met him here and handed over a charter of demands signed by more than 75,000 Muslim women.

Mr Khurshid said that almost all the issues raised in the charter of demands were high on the agenda of the Government. He said that the implementation of the Sachar Committee Report was being regularly monitored.

The minister assured the delegation that any other issue that might arise would also be looked into, an official press release added.


PM says corruption tarnishes India's image, calls for war against menace

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday that pervasive corruption tarnished India's image to an important extent and discouraged investors, who expect fair treatment and transparent dealings when dealing with public authorities.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being welcomed by CBI Director Ashwani Kumar at the XVII Biennial Conference of CBI and State Anti-Corruption Bureaux. Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office and Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions and Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan is also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being welcomed by CBI Director Ashwani Kumar at the XVII Biennial Conference of CBI and State Anti-Corruption Bureaux. Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office and Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions and Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan is also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said pervasive corruption in India tarnished its image to an important extent and discouraged investors, who expect fair treatment and transparent dealings when dealing with public authorities.

"As the country grows and integrates with the world economy, corruption continues to be an impediment to harnessing the best of technology and investable resources," Dr Singh said in his inaugural address at the 17th Biennial Conference of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and State Anti-Corruption Bureaux (ACBs) here this morning.

He said the urgent need to combat the menace of corruption could not be overemphasised, given that it distorts the rule of law and weakens institutions of governance. He said the evil also hurts the country's economic growth in a variety of ways, apart from hindering its efforts to build a just, fair and equitable society.

"Important projects, which have huge externalities for growth, do not get implemented in time, and when they do get finished, they are often of a poor quality. Inflated project costs consume scarce national resources which could have been better used in other important areas in the service of our people," he said.

Dr Singh said the poor were are disproportionately hurt because of corruption. "We have some of the most ambitious and wide-ranging programmes in place today to help the poor and the marginalised sections of our society. But, there is a constant refrain in public discourse that much of what the government provides never reaches the intended beneficiaries – whether it is subsidized foodgrains for the poor, loans, fertilizers or seeds on concessional terms for small and marginal farmers or the benefit of employment programmes for the under employed and unemployed. This should be a matter of serious concern for all of us collectively," he said.

The Prime Minister said the world respected India's democracy, its plural and secular values, its independent judiciary and free press, its commitment to freedom and peace and its pursuit of equitable and inclusive growth.

"But pervasive corruption in our country tarnishes our image to an important extent. It also discourages investors, who expect fair treatment and transparent dealings when dealing with public authorities.

"The malaise of corruption, so sapping our efforts to march ahead as a nation, should be treated immediately and effectively. And all of you present here today can contribute substantially in this war against corruption. Indeed, you are in many ways in a privileged position to do so," he said.

Dr Singh said there was, of course, no single remedy for fighting corruption and the battle had to be fought at many levels. The design of development programmes should provide for more transparency and accountability.

He said systems and procedures which are opaque, complicated, centralised and discretionary are a fertile breding ground for corruption. He said they should be made more transparent, simpler, decentralised and less discretionary.

He said the Second Administrative Reforms Commission had given a wide range of recommendations in this regard in its report on ‘Ethics in Governance. He said these had been examined in great detail and it should be soon possible to take a decision on many of the recommendations.

At the same time, the Prime Minister said systemic improvement was a long-term goal and the country could not wait for it to happen.

"Our anti corruption agencies must make the cost of corruption unacceptably high for those indulging in this evil practice. There should be clear focus on corruption-prone areas and individuals so that the available national resources for anti-corruption efforts are not dissipated.

"High-level corruption should be pursued aggressively. There is a pervasive feeling today in our country that while petty cases get tackled quickly, the big fish often escape punishment. This has to change. Rapid, fair and accurate investigation of allegations of corruption in high places should remain your utmost priority. The nation expects you to act firmly, swiftly and without fear or favour. And you have the constitutional and legal protection and safeguards to do so," he said.

