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Biometric Attendance Control System installed in Home Ministry

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

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

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

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

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President to visit Russia, Tajikistan from Sep 2-8

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

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

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Sibal urges States to partner Centre in education reforms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CCEA reviews drought situation, prices

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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H1N1 toll touches 100 in India with 7 more deaths

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

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

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

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

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

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Moderate quake on India-Myanmar border

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4 more H1N1 deaths, 128 new cases in India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rajnath Singh calls for action plan to tackle drought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IIMs issue notification for CAT 2009

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

The CAT is being conducted as a Computer Based Test from this year onwards. It is a pre-requisite for admission to various management programmes conducted by the elite IIMs, including their flagship two-year Post-Graduate Programme (PGP) in Management.

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

Four more IIMs are due to start functioning from the academic session 2010-11 at Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu, Ranchi in Jharkhand, Raipur in Chhattisgarh and Rohtak in Haryana. Three others in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan will be set up the following year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CAT score cards will be available on the CAT website from January 22, 2010.

Given the huge numbers of students who appear for the examinations in comparison to the 2000-odd seats on offer at the IIMs for their flagship PGP, CAT has acquired the reputation of being the toughest entrance test worldwide for business schools.

The IIMs have been conducting CAT in paper-&-pencil format for the last 33 years. As more and more students chase the MBA dream, the number of candidates appearing for CAT has increased dramatically over the years.

While about 95,000 candidates took CAT in 2003, the number rose to about 250,000 in 2008, indicating a rise of a whopping 163 percent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Related Stories

Centre issues guidelines to states on tourism infrastructure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following are the guidelines:

URBAN CIVIC AMENITIES

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

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

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

(ii) Signage: Adequacy and Placement

(iii) Litter/recycling bins

(iv) Information/way finding

(v) Information and Tourist Facilitation/ Convenience centre

(vi) Public toilets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BUILT HERITAGE & SIGNAGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

CLIMATICALLY RESPONSIVE AND VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE

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

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

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

URBAN LANDSCAPE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(v) Minimal use of Hardscape materials is adopted.

5. States/Union Territories should:

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

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

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

(iv) Promote ‘accessible’ infrastructure.

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

For Food Craft Institutes and hotel management institutes

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

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

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

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

GENERAL

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

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

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

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4 H1N1 deaths, 218 new cases reported in India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jaswant says Advani has "singularly failed" as leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FC exemption for those appearing for CSE (Mains) 2009

Candidates who had cleared the Civil Services Examination (CSE), 2008 and had been asked to report for foundation courses (FC) from September 1 have been exempted from doing so if they are appearing for the CSE (Main) this year.

The foundation courses were due to begin on September 1 at various institutions such as the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie, the Dr Marri Channa Reddy Human Resource Development Institute of Andhra Pradesh (MCR HRD IAP), Hyderabad and the RCVP Noronha Academy of Administration & Management (RCVPNAAM), Bhopal.

This decision has been taken in view of representations received from candidates, an official press release said.

Such candidates are allowed to stay back from the foundation course on the strength of the notice put out by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) today, it said.

The candidate who thus chooses to stay back may write to DoPT seeking formal exemption, stating his/her Roll No., Rank and Service allotted.

Those candidates who are already in transit can report to the respective academy, who have been directed to allow such candidates to go back, the release added.

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NCC girls to attempt Lamkhaga peak in Garhwal Himalayas

The Director-General, NCC, Lt. General R.K. Karwal flagged off the NCC Girls Mountaineering Expedition from New Delhi to Lamkhaga peak in the Garhwal Himalayas.
The Director-General, NCC, Lt. General R.K. Karwal flagged off the NCC Girls Mountaineering Expedition from New Delhi to Lamkhaga peak in the Garhwal Himalayas.
A 20-member National Cadet Corps (NCC) girls team has set out on a mission to scale the 18,910-feet Lamkhaga peak in the Garhwal Himalayas.

