Centre okays Heritage Urban Renewal Project in Kochi

The Ministry of Urban Development has approved the Broadway & Ernarkulam Market Heritage Urban Renewal Project in Kochi, Kerala under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

The approval was given by the Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee (CSMC) under sub-mission I of the Urban Infrastructure & Governance at its 82nd meeting here here recently under the chairmanship of the Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development.

An official press release said the aim of the project was to create an integrated pedestrian zone which will bind the heritage zone and shopping activities into a well-connected heritage precinct. It is also designed to improve traffic and parking mangement in the area.

The release said the project would retain the heritage importance of the place while improving  pedestrian-related infrastructure and shopping-related facilities.

It said revenue generation from the area would also improve as a result of environment improvement through betterment charges and other rentals. As a whole  it will improve heritage and urban image of Kochi Heritage Zone 3 to make it a more popular shopping and safe pedestrian environment.

The project will be implemented by Kochi Municipal Corporation and will take a period of 24 months for completion. The total cost of the project is Rs 22.10 crore, out of which the Centre will bear Rs 11.05 crore, the release added.


Kingfisher Airlines granted rights for 7 new international routes

File photo of a Kingfisher A-330 aircraft.
File photo of a Kingfisher A-330 aircraft.

Private carrier Kingfisher Airlines, part of the Vijay Mallya-led UB Group, today said the Government had granted it traffic rights to operate on seven new international routes.

The routes are New Delhi – London – New Delhi, New Delhi – Hong Kong – New Delhi, New Delhi – Bangkok – New Delhi, New Delhi – Dubai – New Delhi, Mumbai – Colombo- Mumbai, Mumbai – Bangkok- Mumbai and Mumbai – Dubai – Mumbai, the airline said in a press release.

“I am delighted to announce that Kingfisher Airlines will soon be commencing flights from New Delhi to London Heathrow along with six other new international routes," Mr Mallya, Chairman and CEO of the airline, said.

"The launch of these new flights will further enhance the international route network of Kingfisher Airlines. The addition of these new services will mean that we will now be able to further leverage the unparalleled domestic route network of Kingfisher Airlines to maximize yields. With their unique domain expertise in aviation in general and in network planning in particular, Seabury, our globally renowned advisors will ensure excellent connectivity for all these new services," he said.

Mr Mallya said the airline might look at inducting new aircraft into its fleet sooner than planned so that it is fully geared to capitalise on the upturn.

"We are actively pursuing various options for fund raising and our plans are on track. Given the tremendous equity that Seabury enjoys with global investors, Kingfisher Airlines is benchmarking itself against the best in the world. At a time when the industry is facing remarkably difficult challenges to becoming profitable, the appointment of Seabury is a proactive step taken towards ensuring that the Leadership Team is supported by and has access to seasoned advisors with proven expertise in aviation," he said.

The release said the flights on the New Delhi–London–New Delhi and New Delhi–Hong Kong–New Delhi routes would be operated using Airbus A330 aircraft while flights on the other routes would be operated using the Airbus A320 family of aircraft.
The start dates for the launch of flights on these new routes will be announced at a later date, the release added.


EC: Pennagaram bye-poll date after revision of electoral roll

The Election Commission (EC) today said that it would take a decision on the date for holding the bye-election to the Pennagaram assembly constituency in Dharmapuri district in Tamil Nadu after the final publication of the revised electoral roll.

The statement came in response to concerns expressed in some media reports recently about the delay in conducting the bye-election for the seat, which fell vacant due to the death of the sitting member on December 1, 2009. The vacancy has to be filled up by June 1 this year.

The Commission had on December 22 announced a programme for holding bye-election from Pennagaram along with other bye-elections in Gujarat and Haryana. As per the said programme, the notification was issued on December 26 and the polling date was fixed on January 20.

But, after receiving representations from various political parties, the notification in respect of Pennagaram was withdrawn on December 28 as the Pongal festival and the Tamil New Year were falling during the campaign period.

According to the statement, for notifying the bye-election dates afresh in 2010, the Commission had to revise the electoral roll with reference to January 1, 2010 as the qualifying date. The revision was ordered and the final roll was to be published on February 2, when the Commission received a large number of complaints from several individuals and political parties that names of a large number of ineligible persons had been included and eligible persons deleted from the electoral roll.

In view of this, the Commission, on February 1, deferred the final publication of the electoral roll until further order and simultaneously asked the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of the state to get the  complaints verified and to take appropriate action for either inclusion or deletion of names after following due procedure.

