India hopes processes of law will be observed by Sri Lanka in Fonseka's case

Speaking out for the first time on the detention of former Sri Lankan Army Chief Gen Sarath Fosenka in the island nation three days ago, India said today that it hoped that due processes of law would be observed in the matter.

"We have been in touch with the Government of Sri Lanka about the detention of Rtd. Gen Sarath Fonseka," External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said in response to a question on the detention.

"As a friend and neighbour, we trust that due processes of law will be observed in democratic Sri Lanka in this matter," he added.

Gen Fonseka had led the Sri Lankan military in the successful war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam but later developed differences with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He fought the recent presidential elections against Mr Rajapaksa but lost.

On February 8, he was arrested by the military on the charge of plotting a coup against the President.


Antony says Agni-III not aimed at any particular nation

Defence Minister A K Antony today said India would make all-out efforts to strengthen its security and safeguard its people but made it clear that its defence policy was neither aggressive nor aimed at any particular country.

"We only seek to build an effective deterrent capability to safeguard ourselves," he said in his keynote address to the three-day 12th Asian Security Conference 2010 on "Asian Strategic Futures - 2030" here.

Mr Antony said India only sought to build an effective deterrent capability to safeguard itself and stressed that the recent successful test of Agni-III, the indigenous long-range nuclear-capable missile, needed to be seen in this context. "It is not aimed against any particular nation," he said.

"Every nation has to be adequately prepared to safeguard its territorial integrity and sovereignty," he said.

The Defence Minister said it was widely acknowledged that the 21st century would be Asia's century and would see the rise and consolidation of Asia's role in the world.

"As we enter the second decade of this millennium, the promise of the Asian dream can be seen everywhere," he said, but pointed out that the growth of religious fanaticism and the epicentre of global terrorism in India's immediate neighbourhood and beyond was one of the challenges to the realisation of this promise.

He said that, though all-out wars between nations might not be the norm any longer, they had been replaced by terrorism, insurgencies and various forms of militancy.

Mr Antony said India’s experience with terrorism showed that the line of distinction between State-sponsored terrorism and the role of non-state actors was often blurred – and rather indistinguishable.

"Transnational terrorism has, of late, emerged as a real threat. Our neighbourhood, particularly Pakistan and Afghanistan, is home to terrorist organisations like LeT and Al Qaeda, which pose a threat to the entire world. The people of Pakistan and Afghanistan too are the victims of these organisations," he said.

He said that unless the real support base of these organisations was tracked down and dismantled, their activities would continue to pose a serious threat. Cooperation must also include nation-states giving up support to terror outfits, he said.

"No country should provide support, explicit, or otherwise, to terror outfits. This is an important pre-requisite for peace and development in the region," he said.

Mr Antony said India had always been interested in a peaceful neighbourhood and wanted its neighbours to make progress.

"We want our neighbours to make progress. Several nations of the region share historical and cultural commonalities. We also face many common developmental challenges. However, we cannot expect the situation to improve, till all stakeholders have equal stakes in each other’s peace, progress and stability. We cannot wait endlessly for such a realisation and good sense to dawn. The world community must act decisively to tackle this problem. The scourge of terrorism has to be dealt with comprehensively and with a jointness of approach," he said.

The Defence Minister said terror infrastructure continued to thrive on Pakistani soil. He also said India continued to be firm with its demand that Pakistan must put an end to terror activities emanating from its soil.

"Indo-Pak relations always have a huge bearing on regional peace and security. Our Government’s willingness to resume negotiations with Pakistan must be seen in this backdrop. At the same time, we are also carefully monitoring the developments in Pakistan," he said.

He said India's relationship with China was progressing at bilateral and multilateral levels. "We have always invested in Confidence Building Measures aimed at enhancing understanding and trust-building. We are carrying out continuous appraisals of its military capabilities. At the same time, we are also taking all necessary measures to shape our responses," he said.

Mr Antony said India had always supported complete elimination of all nuclear weapons and was strongly and voluntarily committed to "No-First Use" of nuclear weapons.