The expedition was flagged off by NCC Director General Lt Gen R K Karwal at a function here today.

Besides the 20 girl cadets, the expedition consists of team leader Lt Col S S Phogat, a lady doctor, Lt Col A Basu, and six others, an official press release said.

The team will travel to Harsil, near Uttarkashi, on September 1 and undergo acclimatization till September 9. They will then trek north-west to the base camp and attempt to scale the peak in two groups between September 12 and 16.

The Lamkhaga peak connects northern Garhwal to Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh.

This is the 64th mountaineering expedition launched by the NCC, which undertakes two such missions every year, one each for boys and girls.

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Battery-operated cars for disabled, elderly at rly. stations

The Ministry of Railways has decided to allow private parties to operate free round-the-clock services of battery-operated cars on the platforms of major railway stations for carrying disabled and elderly passengers for boarding trains.

The policy guidelines in this connection have been sent to all the Zonal Railways, an official statement said.

The parties would be allowed on first-come-first-served basis under certain terms and conditions which include:

i) No charge shall be levied either from the passenger or from the Railway.

ii) Railway shall provide only electricity free of cost for charging the batteries of the vehicle.

iii) Party shall be allowed to advertise on the panel of the vehicles which shall be bound by the guidelines stipulated for advertisement on railway premises.

iv) The vehicle shall be used to cater only the disabled and old aged passengers.

v) An agreement with the party shall be entered into for a period of maximum one year.

vi) Repairs, maintenance and replacement, if required, will be done by the party.

vii) The number of vehicles to be plied at a station will be decided by the Zonal Railways based on requirement.

viii) An annual review of the performance shall be undertaken to assess the revenue involved and possibility of revenue sharing.

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2009 edition of Indian Maritime Doctrine released

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta releasing the Indian Maritime Doctrine 2009 document.
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta releasing the Indian Maritime Doctrine 2009 document.
Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta released the 2009 edition of the Indian Maritime Doctrine here today.

The capstone document was initially published in 2004 to provide a common understanding of universally applicable maritime concepts, not only for the uniformed fraternity but also for the public at large.

The revised edition became necessary because of the rapidly changing geostrategic environment, evolving operational complexities and transformational changes sweeping the maritime domain, an official press release said.

Since doctrines evolve over time, the present edition maintains its temporal relevance, addressing the tenets of contemporary maritime thought, with emphasis on the Indian maritime environment, it said.

The doctrine focuses on concepts as well as application of maritime power, and is the primary document from which other doctrines would flow.

With increased emphasis on maritime affairs, the revised doctrine would serve to enhance awareness about India’s maritime environment and interests, and provide the fundamentals for Readiness and Response planning, the release added.

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PM calls on President

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called on President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan here today.

A Rashtrapati Bhavan press release said the meeting lasted for about 50 minutes.

The two leaders discussed various issues of national and international importance as well as the President's State Visit to Russia and Tajikistan next week, it added.

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USTDA grant for development of India's helicopter sector

United States Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer today awarded a grant of Rs 24 million from the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to the Directorate General of Civil AViation (DGCA) to help update India's standards and regulations governing helicopter operations.

This technical assistance grant would help facilitate the expansion of safe and reliable helicopter services throughout the country, a US Embassy press release said.

According to it, the grant highlights the expanding partnership between the Indian and US aviation sectors that will lead to new exchanges of technology and best practices in the development and implementation of aviation safety standards. Today’s grant is the fifth bilateral partnership under the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program (ACP).

"Today, the US-India Aviation Cooperation Program expands into a new area. The signing of the Helicopter Aviation Safety Technical Assistance project, led by Bell Helicopter, will provide expertise to improve India’s expanding helicopter sector and will expand opportunities for increased trade between our two countries," Mr Roemer said.

The USTDA advances economic development and US commercial interests in developing and middle-income countries. USTDA’s strategic use of foreign assistance funds to support sound investment policy and decision-making in host countries creates an enabling environment for trade, investment and sustainable economic development, the release said.