Dr Singh said the ever evolving levels of sophistication and complexity in different cases of corruption presented special challenges to enforcement agencies. According to him, the need is to stay one step ahead of the corrupt through acquisition of new skills, intensive and regular training. It is only a well-trained, well-equipped and well-motivated set of officers who can be equal to the task assigned to them, he stressed.

He said the investigative agencies should also learn from the best global practices. He said he had been told that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had taken many initiatives in improving transparency in the procurement processes in government and public sector undertakings, including the introduction of an Integrity Pact for high-value transactions.

The Prime Minister said the CVC had to play a pivotal role in sharing the best practices with all those involved in the anti-corruption effort. The State Vigilance Bureaux must also play a similar role by interacting with the various state departments, studying their procedures and coming up with suggestions to make them more transparent and less amenable to abuse or manipulation of any kind.

He told the CBI officers that the people had great faith and expectations from them and urged them to do their utmost to live up to them.

He pointed out that there have been occasions in the recent past when the conduct of the Burau had come in for public criticism and urged it to introspect deeply to further improve its functioning. He urged the State agencies to set targets for themselves as the CBI had done and aim at acquiring an enhanced credibility in the eyes of the people at large.

Dr Singh stressed the need for speedy trials and quick delivery of judgements. He said the Government had recently decided to set up 71 new CBI courts and expected them to function as model courts, hold day-to-day proceedings and avoid unnecessary adjournments.

He also emphasised the need to ensure that innocent officials were not harassed for bonafide mistakes while relentlessly pursuing the corrupt and bringing them to book.

"Officials have to be encouraged to take decisions, to accept responsibility, to show initiative and, whenever required, to take risks if our bureaucracy is to shed its slothful and lethargic image. Very often, the fear of harassment and damage to reputation makes public officials unduly timid and slow and the whole government machinery becomes ineffectual. Anti-corruption agencies have therefore to develop a system of investigation that factors this element into their thinking processes. It is as much your duty to protect the honest and the efficient as it is to prosecute and penalise the corrupt," he said.

The Prime Minister gave away the President's Police Medals for meritorious services for the best investigating officers on the occasion. He congratulated them and hoped they would continue to excel professionally and be an example and a source of inspiration for other officers.


Govt decides to release 2nd instalment of pay arrears

The Government today announced that it had decided to release the second and final instalment of the salary arrears to about five million government employees arising out of the implementation of the recommendations of the Sixth Central Pay Commission.

The Government had decided last year that the arrears would be paid in cash in two instalments.

The first instalment of 40 per cent was paid in 2008-09 and the second of 60 per cent was due to be paid this year.

"It has now been decided that the remaining 60 % of arrears may now be paid to the concerned Government servants," an office memorandum issued by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, said.

The memorandum did not specify a date by when the arrears would be paid, but the announcement is bound to come as good news for its employees ahead of the festive season.

It said that, as in the case of the first instalment of arrears, the Government servants would be permitted to deposit their arrears in their General Provident Fund (GPF) accounts.

"Though not mandated, Government servants are encouraged to deposit their arrears in GPF accounts," it added.


Krishna says Saeed brain behind Mumbai attacks, asks Pakistan to act

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has said that Jamaat ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed is the brain behind the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai must be brought to justice so that India could be convinced of the Pakistani government's seriousness in going after such terrorists.

"Pakistan government has assured us that the perpetrators of... those who were responsible for the Mumbai attack will be brought to justice - and in that context they have chargesheeted five-six of them. (But) I think the more important ones are left out according to us- for example Hafiz Saeed, who is the brain behind the attack on Mumbai. Well, there is no word from Pakistan about him," Mr Krishna told television channel CNN IBN in an interview.

He said India had told the Pakistan government that elements such as Saeed should be tackled by it in the light of his track record of directing terrorist activities against India and the fact that he heads a terror organisation that is basically inimical to India's interest.