The statement said the Commission had also asked CEO to direct the District Election Officer, Dharmapuri to hold a meeting of the representatives of the political parties to discuss the issues.

It said the Commission shall now review the progress on February 17, when the report of the CEO on various issues raised by political parties is received.

"On the basis of the report, and after final publication of electoral roll is made, the Commission will take a decision on the dates for holding of bye-election in this constituency, keeping all relevant considerations like school examinations, religious festivals, etc.," the statement added.


Mughal Gardens to open for public viewing from Feb 13

The famous Mughal Gardens of Rashtrapati Bhavan will be opened for public viewing this year on all days from February 13 to March 11, an official press release said here today.

The garden will be open from 1000 hous to 1700 hours on all days, except Mondays. Entry into the garden will be open only upto 1600 hours, it said.

The entry and exit into the Gardens will be via Gate No. 35 of the President’s Estate, which is located at the extreme end of Church Road, about 300 meters west of Cathedral Church.

Entry for handicapped persons using wheelchairs will be through the Rashtrapati Bhavan Reception. Such persons can arrive at Rashtrapati Bhavan through Hukmi Mai Marg or Rajpath along with their escorts. Entry and exit for visually challenged persons will be through the Gate No.12 (North Avenue) of Rashtrapati Bhavan.


Shram Shakti Express mishap due to failure of railway staff: report

The statutory inquiry into the accident in which the Kalindi Express rammed into the stationary Shram Shakt Express near Tundla in the Allahabad Division of North Central Railway (NCR) on January 16 has established "failure of Railway staff" as the cause of the mishap.

Three persons - two women and a child - were killed and 18 others had suffered injuries when the Bhiwani-Kanpur Kalindi Express hit the Delhi-Kanpur Shram Shakti Express between the Mitawali and Tundla stations on the Ghaziabad-Tundla section during dense fog around 0810 hours on January 16.

The inquiry was conducted by Mr P K Bajpai, Commissioner of Railway Safety, North-Eastern Circle, Lucknow under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

An official press release said the Commissioner had sent his preliminary report for the consideration of the Central Government.

The Railways have already placed four persons under suspension after the accident. They are Mr S K Aggarwal, Divisional Railway Manager of the Allahabad Division of NCR, Mr Vineet Singh, Senior Divisional Mechanical Engineer, Delhi Division of the Northern Railway, and Mr Ram Prakash and Mr Satpal Singh Yadav, both drivers of the Kalindi Express.

The accident was the third in January in similar circumstances in the Allahabad Division of the NCR on the busy Delhi-Kanpur-Howrah route.

On January 2 morning, at least 10 people were killed and 42 others injured when the 2556 Gorakhdham Express crashed into the stationary 2418 Prayagraj Express at Panki near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in thick fog.

On the same day, a little earlier, the Delhi-Sitamarhi 4006 Lichchavi Express had rammed into the stationary Delhi-Islampur 2402 Magadh Express at Saraibhopat near Etawah. The driver of the Lichchavi Express had suffered serious injuries in the accident when he was trapped inside the mangled engine of the train.

On October 21 last year, 22 people were killed and 26 others injured when the Delhi-bound Goa Express rammed into the stationary Mewar Express, also heading for the capital, between Mathura and Vrindavan on the North-Central Railway (NCR).


Army Chief to visit Maldives February 11-14

Chief of the Army Staff Gen Deepak Kapoor will be on an official four-day visit to Maldives from tomorrow that is expected to further cementing the close defence ties between the two countries and provide an impetus to their ongoing defence cooperation.

The visit by Gen Kapoor, who is also the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC), comes after a gap of three years since the last Army Chief visited Maldives in February, 2007.

An official press release said the visit assumed significance in the light of the increasing bilateral and defence cooperation between the two countries.

"The friendship between the two countries is based on common ideals and principles, arising from a significant legacy of historic links and common culture. India was the first country to recognise Maldives on its independence in 1965," it said.

During the visit, the Army Chief will interct with the Maldivian President, Foreign Minister, Defence Minister, Chief of Defence Forces and a number of other dignitaries. He would also visit the newly- established Headquarters Southern Areas of Maldives National Defence Forces and pay tributes at the Memorial of Indian Soldiers on the Island of Gan.

At his meetings, the COAS will discuss issues of mutual concern such as training of Maldivian Armed Forces personnel in various fields, the release added.