In carrying out its mission, USTDA gives emphasis to economic sectors that may benefit from US exports of goods and services, the release added.

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4 more H1N1 deaths, 139 new cases in India

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 82, an official statement said.

Three of the deaths occurred in Karnataka---2 in Bangalore and 1 in Bijapur---and one in Nashik, Maharashtra.

Maharashtra now accounts for 44 of the deaths so far, while 23 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, 139 new cases of the flu were reported from across the country today, including 24 in Delhi, 23 in Kerala, 20 in Maharashtra, 19 each in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, 12 in Andhra Pradesh, 6 each in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, 5 in Haryana, 4 in Rajasthan and 1 in Chandigarh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported so far in India has risen to 3534.

Of the new cases reported today, only five had any history of recent travel abroad. The rest had got the infection from within the country, the statement said.

Of the total cases reported so far, 538 had got the infection from abroad while the rest were indigenous in nature, it added.

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RSS chief confident BJP will survive crisis, rise from ashes

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat expressed confidence on Friday that the BJP would overcome its current internal crisis and "rise from the ashes" but he said it was for the party to take the corrective steps needed to achieve this.
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat addressing a press conference in Delhi.
RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat addressing a press conference in Delhi.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat today expressed confidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would overcome its current internal crisis soon and "rise from the ashes" but he said it was for the party to identify and take the corrective steps needed to achieve this.

Addressing a press conference here, his first in the capital after taking over as head of the "Sangh Parivar", Mr Bhagwat said the BJP's present problems arose from the fact that the loss in the recent general elections had come as a "major jolt" to it.

He said the RSS was concerned about the intense factionalism within the party that had come into the open after the election results but was not unduly worried about its future.

Asked what steps he would like the party to take to surmount the present difficulties, he said he never gave unsolicited advice, but the RSS was willing to render whatever help the party sought.

About his one-hour meeting with BJP President Rajnath Singh here last night, Mr Bhagwat said they were meeting after a long time and they had discussed the situation in the party, among other things.

He said he had told Mr Singh to ponder over what he had said about the party in his recent interview to Times Now television channel and take whatever corrective steps were needed after evolving a consensus within the organisation and taking his colleagues into confidence.

He said all the party leaders should work together to pull it out the present impasse without letting personal differences come in the way.

Mr Bhagwat declined to comment on senior BJP leader and former Union Minister Arun Shourie's recent criticism of the party leadership and his suggestion that the RSS should take over the reins.

But he made it clear that the RSS had other responsibilities and tasks to perform and would not get involved or interfere in the day-to-day affairs of the BJP or any of its other affiliate organisations.

"When the BJP makes decisions, they inform us and we usually agree with them because they know politics better," he remarked.

About who the next BJP President should be, Mr Bhagwat said it was entirely for the party to decide. He said the RSS believed its own leaders should be in the 55-60 age group but it was upto the BJP to decide what was best for it in this regard.

He did not agree with suggestions that the RSS hold on the BJP was weakening or that the organisation was losing in popularity. If anything, he felt the RSS popularity was growing. He said more and more Muslims, Christians and others were joining its activities. "The Muslims are changing their perception about the RSS," he said.

The RSS chief also refused to be drawn into making any comment on the disclosures made by several BJP leaders, including former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and former Finance Minister, that then Home Minister L K Advani was present in the Cabinet Committee on Security meeting in which it was decided that Mr Singh would go to Kandahar to bring the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft back home in December, 1999.

The press conference came at a time of acute crisis for the BJP and had, therefore, evoked a lot of media interest, especially after his candid views on the party and its affairs in his interview to Times Now just ten days ago.

But Mr Bhagwat refused to get into any comment on the party's affairs today, except referring the media repeatedly to what he had said in the Times Now interview. "Read it, it's there on the website," he said.