"We want that such elements should be tackled by Pakistan so that India can be convinced of the seriousness of the government of Pakistan in going after these terrorists," he said.

The minister said the evidence provided by India to Pakistan against Saeed was enough to get him convicted if the case is "presented through proper advocacy before a court of law."

"I would not go into the details as to what exactly the dossier contains but once Pakistan mentions the names in the dossier- it will come out," he said.

Mr Krishna was also asked about the opposition's criticism that he was out of his depth in dealing with foreign policy issues and the comparison to former Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who had to resign after the Mumbai terror attacks.

He said such criticism was unfair and there were many indicators about the kind of results the country's foreign policy had yielded in the recent past. He cited as an example his recent visit to Australia after the series of attacks on Indian students in that country.

"I think one could look back with a sense of fulfilment, a sense of achievement that things are happening in the foreign policy field……There are no quick fixes in foreign policy. Over a period of time the policy has to be evolved, and that’s what we intend doing," he added.


4 more H1N1 deaths, 235 new cases reported

Four more deaths due to swine flu have been reported in India since yesterday, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 67.

According to an official statement, one death each was reported in Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Maharashtra now accounts for 38 of the deaths so far, while 15 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 7 in Gujarat, 3 each in Tamil Nadu and Delhi and 1 in Kerala.

As many as 186 new cases of the flu were reported today from across the country, including 41 in Delhi, 34 in Maharashtra, 29 in Karnataka, 23 in Gujarat, 16 in Kerala, 12 in Tamil Nadu, 9 in Uttar Pradesh, 4 in West Bengal, 2 in Assam and 1 each in Chandigarh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

The statement said 49 new laboratory-confirmed cases were reported from Uttar Pradesh yesterday from samples collected during August 8-17, including 45 in Lucknow, 3 in Kanpur and 1 in Sultanpur.

Almost all the new cases have no history of recent travel abroad and have got the infection from within the country, the statement added.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in the country has crossed the 3000-mark and is now at 3144.


PM inaugurates Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurating the Indian Institute of Space Technology (IIST) in Thiruvananthapuram by video conferencing.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurating the Indian Institute of Space Technology (IIST) in Thiruvananthapuram by video conferencing.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said that India's space programme was a shining example of commitment of self-reliance and indigenous effort in an area of highly advanced and sophisticated technology.

He said that the other feature of the space programme that stood out was that it was firmly rooted to the ground and to the needs of the ordinary men and women of the country.

"The applications of our space based capabilities are, and I say this with great pride, are of direct benefit to our national development goals," he said.

Dr Singh was speaking at a function at his residence here this evening at which he inaugurated, through video-conferencing, the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) at Valiamala in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

He also presented awards to scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for their outstanding contributions and laid the foundation stone of ISRO's Space Complex in New Delhi.

The Prime Minister said 50,000 classrooms are connected through the tele-education network in the country and more than 375 hospitals were providing telemedicine services to over 300,000 patients. More than 475 village resource centres are providing single-window-based space services in the country, he said.

"That is a remarkable record and we all feel great sense of pride in the achievements in this field," he remarked.

He urged the Department of Space to continuously reinforce both these aspects of the space programme, which are distinguishable hallmarks.

He said the future plans of the country's space programme included low cost access to space, development of heavy lift boosters to launch heavier satellites, realising high power and high bandwidth communication satellites and remote sensing satellites with all-weather capability. "I am confident these challenges will be met and dealt with effectively," he said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the Awards Ceremony for ISRO Scientists and the inauguration of IIST in Thiruvananthapuram by video conferencing.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the Awards Ceremony for ISRO Scientists and the inauguration of IIST in Thiruvananthapuram by video conferencing.

Dr Singh said the awards ceremony was a fitting tribute to the legacy of Dr Vikram Sarabhai, who was not just the father of the country's space programme but an intellectual giant, a visionary and a great institution-builder. "He was one of the scientific architects of modern India," he said. He also paid tribute to the leadership of Dr Satish Dhawan, who headed the country's space programme in the 1970s.