Sewerage project sanctioned for Dehradun under JNNURM

The Central Sanctioning and Monitoring Committee (CSMC) for sanctioning of projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) has approved a new sewerage project for Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand.

The project, under the Urban Infrastructure & Governance (UIG) sub-mission of JNNURM, was cleared by the CSMC at its 82nd meeting held here recently under the chairmanship of the Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development.

The Dehradun Sewerage Scheme (Phase I) for Zone L envisages extension of basic service of sewerage system network to all developed areas of the city as per JNNURM norms. 

At present, some of the areas in Dehradun are partially sewered but have no sewage treatment facility and sewage is being discharged untreated into open drains, creating unhygienic conditions.

The discharge of untreated sewage  is also polluting river Ganges in downstream areas. The project will be implemented by Uttrakhand Payjal Nigam and will be completed in a period of 30  months (March  2010 to August 2012).

The total cost of the project is Rs 62.83 crore, of which the Central share is Rs 31.415 crore, an official press release added.


Suspected Maoists blow up track in Orissa, goods train derails

Suspected Maoists set off two explosions on railway tracks near Rourkela in Orissa in the early hours of today, causing the derailment of a goods train and disrupting train services on the busy Howrah-Mumbai route.

The blasts took place just two days after a similar explosion on the same route, between Bhalulata and Jareikala stations near Rourkela.

Today's explosions, which caused much more damage than Monday's incident, took place within a few minutes of each other on the up and down lines between Bhalulata and Bisra stations around 0150 hours this moring, South-Eastern Railway spokesman Soumitra Majumdar told NetIndian on the telephone from Kolkata.

While there was no train moving on the down line at the time of the explosions, eight wagons of a goods train that passing on the up line were derailed by the blast. However, no one was injured in the explosions, he said.

Mr Majumdar said the explosion also damaged about 1.5 km of overhead electric wires as well as some of the overhead masts on the down line.

As soon as information about the blasts was received, movement of trains on the section was stopped. The police and other security personnel, who arrived on the scene soon after, have given clearance for the resumption of operations, which is expected to happen by this evening.

Mr Majumdar said the derailed wagons would have to be cleared from the section, or moved to one side, the damaged tracks had to be repaired and the damaged overhead wires and masts had to be replaced before train services could be resumed.

In the meantime, the South-Eastern Railway has diverted some trains from Tatanagar via Purulia to Rourkela. But some trains which are stuck between Tatanagar and Rourkela are now held up on the way and might have to wait for the restoration of services before resuming their journey.

The Maoists had called for a 72-hour "bandh" from Sunday in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Chhattisgarh to protest against the Centre's proposed offensive against them.


Indian Armed Forces release joint operational doctrines

The Indian Amed Forces have, in a major step towards enhancing their joint fighting capabilities, promulgated three joint operational doctrines - the Joint Doctrine for Sub-Conventional Operations,the Joint Docrine for Electronic Warfare and the Joint Doctrine for Maritime Air Operations.

The doctrines were released here today Gen Deepak Kapoor, Chief of the Army Staff, who is also currently the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, at a simple function here today.

According to an official press release, the Joint Doctrines collectively aver that it may be more appropriate to call the battlefield of future as battle space, since wars would be fought not only in air, on land and sea but also in cyberspace, on electronic fronts, along information highways and media fronts. Success in such a battle space depends on joint teamwork by maritime, ground and air forces operating effectively, individually and together in support of shared military objectives, it said.

"Considering the prevailing security environment in the country and its neighbourhood, it is mandatory to ensure that the thrust of all agencies involved in combating terrorism is focused towards the common enemy and the synergised endeavour produces best results," they state.

Taking the lead from the operational imperatives, these doctrines would fundamentally shape the way Armed Forces plan, think and train for military operations, the release said.

The Indian Armed Forces are one of the few militaries in the world which have joint operational doctrines for optimising their capabilities, it said.

The doctrines have been formulated by the Doctrine Directorate of Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff to create the requisite synergy between the three services, thereby contributing to their overall operational efficiency, the release added.


India, Turkey to enhance cooperation in fight against terrorism

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the delegation level talks with the President of Turkey Abdullah Gul, in New Delhi on February 09, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the delegation level talks with the President of Turkey Abdullah Gul, in New Delhi on February 09, 2010.

India and Turkey today decided to enhance their cooperation in the global fight against terrorism and agreed to work together with other like-minded states for the finalisation of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the earliest.

