PM says price situation will improve soon

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the steps taken by the Government to control prices of food articles would soon start showing results.

Addressing a meeting of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) here, Dr Singh said the impact of the programmes initiated by the Government for the benefit of the poor and weaker sections of society was beginning to become visible.

In particular, the Prime Minister said the Government was trying to address the problem of rising prices by increasing production of essential items.

He also expressed satisfaction with the Government's efforts to protect the vulnerable sections from the effects of the recent global economic downturn and said these would continue.

There were some reports that some Congress leaders at the meeting blamed Union Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies Minister Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) for the rise in prices and that some of them took exception, in particular, to remarks made by him some days ago which were seen as an attempt by him to drag the Prime Minister into the controversy over rising food inflation.

But Congress spokesman Janardhan Dwivedi denied there was any such attack on Mr Pawar. He also denied that there was any suggestion that the Food and Civil Supplies portfolio be taken away from the NCP leader.

He, however, said several members expressed concern over the rising prices and called for urgent measures to bring the situation under control.

As many as 18 people participated in the discussion at the meeting, which was presided over by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who set the tone by voicing concern about the hardships faced by the common man because of the high prices of food articles.

The meeting also discussed the coming Union Budget, the Telengana issue and organisational elections, among other topics.

Defence Minister A K Antony, who is in charge of the party's affairs in Maharashtra, said the recent developments in Mumbai posed a threat to the emotional unity and integrity of the country and called for a determined fight against forces behind them. He said the challenge of overcoming such forces of destabilisation must be met by all citizens.


India, Pakistan discuss dates, agenda for FS-level talks

Indian and Pakistani officials met here today to discuss the possible agenda and dates for the proposed Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two countries.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao met Pakistani High Commissioner Shahid Malik for the preliminary discussions in this regard.

Mr Malik later told reporters that he had discussed the possible agenda and dates for the talks that India had proposed.

According to official sources, Ms Rao had called her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir ten days ago to propose talks at their level more than a year after India had called off the composite dialogue between the two countries in the wake of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, which had left 166 people killed.

India blamed the 26/11 attack on elements based in Pakistan and insisted that it would have to first bring the culprits to book and dismantle the terrorist groups acting against India from Pakistani territory before the dialogue could be resumed.

Since then, India has been continuously saying that Pakistan was not doing enough in the matter despite the hard evidence presented to it.

However, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna indicated earlier this week that India would be satisfied if Pakistan took some steps in the investigation process. The softening of the stand was attributed to the steps taken by Pakistan in recent days in the cases relating to the 26/11 attacks.

With Pakistan welcoming India's offer of talks, the two sides are now trying to find convenient dates for their Foreign Secretaries to meet, which could happen as early as this month, the sources said.

India has indicated that it was willing to go into the talks with an open mind and without pre-judging the outcome, but said counter-terrorism would be one of the main items on the agenda. Pakistan would like the resumption of the full composite dialogue process that encompasses a range of issues, including Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today said the Government's decision to start the Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan was "an abject surrender and a complete U-turn of its earlier position."

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said Foreign Secretaries usually engage in composite dialogue and do not discuss terrorism.

"This initiative is uncalled for and seems that it is taken without approval of Cabinet Committee on Security. This will also undermine Home Minister P. Chidambram’s efforts to discuss terrorism with his Pakistani counterpart. This will prove yet another foreign policy blunder after Sharm el Sheikh," he said.

He was referring to the Joint Statement issued by the Prime Ministers of the two countries after their meetig at Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt in July last year in which they agreed to delink terrorism from the dialogue process. The statement also referred to Balochistan for the first time, which became the subject of a major controversy in India, given the fact that Pakistan regularly accuses India of fanning trouble in that area.

Mr Javadekar said India's offer had come at a most inopportune time as only yesterday the United Jehadi Council's meeting with Jamat-ul-Dawa representatives in Muzzafarabad had declared its intention to continue the jehad against India. He also cited various other statements to show that Pakistan had not changed a bit as far as terrorism against India was concerned.

"In this backdrop there was no need to change India’s avowed stand and a commitment given to Parliament that composite dialogue would not be resumed till Pakistan takes credible actions against perpetrators of 26/11 and dismantle terror infrastructure. Foreign Minister S M Krishna diluted this stand by expecting "few steps' from Pakistan instead of 'credible action'. Pakistan has got what it wanted and it seems that India has accepted Pakistan position that dialogue and terror can co-exist. Our weakness will only further strengthen terrorists," the statement said.