He called upon ISRO to continuously build upon its culture of excellence and corporate responsibility.

He noted that the country today had eleven communication satellites and nine remote sensing satellites which provide a wide array of space-serviced services.

He said he recalled the pride he felt, like all other Indians, when he was informed of the success of Chandrayaan-1, India's mission to the moon. "You have earned the respect of the entire international community and we take pride in the solid achievements of the space programme," he remarked.

The Prime Minister hoped these elements would find reflection in the Space Vision that is now being developed for the country upto the year 2025.

"The Vision should spell out not only our expansion plans but also the new frontiers of technology that we wish to master and cover. We should reflect on how we can more effectively harness space technology for our developmental purposes," he said.

Dr Singh hoped the IIST would emerge as a great centre of excellence on par with the very best in the world. He said he was happy to learn that the institute would be able to cater to half the annual manpower needs of ISRO.

"It is our collective duty to ensure that we create the necessary conditions to attract the best and the brightest to scientific and technological studies," he said.

He said the Space Complex in New Delhi would help fulfil the needs for utilisation of space-based services in this part of the country.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presented the awards to the ISRO scientists for their outstanding contribution, at a function.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presented the awards to the ISRO scientists for their outstanding contribution, at a function.

IIST is the only Space University in the world offering courses at the undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and post-doctoral levels, with specific focus on Space Science and Technology. It started functioning from September 2007 at an alternative campus adjacent to the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram. At present, the institute offers B.Tech. courses in Avionics, Aerospace Engineering and Physical Sciences. Post-graduate courses in a few selected disciplines will begin in January, 2010.

The institute, a deemed to be university under the Department of Space, will soon have its own full-fledged campus at Valiamala, 18 km from Thiruvananthapuram city. It will have state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure to support high-calibre education and research.


Gokulram to be OSD in Cabinet Secretariat

Mr N Gokulram, an officer of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the 1974 batch (Karnataka cadre) who is at present Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries in the Union Ministry of Agriculture, has been placed under attached with the Cabinet Secretariat as Officer on Special Duty.

An official press release said the placement would be in the rank and pay of Secretary to the Government of India.

It said Mr Rudra Gangadharan, an IAS officer of the 1975 batch (Kerala cadre), at present Director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie, will take Mr Gokulram's place as Secretary, Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.

The release said the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet had also appointed Mr Padamvir Singh, an IAS officer of 1977 batch (Madhya Pradesh cadre), presently Special Director, LBSNAA, as the new Director of the Academy in the rank and pay of Additional Secretary.


PM says all-out efforts needed to return to high growth path

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said all-out efforts were needed to put the economy back on a sustained high rate of growth if the challenges of poverty and disease were to be addressed.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Conference of Indian Heads of Missions, organized by the Ministry of External Affairs. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Conference of Indian Heads of Missions, organized by the Ministry of External Affairs. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said all-out efforts were needed to put the country's economy back on a sustained high rate of growth if the challenges of poverty and disease were to be addressed.

Addressing the second Conference of Heads of Indian Missions abroad organised by the Ministry of External Affairs here, Dr Singh pointed out that, despite the global economic slowdown, the Indian economy was still the second fastest growing economy in the world..

Dr Singh spent much of his address to the Indian diplomats posted in different parts of the world in emphasising the integral link between the country's foreign policy and its domestic policies, especially economic policy.

He stressed that the country's foreign policy should be aimed at addressing the challenges of mass poverty, ignorance and disease in the country, which were the primary concerns of the Indian state and polity.

In this context, the Prime Minister identified three pillars of India's global engagement -sustaining capital inflows to supplement its investment efforts, the need to take advantage of rapid scientific and technological developments in the world which provide an opportunity for India to leapfrog its technological development, and the need to ensure that the country's growth is not constrained by scarcity of natural resources.