In a Joint Declaration on Terrorism issued here during the state visit of Turkish President Abdullah Gul, the two countries tasked their officials to work towards developing an action plan with timelines and specific measures.

For this purpose, the officials will take into account the existing structures of cooperation such as the Joint Working Group against Terrorism.

The declaration recognised that terrorism posed a grave threat to global peace and security and noted that the forces of terrorism were nourished by extremist ideologies.

They stressed that terrorism should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group and recognised further that terrorism sought to weaken, in particular, democratic societies and polities that are based on the rule of law and committed to inclusive growth.

The two countries denounced those who sponsor, abet and instigate terrorism and provide them safe havens and affirmed their common commitment to fight terrorism.

They recognised that their counter-terrorism efforts constitute an important part of the international community's efforts to eradicate terrorism and called upon all countries to comply with all the provisions of international counter-terrorism conventions and protocols as well as other related international instruments and strengthen international cooperation in this regard.

The declaration said the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism was a vital component of the international legal framework in the global struggle against terrorism and calling on the international community to conclude the Convention without further delay.

President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul and his wife Mrs. Hayrunnisa Gul paying floral tributes at the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi, at Rajghat, in Delhi on February 09, 2010.
President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul and his wife Mrs. Hayrunnisa Gul paying floral tributes at the Samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi, at Rajghat, in Delhi on February 09, 2010.

Mr Gul arrived here on February 7 on a five-day visit for talks on ways of forging closer ties between the two countries.

He is accompanied on the visit by his wife, Ms Hayrunnisa Gul, Mr Mehmet Aydin, State Minister and co-Chairman of the Joint Economic Commission, Dr Recep Akdag, Minister of Health, Mr Binali Yildirim, Minister of Transportation, members of Parliament, senior officials and businessmen.

Mr Gul met President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President M Hamid Ansari and held delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Mr Gul will also visit Agra and Mumbai before flying back home.

Dr Singh was assisted at today's talks by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murli Deora, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Mr T K A Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister.

An official statement said later the two sides had cordial discussions on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Dr Singh said that Mr Gul's visit to India, so soon after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit in November, 2008, was an important milestone to review the state of the bilateral relations and to chart a forward-llokg agenda for advancing the multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries.

"We believe that our relations stand on their own footing, and should be progressed in that spirit," he said.

He said bilateral relations were far below their true potential, despite several frameworks and mechanisms in place and two-way trade crossing $ 3 billion in 2008, and felt the two countries were ready for a much deeper and robust partnership.

In this context, he referred to the Joint Study Group for a Compressive Free Trade Agreement that held its first meeting in New Delhi last month. Welcoming the increased participation of Turkish companies in infrastructural projects in India, he called for expanding cooperation in areas such as science & technology, culture, education and tourism.

Mr Gul said the two countries were rediscovering each other and that the frequent high-level exchanges, including his own visit, was a reflection of the political will to work closely with India on political, economic, science & technology and cultural fronts. He underlined that the special relationship between Turkey and Pakistan does not in any way create obstructions for Turkey-India relations, which Turkey intends to carry forward.

According to the statement, the two sides discussed recent developments relating to Afghanistan. President Gul recognized that India’s contribution to Afghanistan is very important and expressed the desire to work together with India in bringing stability to that country. He wished to avoid any misunderstanding relating to a recent meeting in Istanbul on Afghanistan, which emerged from a trilateral format involving Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. He said that Turkey would have liked India to be there and hoped that India would be able to participate in yet another meeting relating to developments in Afghanistan that would be hosted in Turkey later this year.

Apart from the Joint Declaration on Terrorism, the two sides also agreed on a Joint Declaration on Science & Technology Cooperation, which launches an advanced science and technology dialogue, offers to actively study the possibilities of working together in mutually identified projects in areas such as telecommunications, computerization, non-technology space research, bio-technology and environmental technology and convene a joint workshop in 2010.

Both sides agreed to continue to work together in the G-20 and other international fora including the United Nations, the statement added.


Delh Metro services affected after tree falls on OHE

Train services on the Delhi Metro's Jahangirpur and Vishwavidyalaya stations were affected for more than an hour this morning when a tree fell on the overhead electrification (OHE) near Chatarsal stadium.

A spokesman for the Metro said the services were affected from 0911 hours to 1021 hours. Single line operation was introduced between Vishwavidyalaya and Jahangirpuri during this period. Normalcy was restored at 1021 hours.