He said India had been steadfast in its support to the only two non-discriminatory treaties banning weapons of mass destructionc- the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological and Toxins Weapons Convention.

He said India had, in keeping with its obligations under the CWC, last year, completed the process of destruction of our chemical weapons.

He reiterated India's long-standing support for commencement of negotiations on an international treaty, on a Nuclear Weapons Convention, for the elimination of nuclear weapons, globally and verifiably. He said India would also support a process that delegitimises nuclear weapons, just as chemical and biological weapons were, prior to their elimination through treaties.

"Today, India and the international community face the dangerous possibility of nuclear materials and technologies falling into the hands of terrorists. We look forward to explore these ideas further in a spirit of shared concerns and convergence of interests with all the nations," he said.

The Defence Minister said that, at the macro level, threats like climate change and natural disasters had similar consequences for all nations. But the severity of impact is likely to be much more in densely populated parts of Asia. Nations of the region thus have a combined stake in lasting peace and each other’s well-being, he said.

He said India's approach to the security challenges facing Asia was based on the values of pluralism, cooperation and inclusiveness.

He said common concerns over the security of the Sea Lanes of Communication have become a major worry in the last few years and had brought about a significant level of cooperation among Navies of affected countries. He said India would continue to play a constructive role to ensure the stability of the Indian Ocean and the nearby regions.

"Similarly, cooperative efforts in the field of exploration, sharing of technologies, investment and infrastructure like pipelines can help the region address the energy challenge. Efforts to deal with climate change, especially in sharing green technologies, enhancing water sharing and dealing with natural disasters cannot succeeded without a collective approach," he said.

Mr Antony said exploration of outer space was another area where countries of the region could work together.

"Space is a common asset for mankind. Recently Japan, China and India have successfully completed their missions to Moon. Multilateral collaboration is necessary in space too because of technological challenges and huge financial costs involved. Space security thus, becomes an extremely crucial issue in 21st century. If regional powers can work together to harness the vast potential for the common good of mankind, it would reduce the possibility of the militarization of space in the future," he said.

He said as information becomes available across the world in real time, perceptions of deprivations and injustice had become stronger. He said nations and governments could not ignore disparities resulting from globalisation.

"The world cannot remain peaceful, unless the underprivileged and poor make progress in equal measure. Our government has thus, focused on inclusive growth. I hope that all countries in the region will become equal partners in the region’s growth," he said.

Mr Antony said the developed nations too must follow fair and equitable policies so that the growth of poorer nations was not slowed down.

"The industrialised world’s view on technology transfer will also have to change, if the goal of inclusive growth, vital for a peaceful world, is to be achieved," he added.


PM calls on President, discusses Budget, price rise

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called on President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan here today, an official statement said.

It said the meeting lasted for about an hour, during which the two leaders discussed the coming Budget Session of Parliament, the issue of price rise and food security.

Various other issues of national and international importance were discussed at the meeting, the statement added.


15 more swine flu deaths in India, toll rises to 1294

As many as 15 more people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India, taking the death toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1294, an official statement said here today.

Six of the deaths - five in Maharashtra and one in Gujarat - were reported during the day today, the statement said.

Besides, information about nine deaths that occurred earlier - four each in Gujarat and Rajasthan and one in Maharashtra - were received from the respective state authorities today, it said.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 337, while 263 lives have been lost in Gujarat, 186 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 36 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 12 in Maharashtra, 10 in Rajasthan, 5 in Uttar Pradesh, 4 in Madhya Pradesh, 3 in Gujarat and 1 each in Karnataka and Chhattisgarh.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 29,231, the statement added.


Health insurance schemes to be formulated for freedom fighters

The Government will soon formulate a health insurance scheme for freedom fighters and take steps to ensure prompt medical treatment for them at places close to their residences.

These were among the decisions taken at the meeting of the reconstituted Freedom Fighters Committee of the Ministry of Home Affairs in Goa recently.