He did not comment on Mr Jaswant Singh's expulsion from the party for his book on Pakistan founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah and his views on Sardar Patel. He was also asked about the Gujarat Government's ban on the book. Mr Bhagwat said the RSS believed in freedom of expression, but it was upto the authorities in a particular place to take a decision on such matters taking local conditions into account.

He also said that he had not read Mr Singh's book because he did not have the time. Asked if he would like to read it, he said, "Yes, if I can find the time."

To another question, he said the RSS held in high esteem leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru who had fought for India's freedom.

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Krishna to visit Brazil from Aug 30-Sep 1

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will pay an official visit to Brazil from August 30 to September 1 to co-chair the 4th India-Brazil Joint Commission Meeting and attend the sixth India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Trilateral Commission meeting.

This will be Mr Krishna's first visit to Latin America after assuming charge of the External Affairs Ministry.

During his visit, Mr Krishna will hold talks with his Brazilian counterpart Celso Amorim and is also expected to meet other dignitaries and senior representatives of the Brazilian Government.

He will also meet his South African counterpart Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on the margins of the IBSA Ministerial meeting.

The third India-Brazil Joint Commission was held in New Delhi from April 12-13.

In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in the high-level contacts between the two countries. Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva had visited India as the Chief Guest for the Republic Day in January 2004 and then paid a State Visit in June 2007. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited Brazil in September, 2006 and President Pratibha Patil had paid a State Visit in April last year.

During Dr Singh's visit, the bilateral ties were upgraded to the Strategic Partnership level.

The two countries have signed as many as 41 agreements since 2004 to strengthen multi-sectoral engagement, 29 at the bilateral level and the rest on IBSA-related matters.

According to an official press release, the Joint Commission will review progress on cooperation in various sectors such as agriculture, science & technology, health, renewable and non-renewable energy, defence, trade & commerce, standardization, space, power, infrastructure, culture and education.

In order to give a fillip to priority sectors such as trade and investment, a CEOs Forum has been set up between both sides. An India-Brazil Trade Monitoring Committee has also been instituted for addressing various bottlenecks in trade-related matters.

Bilateral trade between both countries in 2008 was estimated to be to the tune of US$ 4.6 billion. Leading Indian companies in the ICT, automobile parts, pharmaceuticals and hydrocarbons have set up active business operations in Brazil.

India and Brazil traditionally cooperate closely with each other in multilateral organizations. They are close partners under the G-4 initiative under which both Brazil and India along with Japan and Germany seek to obtain permanent seats on an expanded UN Security Council. They consult with each other on important multilateral matters such as the WTO Doha Round, climate change, international terrorism and other such issues of mutual interest.

The IBSA Trilateral [Ministerial] Commission was instituted in 2003 by the Brasilia Declaration. It will deliberate on progress of cooperation made under the IBSA Dialogue Forum and review the preparations for the Fourth IBSA Summit to be held in Brasilia.

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Mishra says Advani party to decision on sending Jaswant to Kandahar

Brajesh Mishra says L K Advani was present in the CCS meeting when Jaswant Singh had proposed that he would go to Kandahar to bring back the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in December 1999.
Former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra being interviewed by Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN's Devil's Advocate.
Former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra being interviewed by Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN's Devil's Advocate.
Former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra has said that then Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani was present at the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) at which then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh had proposed that he would go to Kandahar in Afghanistan to bring back the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight IC 814 in December 1999.

According to him, Mr Singh explained to the meeting that the Indian representatives who were negotiating with the hijackers in Kandahar--diplomats and Intelligence Bureau RAW officials--had suggested that somebody senior should be there to take care of any last minute complications.

"This he informed the CCS and they agreed that he should go," he said in an interview to journalist Karan Thapar on the Devil's Advocate programme on CNN IBN.

Asked if it was a unanimous decision by the CCS, Mr Mishra said, "Of course, it was." And asked if Mr Advani was part of that consensus, he said, "Of course, all the members were there. Three members of the CCS have already said that he was there and I'm talking of Jaswant Singh, George Fernandes and Yashwant Sinha."