All other lines remained unaffected by this and train services were normal over the rest of the system, the spokesman added.


4 more swine flu deaths in India, toll goes up to 1274

Four more persons have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India, taking the death toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1274, an official statement said here today.

One death was reported during the day from Madhya Pradesh, while details of three deaths that occurred earlier - one each in Maharashtra, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh - were conveyed by the authorities of the states concerned to the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare today, the statement said.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 327, while 257 lives have been lost in Gujarat, 182 in Rajasthan, 141 in Karnataka, 95 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 39 in Punjab, 37 each in Kerala and Haryana, 24 in Madhya Pradesh, 18 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 in Uttarakhand, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 each in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 4 in Jammu & Kashmir, 3 in Orissa, 2 in Assam and 1 each in Mizoram and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

The statement said 55 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 35 in Maharashtra, 8 in Gujarat, 4 each in Delhi and Karnataka, 2 in Madhya Pradesh and 1each in Kerala and Rajasthan.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 29,171, the statement added.


Govt. refuses permission for commercialisation of Bt Brinjal

The Union Government on Tuesday decided not give the go-ahead to the commercialisation of Bt Brinjal, a genetically modified version of the vegetable that its producers claim is more resistant to pests. .
Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh briefing the Press, in New Delhi on February 09, 2010.
Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh briefing the Press, in New Delhi on February 09, 2010.

The Union Government today decided not give the go-ahead to the commercialisation of Bt Brinjal, a genetically modified version of the vegetable that its producers claim is more resistant to pests, in the face of strong opposition from several quarters.

Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh announced that he had decided to adopt a "precautionary, principle-based approach" and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt Brinjal.

He said the moratorium would stay till such time as independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in the country.

The Government's decision comes after a series of nationwide consultations conducted by Mr Ramesh in different cities. At some of these meetings, he had to face vociferous protests from the anti-Bt Brinjal lobby.

Along with his decision, Mr Ramesh also made public a copy of his report, which relies on inputs received from stakeholders from all across the spectrum of scientists, civil society, academics, Chief Ministers of various states and others concerned.

In his statement, the Minister said his decision was based on all the information available to the Ministry and on the fact that there is no clear consensus within the scientific community itself and there is so much opposition from the State Governments.

He also referred to the fact that responsible civil society organisations and eminent scientists had raised many serious questions that had not been answered satisfactorily.

He also referred to the negative public sentiment in the matter and to the fact that Bt-Brinjal would be the very first genetically modified vegetable to be introduced anywhere in the world. He also said there was no over-riding urgency to introduce Bt-Brinjal in India.

Mr Ramesh made it clear that a moratorium implied rejection of this particular case of release for the time being. "It does not, in any way, mean conditional acceptance. This should be clearly understood," he added.


One soldier killed in Kashmir avalanche

An army jawan was killed in an avalanche that hit an army post in a forward area in Tangdhar in Kupwara district of Jammu & Kashmir in the early hours of today.

The incident came a day after as many as 17 soldiers of the army, including an officer, were killed yesterday in an avalanche that struck their training camp at Khilanmarg, near the ski resort of Gulmarg in north-west Kashmir. Seventeen other soldiers were injured in that incident.

Today's avalanche trapped 14 jawans. All of them were pulled out of the snow but one succumbed to his injuries later, army sources said.

Defence Minister A K Antony expressed deep anguish at the loss of lives of the army personnel in the avalanche.

In a message, he conveyed his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. He asked the army and the local authorities to intensify the rescue operations and provide all possible medical aid to the injured.


IITs, IISc conduct online GATE in two subjects

The seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore conducted the online Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) for the first time in two out of 21 subjects yesterday.

As many as 1700 candidates were registered for the examinations in the two subjects - Textile Engineering and Fiber Science (TF) and Mining Engineering (MN). The test was conducted simultaenously in eight cities over two shifts, an official press release said.

Depending on the experience with the online format, it might be repeated on a larger scale in the coming years, an official press release said.

The offline version of the examination in the other 19 subjects will be conducted all over the country on February 14, the release said.

The GATE is an all-India examination administered and conducted jointly by the IITs in Mumbai, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Chennai and Roorkee and the IISc on behalf of the National Coordination Board - GATE, Department of Higher Education in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

Admission to post-graduate programmes with assistance from the MHRD or other government scholarship/assistanceship in engineering colleges/institutes is open to those who qualify through GATE.