An official press release said eminent freedom fighters from every region of the country participated in the meeting that was chaired by Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Maken. The meeting discussed various issues concerning freedom fighters and streamlining of processes associated with such issues.

According to the release, the health insurance scheme for freedom fighters would be formulated by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

Among other things, there was in-principle agreement between the Railways and the Ministry of Home Affairs to allow freedom fighters to avail of their passes and travel in Shatabdi/Rajdhani trains.

The meeting agreed to establish ten chairs in Central Universities in the names of eminent freedom fighters and on the updation of "Who's Who of Freedom Fighters" by the Indian Council of Historical Research in the next three years.

Mr Maken said he would write to the Chief Ministers of all States/Union Territories and request them to take follow-up action on concerns and issues related to freedom fighters.

The Home Ministry will ensure that only genuine freedom fighters get the Central Samman Pension and that fake claimants do not get these benefits. In this regard, the meeting was informed that an order had been issued that, henceforth, pension would not be sanctioned to persons whose age at the time of participation in the freedom struggle was less than 15 years.

It was also decided that the meetings of the Committee would be held twice in a year and at places associated with freedom fighters and the freedom struggle. This was the first time that a meeting of the Committee was held outside Delhi.


Govt. names R S Pandey as interlocutor for talks with NSCN (IM)

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today announced that former Petroleum and Natural Gas Secretary R S Pandey would be the new interlocutor and the representative of the Government of India for talks with insurgent group National Socialist Council of Nagaland -Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM).

"The Government of India welcomes the decision of the NSCN-IM leadership to visit India and to hold talks with the Government," he said.

The Government had on Tuesday said the leadership of the NSCN-IM had, at its invitation, proposed to come to India between April 1-1o to hold talks and carry forward the peace process.

Mr Pandey, who retired from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) on January 31, has served as Chief Secretary in Nagaland and has an understanding of the issues related to the insurgency in the North-Eastern border state.

Former Union Home Secretary K Padmanabhaiah had served as interlocutor for the talks with the group for more than a decade since July, 1999.

The talks in April will be held more than a year after the last round of talks between the Government and NSCN-IM in March, 2009 in Zurich.

The NSCN-IM, led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah, had reached a ceasefire agreement with the Centre in August, 1997.


Cabinet approves Air Services Agreement with Nepal

The Union Cabinet today approved the signing of the new Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the Governments of India and Nepal.

The two countries had, to modernise and update the existing ASA, initialled an agreed text of the new ASA based on the Interntional Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) template, on September 9, 2009 when air services talks were held between the two sides.

An official press release noted that India and Nepal enjoy a traditionally warm and cordial relationship. Both countries share historical, political and economical relationship which has been mutually beneficial for both the countries.

It said the growth of air services of the two countries had greatly facilitated enhancement of this relationship.

The release said the new ASA had the potential to increase trade, investment and tourism between the two new countries and strengthening the cultural exchanges between the two countries, besides bringing it in tune with developments in the international civil aviation scenario.

Under the new agreement, both the countries shall be entitled to designate any number of airlines for operation of mutually agreed services for which the respective country shall grant appropriate authorization and permission.

Both countries have agreed to the following revised capacity entitlements:

(i) The designated airlines of each side shall be entitled to operate 30,000 seats per week to/from the points specified in Route I of Section I and Section II of the Route Schedule with any type of aircraft.

(ii) Within their overall capacity entitlements, the designated airlines of Nepal shall be entitled to operate not exceeding 10,000 seats per week to/from Mumbai and Bangalore each and not exceeding 15,000 seats per week to/from Delhi. This restriction shall cease to apply with effect from 1 January, 2011.

(iii) The designated airlines of each side shall be entitled to operate any number of services with any type of aircraft to/from points specified in Route II of Section I and Section II of the Route Schedule.

(iv) The designated airlines of each side may exercise unlimited intermediate or beyond fifth freedom traffic rights to/from any points within the SAARC Region.