The statement condemned the Government's move and demanded an explanation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the "sudden volte face".


Foreign tourist arrivals up 16.4 % in January

Foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in India grew by 16.4 per cent to 4.91 lakh in January this year as against 4.22 lakh in the same month last year, an official statement said here today.

The number of foreign tourist arrivals in January, 2008 was 5.12 lakh, the statement said on the basis of data received from major airports.

According to the statement, to a large extent, the trend of substantial growth in FTAs observed during December, 2009 (21%) continued in January, 2010.

Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE) during January this year were Rs 5593 crore as compared to Rs. 4598 crore in January 2009 and Rs. 5438 crore in January 2008.

The growth rate in FEE in rupee terms in January 2010 over January 2009 was 21.6% as compared to (-) 15.4% in January 2009 over January 2008.

The FEE in dollar terms during January this year were $ 1.215 billion as compared to $ 941 million during the same month last year and $ 1.382 billion in January, 2008.

The growth rate in FEE in dollar terms in January 2010 over January 2009 was 29.1%, the release added.


Govt. to develop health facilities along railway network

The Ministries of Railways and Health & Family Welfare today signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the development of healthcare infrastructure along the railway network in the country.

The initiative is aimed at providing access to the good healthcare facilities to common people across the country, an official press release said.

The MoU was signed by Health Secretary K Sujatha Rao and Railway Board Chairman S S Khurana in the presence of Union Health & Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Railways Minister Mamata Bannerjee.

According to the MoU, the two Ministries will collaborate to develop healthcare facilities, both for allopathic and Indian systems of medicine, including diagnostic centres, out-patient centres, inpatient medical treatment centres, super speciality hospitals, medical colleges and nursing colleges. These facilities could also be used as trauma centres for emergencies, accidents and natural disasters, an official press release said.

Apart from railway passengers, Railway employees and their families, public living around such areas and other citizens will also benefit from the proposed facilities, it said.

The Ministry of Railways has tentatively identified land areas it can spare all over the country, including 361 plots of at least 200 sq m each, 88 of 5 acres each and 41of 20 acres in the vicinity of railway stations. The Ministry of Railways will add to the list of spareable land bank on an ongoing basis as and when more plots become available. More land can be provided depending on need and availability, the release said.

Wherever feasible, the hospitals will be developed with plans to connect them to medical colleges at a later date. The Ministries will set up a High Power Working Group to work out a time-bound programme for early identification of specific projects which could be taken up on priority basis.

Even though many of the existing facilities provided by the Government in rural and urban areas facilities are normally accessed by the habitation around the railway stations, they are grossly inadequate specially in large urban centres. Further it is difficult for the floating population to access such facilities. The State Governments are often constrained to expand the health care facilities due to non-availability of required land at important places. This is more so in large towns where sizeable population has come up in and around the railway system. The proposed facility will address this issue, the release added.


4 more swine flu deaths in India, toll goes up to 1263

The toll due to the swine flu pandemic in India has risen to 1263 with four more deaths caused by influenza A (H1N1) in two states, an official statement said here today.

Two deaths were reported during the day in Maharashtra today, it said. Reports of two deaths that occurred earlier in Rajasthan were also received from the state health authorities by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare today, it said.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 324, while 252 lives have been lost in Gujarat, 182 in Rajasthan, 141 in Karnataka, 95 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 38 in Punjab, 37 each in Kerala and Haryana, 22 in Madhya Pradesh, 18 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 in Uttarakhand, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 each in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 4 in Jammu & Kashmir, 3 in Orissa, 2 in Assam and 1 each in Mizoram and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

The statement said 30 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 20 in Maharashtra, 4 in Gujarat, 3 in Karnataka, 2 in Delhi and 1 in Punjab.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 29,023, the statement added


Delhi Metro services on Line 2 affected briefly

Delhi Metro services on Line 2 (Central Secretariat-Jahangirpuri) were affected briefly today after a train's doors failed to open at platform number 2 of the Central Secretariat station.

A spokesman for the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said the problem occurred at 1738 hours when the doors of the train from Jahangirpuri and terminating at Central Secretariat failed to open.