All these required active engagement by India in all multilateral fora, and in the shaping of the world order, whether in the field of trade, international finance or the international economy, he said.

According to him, insularity was not an option, and India should play a role in the international arena in a manner that makes a positive contribution to finding solutions to major global challenges, whether in the field of trade or climate change.

The Prime Minister highlighted the fact that the India has been a victim of terrorism and stressed that it was essential that global terrorism is tackled with full vigour and resolve to ensure the continuing advancement of the country.

He also underlined that India had a stake in the prosperity and stability of all its South Asian neighbours.

"We should strive to engage our neighbours constructively and resolve differences through peaceful means and negotiations," he added.

The five-day conference, inaugurated yesterday by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, is being attended by 112 Heads of Missions.

Apart from Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, the diplomats were also addressed by Agriculture and Food Minister Sharad Pawar yesterday.

The conference is aimed at providing the Government an opportunity to give directions to the Ambassadors on major foreign policy objectives.

A similar conference was held in December last year, when it was decided to make it an annual event.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi are among those who will address the conference.

National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, Member of Parliament Kapila Vatsayan and other senior ministers and officials will also address the Heads of Missions (HOMs).

The HOMs will also have an interaction with Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, who, incidentally, is himself a former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer.

The various sessions during the conference will cover, inter alia, the global financial crisis, the Indian economy and climate change.

A new feature of this year's HOMs Conference are the interactive sessions with some special topical themes. These will enable the Heads of Missions to provide the government with their own experiences gained during the last one year of implementing foreign policy in different countries and regions.

The Conference is being held just four months after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government began its second five-year term in May.


India to organise tourism road shows in Scandinavian countries

Union Minister of Tourism and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Kumari Selja will leave here tomorrow for Oslo, Norway to attend the meeting of the Board of Governors of Urban Poor Fund International (UPFI).

She will also attend road shows being organised by the Ministry of Tourism to promote India as a tourist destination, an official press release said.

The road shows are being organised by the ministry in association with the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) India Chapter and the local PATA Chapter in Scandinavia. The shows are being held in Helsinki (Finland), Stockholm (Sweden) and Oslo (Norway), starting from today till August 28.

The release said the shows would include presentations on India, meetings with buyer delegates from Scandinavian countries and interactions with the media. The shows are designed to be a platform for showcasing tourism products, facilities and services of the country to a select audience.

About 25-30 leading travel trade representatives from India, including tour operators, airlines and hoteliers, are expected to participate in the shows.

The Scandinavian countries are important source markets for Indian tourism. With the introduction of Finnair services between India and Finland, tourist arrivals from this region have started showing steady growth, the release said.

The Ministry of Tourism has, therefore, decided to capitalize on this trend and make itself more visible in the region.

The shows will also project the investment opportunities available in the tourism sector in India. Participants will be briefed about the developments in the field of medical and wellness tourism in India as well as the potential in the MICE (Meeting, Incentive, Conventions & Exhibitions) segment in the country.


Rlys reduces Tatkal charges from October 1

The Ministry of Railways has decided to reduce the charges for the Tatkal Scheme, launched some years ago to meet the urgent requirements of passengers who have to travel at short notice, with effect from October 1.

This is in keeping with the promise made by Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee while presenting the Railway Budget for 2009-10 in Parliament in July.

The new Tatkal charges will be at the rate of 10 per cent of basic fare for second class and 30 per cent of basic fare for all other classes, subject to a minimum and a maximum amount.

The minimum and maximum Tatkal charges will be Rs 10 and Rs 15 for second class (sitting), Rs 75 and Rs 150 (sleeper and air-conditioned chair car), and Rs 200 and Rs 300 (AC 3 tier, AC 2 tier and Executive class).

An official press release, said the above charges will be levied uniformly both in peak period and non-peak periods.

Tatkal tickets will be issued for actual distance of travel, instead of end-to-end, subject to the distance restriction applicable to the train. The same Tatkal berth/seat may be booked in multiple legs till preparation of charts. At the time of preparation of charts, unutilized portion may be released to the General RAC/Waiting list passengers, it said.