(v) The designated airlines of each side shall be permitted to exercise beyond fifth freedom traffic rights to/from the three points, other than the points in the SAARC region, specified in the Route I of Section I and Section II of the Route Schedule. However, the designated airlines of both sides may exercise beyond fifth freedom traffic rights to/from points other than the points in the SAARC Region, on not more than seven flights per week in each direction to/from each point.

The designated airlines of each Party shall be entitled to operate any number of all-cargo services between each other’s territory with any type of aircraft with full 3rd, 4th and 5th freedom traffic rights. Such all-cargo services may also be operated under co-operative marketing arrangements such as code sharing, blocked space and so on, the release added.


CCEA okays expansion of PGIMER, Chandigarh

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today gave its nod to a proposal by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for the expansion of the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, for implementing the decision on 27 per cent reservation of seats for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

The Union Government has enacted the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Act, 2006 for reservation in seats for OBCs.

The implementation of the 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in PGIMER over a period of three years without altering the number of unreserved seats, would necessitate an increase in the total number of seats in the medical post-graduate courses, nursing courses, and paramedical courses and a corresponding increase in the number of faculty and resident doctors as well as infrastructure.

On implementation of the decision, an additional 214 post-graduate seats would be created in the institute, taking the total number of seats to 610. Besides, the number of seats in nursing courses will go up by 192 to 552 and by 87 to 247 in paramedical courses.

With the introduction of 27 per cent reservation for OBCs in all institutes under the Central Government, the total percentage of reservation will go up from the present level of 22.5 per cent to 49.5 per cent.


US national detained at Delhi airport for questioning

A United States national was detained at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here on Wednesday before boarding a Qatar Airways flight to Doha on his way to New York after a knife was found hidden in his hand baggage.

A United States national was detained at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here yesterday before boarding a Qatar Airways flight to Doha on his way to New York after a knife was found hidden in his hand baggage.

Sources said the man, identified as Winston Marshall, 61, was being questioned by officials of the Delhi Police and the Intelligence Bureau after he was detained by the personnel of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), manning the airport, on suspicion.

Apart from the knife, which the sources said was hidden inside a "shilajit", a hard Ayurvedic substance, what aroused the suspicions of the police was the fact that the man had recently visited Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Among other things, the police were trying to verify the places he had stayed in and the people he had met while in India.

While no details have been given out officially, some information that emerged from sources indicated that Marshall said he was a carpenter by profession in New York and had converted to Islam some 40 years ago.

The police and the IB officials were taking the matter seriously in view of the close resemblance the detention had to the case of David Headley, the suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba operative who was arrested in Chicago in October last year for his alleged role in planning terror attacks in India, including the 26/11 attack which claimed 166 lives.

The sources said the US Embassy in Delhi had been informed of the detention.


Centre releases Rs 204 cr grant for road schemes in UP, Mizoram

The Ministry of Rural Development has released grant-in-aid worth Rs 204 crore to the National Rural Roads Development Agency (NRRDA) towards payment for works taken up under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in Mizoram and Uttar Pradesh.

The paymets have been released from the special window created in the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), an official press release said.

The release said that, out of the sanctioned amount, Rs 10 crore would be given to the Mizoram Rural Roads Development Agency (MRRRDA) and the remaining Rs 194 crore had been granted to the UP Roads Development Agency (UPRRDA) as part payment of the second instalment of Phase V.

The grant is towards Plan Expenditure and is subject to the provisions of PMGSY Programme Guidelines and supplementary directions issued thereunder, the release said.

The PMGSY is a 100 per cent centrally-sponsored scheme to provide road connectivity in rural areas of the country. It envisages connectivity to all habitations with a population of 500 persons and above in the rural areas and about 250 persons and above in respect of the hill states, tribal areas and desert areas through good and all weather roads, the release added.


Antony for bigger role for private sector in modernisation of forces

Defence Minister A K Antony today said the private sector would be allowed to play an increasingly greater role in the modernisation of the Armed Forces.

Addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his Ministry here, Mr Antony pointed out that the Defence Public Sector Undertakings alone would not be able to meet all the requirements of the Armed Force at the pace and time-frame envisaged by the Government.

He, however, ruled out corporatisation of the defence arms industry. "Minus corporatisation, we will give more room to the private sector," he said. The theme of today's meeting was the role of the ordnance factories.

He said revision of the Defence Procurement Procedure had become an annual affair and the thrust this year would be give a larger role to the private sector. There would be more room for "buy Indian, make Indian."

Mr Antony appreciated the role of the ordnance factories over the years and said they had been by and large successful in establishing indigenous production facilities for a variety of defence equipment.

These include production of T-72, T-90 and Arjun Tanks, armoured personnel carriers, mine– protected and bullet proof vehicles, artillery guns, naval guns, night vision devices and fire control systems for armoured vehicles, small arms and many varieties of ammunition.

“Indigenisation of different products have been one of the main objectives of Ordnance Factory Board," he said.

Responding to the concerns expressed by several members about corruption in defence procurement, Mr Antony said his Ministry had been taking strict action against all such aberrations and would continue to do so. However, he lamented that such actions are also criticised by certain sections who feel that they lead to delay in the procurement of armaments and so on.

The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) comprises 39 ordnance factories. Two new factories are coming up at Nalanda in Bihar and Korwa in Uttar Pradesh for production of artillery ammunition and carbines, respectively.

In 2008-09, the total turnover of Ordnance Factories was Rs. 7229 crore. It is expected to increase to Rs. 8720 crore during the current financial year. During 2010–11, the turnover of Ordnance Factories is expected to go up to Rs. 9846 crores due to increase in the requirement of arms and ammunition and armoured vehicles. The non-defence sales are expected to be around Rs. 1360 crores.

Members of Parliament who participated in the meeting talked about the quality of the products from the ordnance factories. They said the factories were still producing many obsolete arms and ammunition. One member wanted to know if the OFB was geared to match the requirements of the Indian Armed forces because of the recent shift in their doctrines. Some members suggested that OFB should only focus on cutting edge products and "not try to reinvent the wheel".


Sahara Group organises wedding ceremony for 101 couples

Yuvraj greeting couples at 101 marriages performed at Sahara Shaher, Lucknow.
Yuvraj greeting couples at 101 marriages performed at Sahara Shaher, Lucknow.

As many as 101 girls from under-privileged sections of society and different religions got married at a mass marriage ceremony conducted by business conglomerate Sahara India Parivar in Lucknow today.

The "Samuhik Vivah Samaroh" is an annual event held at Sahara Shaher in the Uttar Pradesh capital. This year, 89 Hindu, 9 Muslim, 2 Sikh and 1 Christian couple got married at the ceremony.

The ceremony has been organised every year since 2004 and as many as 707 couples have got married this way so far.

Every year, the Sahara Group invites applications from the families of brides and groooms who cannot bear the cost of the wedding themselves. After a verification process, 101 applicants are selected for the ceremony.

According to a press release from the Group, all the arrangements for the wedding, such as food, lodging, clothes and so on are made by it. Each couple is also given a gift package of household articles worth Rs 1 lakh to help them start their life. The gifts include a colour television, refrigerator, cupboard, bed, dressing table , jewelry, clothes and watches. These are delivered to the couple's residence.

The Sahara Group had also made arrangements for the "mandaps", rangoli, chanting of hymns and playing of shehnai at the venue of the ceremony, which was attended by invitees as well as employees of the Group.

The couples were also presented with a special photograph of all the 101 couples, taken with a 1914-made special American Panoramic Kodak still camera which can rotate upto 360 degrees and produce a very sharp image. A similar camera is used to take pictures of all the members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha every term.

Ms Chhabi Roy, mother of Sahara Parivar chairman Subrata Roy, well-known cricketer Yuvraj Singh, film actress Diana Hayden and former India hockey captain Dhanraj Pillai were amongst those present at the ceremony.


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.


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