GATE-qualified candidates with Bachelor's degree in Engineering, Technology or Architecture or Master's degree in any branch of Science, Mathematics, Statistics or Computer Applications are eligible for admission to Master's/Doctoral programmes in Engineering/Technology/Architecture as well as for doctoral programmes in relevant branches of Science with MHRD or other government scholarship/assistantship.


Govt. to hold talks with NSCN (IM) leadership from April 1-10

The Government today said the leadership of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) had, at its invitation, proposed to come to India between April 1-10 to hold talks and carry forward the peace process.

An official press release said that, to that end, the Government would be appointing an interlocutor to facilitate the talks and to bring about an early solution.


Snowall in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal due to western disturbance

Widespread snowfall has been reported from several parts of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in the last 24 hours due to a western disturbance over north-west India, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.

There were isolated instances of heavy to very heavy falls in some parts of Jammu & Kashmir in this period, an IMD press release said.

The disturbance also caused light rainfall over some parts of the plains of north-west India.

The release said that the disturbance was likely to continue to affect north-west India during the next 48 hours. It said widespread rain/snowfall would occur in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand in this period, with heavy to very heavy falls at a few places in Jammu and Kashmir and at isolated places in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Lightt moderate rain/thundershowers were also likely at many places in Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delh and Uttar Pradesh during the next 48 hours.

Isolated hailstorms may occur in the Jammu division of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh till tomorrow, it said.


Delhi Metro services hampered Monday evening by rains

Sudden rain hampered train services at different points on Delhi Metro's Line 3 (Jahangirpuri to Central Secretariat) this evening by disrupting the overhead electricity supply.

A spokesman for Delhi Metro said this caused flashing in the pentograph of the train near Jhandewalan, non-opening of doors of another train at Kirti Nagar station and motoring problems in a train near Botanical Garden station.

As a result of these, train services were affected for about 30-40 minutes and services were fully normalised after 2000 hours, he said.

The Director (Operations), Delhi Metro Rail Corportion (DMRC), Mr, Raj Kumar, and the General Manager (Operations), Mr. Vikas Kumar personally monitored the train movement from the Operational Control Centre (OCC) at Metro Bhawan to ensure quick restoration of services, the spokesman said.

The Traction Power Controller at the OCC was able to constantly monitor and restore the electric supply from the Over Head Electrification (OHE) whenever required inspite of the tripping.

The affected trains were withdrawn from service for further investigation into the maintenance depots. Orders were issued for refund of tokens if any passenger requested for the same.

As a result of these efforts, the Metro Control was able to continue running the services on the line inspite of the delay caused, the spokesman added.


Central Employment Guarantee Council to meet on Feb 22

The Central Employment Guarantee Council (CEGC), which is mandated to establish a central evaluation and monitoring system for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), will hold a meeting here on February 22.

This will be the third meeting of the newly-constituted CEGC since the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government returned to power in May, 2009.

The previous two meetings in August and October, 2009 discussed at length issues related to the adminstrative and technical capacity-building under the NREGA.

The CEGC includes representatives from the Central Government and the State Governments, Panchayati Raj institutions, organisations of workers and disadvantaged groups and women's groups and members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Castes and minorities.

The committee is also mandated to advise the Government on all matters concerning the implementation of the NREGA, review the monitoring and grievance redressal mechanism from time to time and recommend improvements required and promote the widest possible dissemination of information about the Schemes made under this Act.

It is also supposed to monitor the implementation of the Act and prepare annual reports to be laid before Parliament by the Central Government on the implementation of this Act.

In addition it is authorized to have the power to undertake evaluation of the various Schemes made under this Act and for that purpose collect or cause to be collected statistics pertaining to the rural economy and the implementation of the Schemes, an official press release added.


20 resource centres identified for rural drinking water Sector

The Department of Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation under the Ministry of Rural Development has identified 20 institutions as National Resource Centres (NRCs) to help the States and their agencies in developing their information, education and communication (IEC) strategy as well as capacity building of different stakeholders.

As key resource centres (KRCs), the identified institutions, located around the country, are expected to, among other things, build the capacity of key resource persons at the State level as well as key programme managers and key resource persons in each district.

They will also provide technical guidance to the States in establishing and proper functioning of the Communication & Capacity Development Unit (CCDUs), expand technical guidance for implementation of reform initiatives in different districts allocated to them; and organize orientation workshops, meetins and training for main stakeholders at the State level.

An official press release said the Government had told the identified institutions to prepare an action plan for 2010-11 by March 15.