The ten passengers on board were helped to get out from the driving cab door after which the train was taken to the siding for further investigation of the problem.

Normal services on the entire line resumed at 1746 hours, the spokesman said, adding that due to the incident two round trips had to be cancelled.


Chidambaram urges States to strengthen police forces

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has urged the States to give high priority to the strengthening of their police forces in their budget allocations.

Addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his Ministry on the theme "Modernisation of Police Forces" here yesterday, Mr Chidambaram said policing had not been given the desired priority by the States while allocating funds in their budgets.

The Minister said the first duty of the Government was to provide security to its people without which no development was possible.

He said the Centre had been forced to substantially increase the strength of its paramilitary forces because the State forces were not augmented and modernised to the desired level.

Pointing out that police and law and order were State subjects, he said it was the responsibility of the State Governments to modernise and augment their police forces.

Mr Chidambaram said that, under the modernisation plan, the Centre had taken major steps to equip its paramilitary forces with new weapons and equipment and would continue to do so.

Referring to the scheme for modernisation of State Police Forces, he said that it only provided a helping hand to the States to build better police stations and provide modern weapons and communication systems to their forces. He said a lot more needed to be done by the States on their own as the requirement was huge.

He also stressed the need for the States to quickly recruit sufficient number of policemen to fill up the existing vacancies and bring about the desired expansion of their forces.

Members of the Committee stressed the need to provide modern weapons and communication equipment, adequate training facilities and better amenities to policemen, an official press release added.


12 new trains to be flagged off tomorrow

Twelve new trains will be flagged off tomorrow at a function organised by the Indian Railways in Kanpur tomorrow at which ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee will be present.

An official press release said that seven existing trains will also be extended from tomrrow.

The new trains are:

1. 2033/2034 Kanpur-New Delhi Shatabdi Express (6 days a week)

2. 2271/2272 Lucknow-New Delhi Duronto Express (Tri-weekly)

3. 2275-2276 Allahabad-New Delhi Duronto Express (Tri-weekly)

4. 2179’2180 Agra-Lucknow Inter-city Express (Daily)

5. 489/490 Mathura_Kasganj Passenger (Daily)

6. 2193/2194 Bhopal-Pratapgarh Express (Weekly)

7. 2541/2542 Gorakhpur-LTT Mumbai Express (Tri-weekly presently)

8. 2237/2238 Varanasi-Jammu Tawi Superfast (Daily)

9. 6503/6504 Lucknow-Yesvantpur Express (Weekly)

10.601-602/6030604/605-606 Gorakhpur-Nautanwa Passenger (3 pairs)

11. 5019/5020 Gorakhpur-Nautanwa Express (6 Days a week)

12. 5107/5108 Chhapra-Mathura Express (Tri-weekly)

The seven trains to be extended are:

1. 2173/2174 Mumbai-Kanpur Udyog Nagari Express to Pratapgarh

2. 2177/2178 Howrah-Agra Cantt Chambal Express to Mathura

3. 4227/4228 Varanasi-Lucknow to Kanpur (5 days a week presently)

4. 2555/2556 Gorakhpur-Bhiwani Gorakhdham Express to Hissar

5. 1PR/2PR Pratapgarh-Rai Bareli Passenger to Lucknow

6. 8201/8202 Durg-Gorakhpur Express to Nautanwa

7. 8205/8206 Durg-Gorakhpur Express to Nautanwa


Rashtrapati Nilayam's Horticulture Dept. wins Pushpavatika Trophy

The Horticulture Department of the Rashtrapati Nilayam in Secunderabad, which is the Presidential Retreat, has bagged the first prize and won the "Pushpavatika Trophy" during the Garden Festival 2010 organised by the Horticulture Department of the Andhra Pradesh government at Hyderabad recently.

An official press release said the trophy was given for "Best Garden Maintenance". This is the second consecutive year that Rashtrapati Nilayam has won the the award, it added.


Rahul travels by train in Mumbai, sends strong message to Sena

Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi on Friday travelled by local trains in Mumbai, defying the Shiv Sena which had organised protests against his visit for his recent remarks that the city belonged to all Indians.
Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi at a railway station in Mumbai after travelling by a local train on February 5, 2010.
Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi at a railway station in Mumbai after travelling by a local train on February 5, 2010.