To a question if that meant that Mr Advani had also agreed that Mr Singh should go to Kandahar, Mr Mishra said, "I wouldn't say that he opened his mouth and said he agrees but the decision of the CCS was that he could go." He added that there was no dissent expressed by anyone on this issue at that meeting.

The disclosures by Mr Mishra, as well as those by former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and Mr Jaswant Singh, are bound to cause embarrassment for Mr Advani, who had in later years tried to distance himself from the controversial decision to free three hardcore terrorists in exchange for the safe release of the passengers of the hijacked flight.

In particular, Mr Advani had claimed that he was not aware that Mr Jaswant Singh was going to accompany the freed terrorists on the flight to Kandahar.

Mr Mishra said the decision to exchange the three terrorists for the hostages was taken by the CCS, which had five members--the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Finance Minister, the External Affairs Minister and the Defence Minister.

He said the hijackers had initially demanded the release of 36 terrorists from Indian prisons, $ 200 million and the remains of some terrorists who were buried in Kashmir.

"Nobody was prepared to accept these demands but once these demands were brought down to three with no money and remains of terrorists, then a unanimous decision was taken by the committee that in order to save the lives of the hostages the three terrorists will be released," he said.

He said this was a unanimous decision, with Mr Advani party to it. He pointed out that in the beginning no one was in favour of any concessions to the hijackers, but in the end everyone agreed with the decision taken.

Mr Mishra, who was close to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, declined to answer a question on what Mr Vajpayees reaction was when Mr Advani last year distanced himself from that decision.

"I am not going to comment on that because that is between the politicians and between Advani and Vajpayee," he said.

On the Gujarat violence of 2002, Mr Mishra said the politics of the state was never discussed between him and Mr Vajpayee. But he said his impression was that Mr Vajpayee would not have insisted on the resignation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi but would have asked him to take corrective actions to take care of the situation.

"I think this is the correct view of what Vajpayee would have thought to do. I don't think he would have demanded Modi's resignation," he said.

He also said that he agreed with Mr Advani's reported view, at that time, that there would be an uproar in the party were to ask Mr Modi to resign.

"If you remember, Modi had offered to resign in the Goa meeting but he was shouted down by the party members," he pointed out.

Mr Mishra also added that there were no corrective actions taken as far as Gujarat was concerned.

Referring to Mr Singh's recent disclosure that Mr Vajpayee had wanted to resign on the Godhra incident and the Gujarat violence, Mr Mishra said Mr Singh himself did not remember the context properly. "So, I am not going to jump to the conclusion that it was
Godhra," he remarked.

He went on to say that after the first year of Mr Vajpayee's prime ministership, he was quite disgusted with the situation in April, 1999, when then AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa withdrew her support from the government and BSP leader promised support and then changed her mind.

"About his resignation, he had spoken to me so many times when he said, 'Why are we here? Let us just go'. So, I am not very surprised with what Jaswant Singh said in his interview," Mr Mishra said.

"In fact, he said to me 'achha hua ab hum jeet gaye hain, ab chalte hain (good that we have won, now let us just go)," he said.

According to him, after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had come to power and he had been the Prime Minister for a year or so, he did not feel the need of being there.

"This is my interpretation because to me he merely said 'chalo chalein' (let us go from here). And now I won't discuss the disgust anymore because it was my belief that he was (only) disgusted in the first year of his prime ministership (March 98-April 99).

Mr Mishra said he could not say that Mr Advani was in favour of sending Indian troops to Iraq as requested by the United States.

"When the matter came up to the Cabinet Committee and security agency – of course there were informal discussions before the formal meeting with the committee – Mr Vajpayee was very clear saying, no we can't send troops to Iraq. And it is my belief, that the Prime Minister would never have sent the troops to Iraq. The experience of Indian peace-keeping force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka is still fresh in our minds. No. 2, we as a government did not believe that the action in Iraq was a correct one by the US at that time. There was no question of anyone, including Mr Advani of supporting the issue of sending troops to Iraq," he said.