Tatkal facility will be introduced in Executive Class of Shatabdi Express trains also by earmarking 10 per cent of the accommodation available, that is five seats per coach

The existing refund rules of Tatkal tickets will remain unchanged.

Earlier, the Ministry of Railways had decided to reduce the Advance Reservation Period (ARP) for theTatkal Scheme from five days to two days (excluding the date of journey) with effect from August 1.

The Tatkal facility is available only to full fare paying passengers and not to those travelling on concessional tickets.

Usually, four berths per coach in AC 2-tier and six berths per AC 3-tier and AC Chair Car coaches are earmarked for the Tatkal Scheme. In the case of sleeper class, it is 10 per cent of the accommodation or one coach, whichever is less.


Arun Shourie joins chorus of criticism against BJP leadership

Arun Shourie
Arun Shourie

Former Union Minister Arun Shourie today became the latest Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader to attack the party leadership, describing its president Rajnath Singh as "Alice in Blunderland."

In an interview to NDTV, Mr Shourie also said that the BJP was like a "kati patang" and an organisation that had lost ballast.

At different points in the interview, Mr Shourie also likened Mr Rajnath Singh to "Tarzan" who wanted to lord it over the jungle and "Humpty Dumpty" who wanted to "make words mean what you say."

Talking to journalist Shekhar Gupta on the channel's "Walk the Talk" show, Mr Shourie said he felt the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) must take over the party, and that the top leadership must be changed. "BJP should get the top leadership from the states," he said.

He said ten leaders from the party's units in the states with impeccable credentials must be given the responsibility and emphasised that "none of them should be from Delhi."

He also said that it was reasonable to assume that the RSS was also concerned about the happenings within the party. He said the course of events would ultimately force the RSS to intervene in a surgical manner in the party's affairs.

Mr Shourie said that there was a chance of survival and resurrection for the party if this was done soon. Any delay in acting would mean less chances in this regard, he warned.

Mr Shourie spoke at length about how then Prime Minister Atali Bihari Vajpayee was extremely pained by the Gujarat violence of 2002 and that he had wanted state Chief Minister Narendra Modi to step down. He said Mr Advani had agreed with Mr Vajpayee, on the flight to Goa for the BJP's National Executive that year, that he would ring up and ask Mr Modi to quit at the party's meeting.

Mr Shourie said Mr Modi did offer to resign at the meeting, but then, as if on cue, there was a chorus of protest from different parts of the hall, and the whole plan fell through.

He said it was strange that people who spoke out against the problems in the party were accused of indiscipline but there was nothing said to those who had brought the party to the present situation.

In reply to a question, he said he had raised this issue with the party's leadership and with individual leaders several times. He said he had also been pleading with the RSS leadership to act in the matter. He said he had told them that they could stay out of policy matters but they must keep an eye on the conduct of individual leaders.

Mr Shourie also agreed with former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh who had said that Mr Advani was fully aware of the fact that he was going to accompany the released terrorists on the flight to Kandahar in Afghanistan, where the passengers of a hijacked Indian Airlines flight were to be released in exchange.

The remarks by Mr Shourie come only a few days after the BJP expelled Mr Jaswant Singh from the party for his views on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah and India's first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Yesterday, Mr Sudheendra Kulkarni, a close aide of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani, ended 13 years of association with the party, citing ideological differences.

The BJP is not likely to take kindly to Mr Shourie's remarks and it will not be surprising if some kind of action is taken against him, too.

Mr Shourie said in the interview that he was not worried about the possibility because he would remain in public life through his writings and his newspaper columns. He said public life did not necessarily mean being attached to a political party or a faction of a party.

Mr Jaswant Singh, Mr Shourie and former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha had been critical of the manner in which the BJP had handled the post-election situation and for its alleged failure to fix responsibility for its second successive defeat in elections to the Lok Sabha.