Putting aside security concerns, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi today travelled by local trains during a four-hour trip to Mumbai, sending a strong political messsage to the Shiv Sena which had organised protests against his visit for his recent remarks that the city belonged to all Indians.

Soon after landing in Mumbai, Mr Gandhi took a helicopter from the airport to Vile Parle, from where he drove to the nearby Bhaidas Hall, where he addressed a gathering of college students, urging them to join politics and help to bring about change in the country.

From there, he was again supposed to travel by chopper to Ghatkopar to visit a slum, but, in a sudden change of plans, he drove to the Andheri station on the Western Railway's suburban section and took a train to Dadar, the bastion of the Shiv Sena.

On the way to the Andheri station, Mr Gandhi's motorcade made a brief halt to enable him to withdraw some money from an ATM of Bank of India, ostensibly to pay for his railway ticket. Apparently, Mr Gandhi does not usually carry cash on his travels around the country.

And, at Andheri, he stood in a queue with other passengers to buy his ticket for the journey.

At Dadar, he switched lines and took another local train on the Central Railway to Ghatkopar, from where he went to  Ramabai Nagar, where he garlanded a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar.

A little later, he took a helicopter ride from Vikhroli to the airport and flew to Puducherry for the rest of his day's engagements.

The visit lasted only a few hours, but long afterwards, people were still discussing the train ride, the messag it sent, the impact it had made, the advisability of political leaders such as Mr Gandhi, who face a high level of threat from terrorist groups, making last-minute changes in their itinerary and so on.

At the stations, on the platforms, on the overbridge linking the different platforms and in the trains themselves, fellow-passengers could not quite believe their eyes when they saw Mr Gandhi in their midst.

He obliged scores of people, mostly youngsters and many women, with autographs, shook hands with almost everyone who reached out to him and chatted with people in the train, asking them about the problems and difficulties they faced. Many of them later told the media about their experience and how they were impressed by his simple ways.

But there were also some disapproving voices. Apparently, the Special Protection Group (SPG) and the other agencies were not quite aware of Mr Gandhi's plans to travel by train till the very end. Similarly, officials of the Western Railway and the Central Railway said they were not told about the plans.

Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray described the train journey as a political drama and said the visit to the ATM was only indicative of how politicians from Delhi treated Mumbai like a cash cow.

The Shiv Sena had asked its supporters to greet Mr Gandhi with black flags and many of them did turn up outside the venues of his engagements. At Bhaidas Hall, some Sainiks tried to enter the venue and were stopped by the police. Some of the protesters were detained by the police, but overall there was no major incident anywhere.

Addressing about 1000 young people who had gathered to hear him at the Bhaidas Hall, Mr Gandhi urged them to beware of those who sought to divide India in the name of religion, caste and language. He said he was an Indian and belonged to India and that his party stood for a united India.

He also talked to the youngsters about the enrolment process for joining the Youth Congress. He explained to them that it was not necessary for them to have family connections to enter politics.


PM backs IPCC, Pachauri despite error on Himalayan glaciers

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday came out strongly in support of the IPCC and its head Rajendra Pachauri at a time when it is under fire for an error about Himalayan glaciers in its 2007 report on climate science.
Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh at the 10th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2010, in New Delhi on February 05, 2010.
Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh at the 10th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2010, in New Delhi on February 05, 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today came out strongly in support of the United Nations' Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its head Rajendra Pachauri at a time when it is under fire for an inaccuracy regarding Himalayan glaciers in its 2007 report on climate science.

Inaugurating the 10th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit here, Dr Singh asserted that India had full confidence in its process and its leadership and would support it in every way it could.

"Some aspects of the science that is reflected in the work of the IPCC have faced criticism. But this debate does not challenge the core projections of the IPCC about the impact of greenhouse gas accumulations on temperature, rainfall and sea level rise," Dr Singh said in his inaugural address at the 10th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit here.

"Let me here assert that India has full confidence in the IPCC process and its leadership and will support it in every way that it can," he said.

The Summit has been organised by The Energy Research Institute (TERI), which is also headed by Dr Pachauri.

The Prime Minister said TERI had, "under the able and far-sighted leadership" of Dr Pachauri, earned well-deserved respect and international acclaim for its contributions to the global effort in meeting the twin challenges of energy security and climate change.