"I believe from the beginning that he would never have agreed to it. This is my belief," he said.

Asked to describe the nature of relationship between Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani, Mr Mishra said, "That's a very difficult question to answer. They were colleagues for 40-45 years. They were the two top leaders of the
BJP and they worked together very well."

"Of course, they had differences. Mr Vajpayee refused to be present in Ayodhya when the Babri Masjid demonstration was going on. If you remember, he had regretted in Parliament what had happened in Ayodhya. He had different kinds of views. He is by nature very liberal and generous in his thoughts. You criticise him today and suddenly tomorrow, the man who had criticised him asks for a meeting, and he says okay, come and talk to me. Now, there are very few people who can do like that. I would say that Mr Vajpayee is a statesman more than a politician. Mr Advani on the other hand was a very good organiser. He organised the BJP and helped Mr Vajpayee in the organisation. They had worked very closely that way," he said.
Karan Thapar during the interview.
Karan Thapar during the interview.

Mr Mishra was also asked about the episode when it was suggested that Mr Vajpayee should be elevated as President and Mr Advani made the Prime Minister, and when the phrases "Vikas Purush" and "Loh Purush" were used to describe the two leaders.

To this, Mr Vajpayee had famously responded, "Naa retired, naa tired" (neither retired, nor tired).

"We were in Moscow when these statements about Loh Purush and Vikas Purush were made by (then BJP President) Venkaiah Naidu. I can't say whether Mr Vajpayee was surprised or not but certainly I was very surprised at the statement because when your Prime Minister is out of the country, to indicate that there is another leader in the country to more or less rival, is very impolitic and very undiplomatic.

"Perhaps Mr Vajpayee felt the same. So when he came back, in his most inimitable fashion, Vajpayee made it clear that he was unhappy with the statements. Whether that was connected anyway to his becoming President and Mr Advani becoming the Prime Minister, I don't know. I am not aware of that," he said.

Asked about how Mr Advani ended up as Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Mishra said, "In a way, I would say that was his due."

He said he did not think Mr Vajpayee was pushed into elevating Mr Advani. "I don't think he was pushed. Let me tell you one thing. Despite the impression that one might have talking to Mr Vajpayee, he is a very determined man.You cannot sway him by just cajoling or threatening him," he said.

"It was his (Vajpayee's) decision to make him (Advani) deputy prime minister. Again, I think it was his due. As I said earlier, they had been together for 40 to 45 years, they had worked together as a team. So why not?" he said.

Mr Mishra said he never discussed with Mr Vajpayee his relationship with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. "Not for a single moment."

He said people should not mistake Mr Vajapyee for being a weakling and stressed that he got what he wanted without any unpleasantness. "Definitely, that is a unique quality," he said.

About Mr Vajpayee's handling of the BJP, Mr Mishra said the former Prime Minister's first quality was that he is very generous at heart.

"He never denied anybody the opportunity to speak his or her mind even though it may be critical of him. He dominated Cabinet meetings through his silence. Innumerable meetings of the Cabinet, he would keep quiet. Every member who wanted to speak or say were allowed to speak their minds. At the end of the session, Mr Vajpayee would say just one sentence -- 'Shall we do it this way?' And that was it. This quality of his was a rare one. That's why I call him a statesman not a politician. He understands people, he gives them all the opportunity that they want," he explained.

Mr Mishra also made it clear that Mr Vajpayee never saw Mr Advani as a threat to him.

"Certainly not. Not a threat at all. The difference between Mr Advani and Mr Vajpayee is the differences in their nature. I don't mean to say this as a criticism to Mr Advani. As far as Mr Vajpayee is concerned, the entire party was his party. He had no faction in the party. Nobody could claim that he or she was Mr Vajpayee's man. Everybody could claim that he or she was Mr Vajpayee's man. That is the way he functions," he said.