3 more H1N1 deaths, 137 new cases in India

File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
Three more deaths due to swine flu have been reported in India since yesterday, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 63, an official statement said here today.

Two of the deaths were reported from Karnataka and one from Maharashtra, the statement said.

Maharashtra now accounts for 37 of the total deaths so far, while 14 people have lost their lives in Karnataka, 6 in Gujarat, 3 in Tamil Nadu, 2 in Delhi and 1 in Kerala, it said.

Meanwhile, as many as 137 new cases of the flu were reported today from across the country, including 45 in Tamil Nadu, 38 in Delhi, 28 in Maharashtra, 10 in Kerala, 9 in Karnataka, 3 in Andhra Pradesh, 3 in Jammu and Kashmir and 1 in Goa.

Except 6 of the cases in Delhi and 2 in Kerala, none of the others have any history of recent travel abroad, the statement said.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 2909, it added.


Sibal moots core curriculum for Maths and Science for country

Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal today mooted the idea of a core curriculum for mathematics and science in the country in the next three years.

Addressing a meeting of the Council of Boards of School Education (COBSE) here, Mr Sibal said this would enable the creation of a critical mass of students equally endowed to compete for entrance to professional courses.

He said such a core curriculum would make it possible to have a common entrance examination in the country for entry to the university system for professional courses, for which mathematics and science are fundamental subjects.

Mr Sibal urged the Heads of Schools Boards across the country to discuss the idea and come up with a roadmap for implementing it.

He said that, in order to ensure genuine equivalence for these subjects, the quality of teachers would also have to be ensured.

At the same time, he emphasised that the country needed diversity in the teaching of subjects such as geography, history and environment, which are specific to different regions. He said the preservation of this diversity should be encouraged, as a result of which different students will bring to the table their unique experiences, making India a "melange of uniqueness".

He said that the present system of education was narrow with few choices for children. Skill development was needed with Boards being able to give degrees in music, mechanics, art, and so on, he said.

Mr Sibal said there was a need to destress the education system and attempts must be made towards a grading system. Stating that a move towards Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) is much tougher for teachers, he added that it would be much simpler for students.


Jaswant meets Vajpayee to seek his "blessings"

Former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, who was expelled from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) four days ago for his views on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah, called on former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at his residence here today.

Mr Singh later told newsmen that he had gone to greet Mr Vajpayee on Ganesh Chaturthi, enquire about his health and seek his blessings. "I have his blessings now," he told reporters on his way out from Mr Vajpayee's Krishna Menon Marg residence.

The 85-year-old Mr Vajpayee, regarded as the BJP's tallest leader, has been keeping away from active politics and has hardly been seen in public for several months.

But his decision to meet Mr Singh may be interpreted by some as a sign of his disapproval of the party's action against the former External Affairs Minister.

Yesterday, Mr Singh had called on former Defence Minister George Fernandes, who is also in poor health.


7 more H1N1 deaths in India, 103 fresh cases

Seven more deaths due to swine flu have been reported in India since yesterday, taking the toll due to the A (H1N1) virus in the country so far to 60, an official statement said today.

Five of the deaths were reported from Maharashtra and one each from Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, the statement said.

Maharashtra now accounts for 36 of the deaths so far, while 12 people have lost their lives because of the flu in Karnataka, 6 in Gujarat, 3 in Tamil Nadu, 2 in Delhi and 1 in Kerala.

Meanwhile, a total of 103 new cases of the flu were reported from across the country, including 24 in Karnataka, 20 in Maharashtra, 15 in Gujarat, 14 in Kerala, 13 in Delhi, 8 in Andhra Pradesh, 5 in West Bengal, 2 in Haryana, and 1 each in Rajasthan and Meghalaya.

Of the new cases, only 11 had any history of recent travel abroad, while the rest got the infection from within the country, the statement said.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus in India so far has gone up to 2772, it added.


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