The identified institutions are: National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD), Hyderabad, Uttarakhand Academy of Administration (UAA), Nainital, NIRD, Guwahati, Gujarat Jalsewa Training Institute (GJTI), Gandhinagar, Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, XLRI, Jamshedpur, Anna University, Chennai, National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, National Water Academy, Pune, Arghyam, Bangalore, Centre for Science & Environment, New Delhi, Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad, CGWB Training Institute, Faridabad, School of Environmental Studies, Jadhavpur University, NESAC, Shillong, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, National Institute of Administrative Research (NIAR), LLBSNAA, Mussoorie, WASH Institute, Plan India, New Delhi and IMMT, Bhubaneswar.


2 swine flu deaths in Gujarat take India toll to 1270

Two more deaths in Gujarat have taken the swine flu toll in India to 1270, an official statement said here today.

The statement said the two deaths caused by influenza A (H1N1) were reported during the day today and took the toll in Gujarat to 257.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra accounts for 326, while 257 lives have been lost in Gujarat, 182 in Rajasthan, 141 in Karnataka, 95 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 38 in Punjab, 37 each in Kerala and Haryana, 22 in Madhya Pradesh, 18 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 in Uttarakhand, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 each in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 4 in Jammu & Kashmir, 3 in Orissa, 2 in Assam and 1 each in Mizoram and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

The statement said 52 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 21 in Maharashtra, 11 in Rajasthan, 6 in Karnataka, 4 in Madhya Pradesh, 3 each in Delhi and Gujarat, 2 in Chandigarh and 1 each in Punjab and Chhattisgarh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 29,116, the statement added.


S P S Rathore stabbed by NID student outside Chandigarh court

Former Haryana Director General of Police S P S Rathore, who was convicted recently of molesting a girl Ruchika Girhotra 19 years ago, was injured when he was stabbed in the face with a small knife by a youth outside a court in Chandigarh.

Mr Rathore, 68, was coming out of the court in the morning after attending a hearing of the appeal he has filed against the six-sentence given to him, was rushed to a hospital where he was said to be stable.

Later, he came back for some time to the court with a bandage on his right cheek. The court later fixed the next hearing for February 10.

Ruchika, who was 14 when the incident took place in 1990, had committed suicide three years later in 1993, apparently unable to bear the harassment her family was being subjected to after she complained about the molestation.

The youth was identified as Utsav Sharma, 29, who hails from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and is a student of the prestigious National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad. He was arrested by the police and was being questioned about the attack, which he carried out while posing as a journalist.

Sharma's father told journalists in Varanasi that his son was suffering from depression and was under treatment for psychological problems. NID officials in Ahmedabad said they would take action against Utsav as per the law.

Rathore was walking towards his car after coming out of the district court complex when the youth, who was standing with a group of mediapersons waiting to talk to the retired police officer, suddenly moved forward, caught him by the neck and stabbed him thrice in the face before the policemen escorting him could react and overpower him.

Rathore was seen covering the wound on his face with a handkerchief while the polciemen forced the youth down to the ground.

Chandigarh police sources said they were trying to ascertain the motive for the youth's action. They said they had been in touch with his parents as well as officials in NID.

The youth's father said he was leaving for Ahmedabad to collect his medical papers which would show he was suffering from depression.

Utsav has completed a post-graduate course in animation and film design at NID but is yet to get his certificate because he has not complied with the mandatory requirement of internship.

Meanwhile, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating three cases filed by relatives of Ruchika last month. The cases were filed after a public outrage against the six-month sentence handed out to Rathore, which many people felt was too meagre.

Ruchika was a budding 14-year-old tennis player in 1990 and the incident of molestation took place on August 12 that year. Mr Rathore, an Inspector General of Police then, was also president of the Haryana Lawn Tennis Association. He retired from service in 2002.


16 Army men killed, 17 hurt in avalanche in Kashmir

As many as 16 soldiers of the Indian Army, including an officer, were killed today by an avalanche that struck their training camp at Khilanmarg, near the ski resort of Gulmarg in north-west Kashmir, official sources said.

The sources identified the officer killed as Lt Prateek. The injured have been taken to the base hospital at Srinagar.

They said 70 people were caught in the avalanche that smashed the camp as they were undergoing training for winter warfare on the icy slopes in the area. "Sixteen people were killed and the rest were rescued," they said.