Asked how Mr Vajpayee would have responded to the the book on Jinnah written by Mr Singh, for which he was recently expelled from the BJP, Mr Mishra said, "Let me put it to you this way. He never criticised Mr Advani when he (Advani) went to Pakistan in 2005 and wrote in the visitors’ book of Jinnah's mausoleum. I don't believe he would have criticised Mr Jaswant Singh. We all knew that Mr Jaswant Singh was writing about Mohammed Ali Jinnah. He had mentioned it to Mr Vajpayee, he had mentioned it to me and to so many others."

He said if Mr Vajpayee had been the head of the BJP, Mr Singh would not have been expelled without calling him personally and asking him for an explanation.

Mr Mishra said Mr Vajpayee would be deeply hurt in his heart by the situation in the BJP today.

"I don't think that he would say that his party has let him down because he never claimed the ownership of the party. That was not his style. However, he would be deeply disappointed, deeply hurt at the way things are now going. The daily increase in the number of leaders coming out with criticism of the party or criticism of certain leaders. I think if he were active today, he would have put an end to it," he said.

"I think he would have just called them and said something like -- Ap jo bhi kar rahe hai, yo party ke liye theek nahi hai (whatever you are doing is not good for the well-being of the party)-- and that would have been enough," he remarked.

"It is clear. Everybody in the party is missing him," he added, referring to the fact that Mr Vajpayee has been out of active politics for a long time because of poor health.

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Govt. launches online course on RTI

The Department of Personnel and Training of the Government has launched an online certificate course on the Right to Information (RTI) on a pilot project basis.

The 15-day course is open to various stakeholders on both the demand and supply sides of the RTI implementation regime, an official press release said.

The first pilot batch course will begin on September 7 and is being conducted in association with the Centre for Good Governance, Hyderabad.

The course is designed for public information officers (PIOs) of various organisations, appellate authorities, other public officials, representatives of civil society organisations, including media organisations, and any others who could be direct or indirect stakeholders.

The course is aimed at reaching out to those who have not had an opportunity to participate in any training/sensitisation initiatives on the RTI Act, 2005, bringing greater clarity on RTI among designated implementing officials and ensuring appreciation for the Act and its mandate among officials and citizens.

It is also aimed at facilitating timely delivery of information by the PIOs and having better informed citizens, civil society and other stakeholders, the release added.

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Polar Science, Antarctica Expedition project to continue

An aerial view of the Indian Antarctic station, Maitri.
An aerial view of the Indian Antarctic station, Maitri.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today accorded its approval for the continuation of the project "Polar Science; Expedition to Antarctica" during the XIth Five Year Plan period at an estimated cost of Rs 230.01 crore.

An official press release said the scientific expeditions, which started in 1981, had contributed substantially to the growth of polar science in the country.

Experiments mounted by Indian scientists in disciplines such as atmospheric sciences and meteorology, earth sciences and glaciology, biology and environmental sciences have also contributed directly to global experiments mounted under the aegis of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), it said.

The Indian Antarctic research base "Maitri" is one of the few active permanent research stations in the Central Donning Maudland (CDML) of East Antarctica from where systematic scientific experiments are conducted on a year-round basis.

The facilities available at this research base include a weather observatory, geomagnetic station; a permanent seismological observatory, GPS station, ice-core drilling facilities and laboratories for environmental, human health and communication research.

The entire activities related to the planning, coordination and implementation of the Indian Antarctic Programme is managed by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) through the National Centre for Antarctic & Ocean Research (NCAOR), Goa, an autonomous institute under the Ministry, established in 1998.

The objectives of this programme are to continue the long-term scientific pursuits undertaken to understand the global processes and phenomena, some of which are directly pertinent to India's needs.

The decision to continue emphasises India's perceptible and influential presence in Antarctica to uphold its strategic interests in the Polar Region and the surrounding oceans, the release added.

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