The sources said the rescue operations were called off after all the missing men were accounted for by this evening. The soldiers were from the Army's High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) at Gulmarg and were part of a group of about 350 men selected to undergo the advanced course.

The group had set out this morning from Gulmarg and reached Khilanmarg after covering eight km uphill to set up the training camp when they were hit by the avalanche.

Gulmarg and many other parts of Kashmir have received heavy snowfall in the past two days.


Maoists damage railway track in Orissa, goods train derails

Suspected Maoists exploded a bomb on a railway track near Rourkela in Orissa while a goods train was passing in the early hours of today, causing one of the wagons of the train to derail and disrupting train services on the busy Howrah-Mumbai route for several hours.

South Eastern Railway spokesman Soumitra Majumdar told NetIndian over the telephone that the explosion took place around 0045 hours, damaging a portion of the track between Bhalulata and Jareikala stations on the down line (Mumbai-Howrah).

He said no one was injured in the incident, but one wagon of the train moving got derailed. The Railway authorities promptly stopped all trains on the up (Howrah-Mumbai) and down lines.

The state police was informed of the incident and a bomb squad arrived at the spot by 0530 hours. They discovered a live bomb on the up line, which was defused.

The police gave security clearance for the up line by 0730 hours, after which the railway authorities first ran a goods train on the section before resuming normal services on the line by 0755 hours.

The derailed goods wagon was meanwhile re-railed and the stalled goods train was moved away after which the damaged track was repaired and normal traffic on the down line was restored by 0940 hours, Mr Majumdar added.

The Maoists have called for a 72-hour "bandh" from yesterday in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa and Chhattisgarh to protest against the Centre's proposed offensive against them.


Rotary honour for Azad for efforts to eradicate polio

Rotary International today honoured Union Health & Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad as "Polio Eradication Champion" for his "untiring efforts" to eradicate the disease from the country.

Mr Azad was presented the award at a function here to mark the National Immunisation Day (NID) for polio, which also marked the the launch of the bivalent vaccine in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. The vaccine was launched in Bihar last month to tackle the disease in focus area.

According to an official press release, about 42 million children will get the new drops. Overall, 170 million children are likely to be covered in this round of NID.

"We are committed to eradicate the polio menace from the country and focussed efforts will definitely bring desired results with the introduction of Bivalent vaccine in UP, Delhi and Bihar" Mr Azad said.

The Polio Eradication Champion Award is given by Rotary International since 1995 to recognize governments and world leaders who have made outstanding contributions toward the goal of eradicating polio. Previous winners have included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Other leaders who have been honoured with the award include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard; former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr Alpha Oumar Konare, former chair of the African Union Commission; former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan; President Yar’Adua of Nigeria; former United States President Bill Clinton; former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; President Mamadou Tandja of Niger and UN Secretary General Ban-Ki-Moon.

There are three strains of wild polio virus - P1, P2 & P3. Type 2 wild polio virus (P2) was eliminated in 1999. Efforts are being made to eradicate P1 and P3 also. As P1 is the more virulent type of the two, the current strategy is to eliminate it first while keeping P3 under control. Once P1 is eradicated, efforts to eradicate P3 will be made. Initially trivalent Oral Polio Vaccine (which caters to all the three strains of wild polio virus) was used in the campaign. Subsequently, the more efficacious monovalent vaccine was introduced in the programme to handle the type 1 and type3 wild polio virus. While the monovalent vaccine has been found to be effective in containing the transmission of P1, it has affected the control of transmission of P3. The bivalent vaccine developed recently can control P1 and P3 simultaneously.

The pulse polio programme was started in 1995 with the objective to eradicate poliomyelitis. Prior to the launch of the campaign, the number of paralytic cases due to polio was in the range of approximately 50,000 every year. The campaign has helped to bring about a drastic reduction in the number of paralytic cases due to polio and it is now limited to a few hundreds now.

According to the release, 33 States/UTs are now free of indigenous transmission of wild polio virus. UP and Bihar remain as the only two endemic States in the country for wild polio virus where indigenous transmission is still continuing.

The Government has adopted a multi-pronged approach where, on the one hand, efforts are being made to vaccinate each and every child with Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) and on the other, efforts to ensure sanitation, hygiene and clean drinking water are being ensured, the release said.

In 2009, as many as 721 cases have been reported so far. Out of these, 641 are wild poliovirus type 3 (WPV3) and 79 are wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1). One case is a mixture of both, WPV1 + WPV3, the release added.


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