The claim in the IPCC's 3000-page report that the Himalayan glaciers could be near to disappearing by 2035 was later traced to an interview conducted by a UK magazine with an Indian glaciologist in 1999. The claim was not subjected to peer reviews and many other scientists said the glaciers would stay for centuries. The controversy, that is still raging, has raised doubts about the credibility of climate change science.

Mr Pachauri later accepted that the claim in the IPCC report about the glaciers was not substantiated and a mistake.

Dr Singh noted that the Summit was taking place at an important juncture in the international deliberations aimed at forging a multi-lateral understanding on how to deal with climate change.

"Moving forward, we need to reflect on the lessons of what happened at Copenhagen," he said, referring to the UN Summit on Climate Change in the Danish capital in December.

He said he shared the disappointment of many with the limited achievements of the discussions that took place at Copenhagen and said it was important to ensure that what had been promised was delivered.

"An ambitious agreement that is observed only in the breach will discredit the whole process. The Copenhagen Accord, which we fully support and will take forward, is a catalogue of voluntary commitments and not a negotiated set of legal obligations," he said.

He said that, presumably, the countries that had made the commitments willingly had assured themselves that they could be and would be fulfilled.

"A modest accord that is fully implemented may be better than an ambitious one that falls seriously short of its targets. This is the lesson that was learnt with regard to the Kyoto Protocol," he remarked.

The Prime Minister asserted that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) had to be the centerpiece of global cooperation on climate issues.

"The purpose of the Copenhagen Accord is to contribute to the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol and on Long Term Cooperation. It is not a substitute but a complement to these core international agreements. There is much in the Copenhagen Accord that can bring consensus on the two-track negotiating process. For this to happen, this process itself has to recommence in right earnest, perhaps from March this year," he said.

Dr Singh said that a successful international agreement would require a consensus in two crucial areas. The first is on the science of climate change. The second is the ethical framework for giving expression to the central UNFCCC principle of "common but differentiated responsibility", he said.

He said one of the Missions under India's National Action Plan was on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change to promote high quality and focused research on various aspects of climate change.

He said the Government had established an Indian Network for Comprehensive Climate Change Assessment, a network of over 120 research institutes, which would bring out regular reports on the impacts of climate change on different sectors and different regions of the country.

He said the first such assessment would be released in November this year and sought international collaboration to make this network effective.

Dr Singh said India was also establishing a National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology in Dehra Dun and looked forward to international cooperation in this vital area.

"However, even in the absence of unanimity of scientific opinion, many of the actions related to mitigation and adaptation are those we should be taking anyway because of their collateral benefits," he said.

According to him, the lack of global consensus on burden sharing is an even greater barrier to securing an agreement.

"Industrialised countries in our view need to recognise more clearly their historical role in the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They should respond with bolder initiatives to contain their future emissions. I would also urge greater financial and technical assistance to developing countries both for adaptation measures to cope with the consequences of these emissions; and for mitigation to reduce their contribution to future emissions," he said.

Dr Singh said developing countries also needed to do their bit. He assured the Summit that India would spare no effort in contributing to the success of the post-Copenhagen process.

"The least developed countries and small island states deserve special attention due to their greater vulnerability to climate change. India will support all measures to assist them, both bilaterally as well as in the context of a global climate change regime," he said.

He told the gathering that India had recently convened a meeting in New Delhi of the Ministers dealing with Climate Change from Brazil, China, South Africa and India to carry forward the positive and constructive role the four countries played at Copenhagen.

"We wish to contribute, together with our G-77 partners, to a comprehensive, balanced and above all equitable outcome in Mexico based on the principles of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities," he said.

"We will therefore participate in the negotiations in a spirit of flexibility, acknowledging our responsibilities as citizens of the globe. It is in this spirit that India, and the other BASIC countries, conveyed our respective voluntary mitigation actions to the UNFCCC by 31st of January this year. In our case it is our endeavour to reduce emissions intensity of our GDP by 20-25% by 2020 on 2005 basic levels. We are also very serious about fulfilling and perhaps even exceeding this target," he said.

The Prime Minister said that, in the case of developing countries, climate action had to be combined with their central developmental goals.

"In a poor country like India, where hope and deprivation co-exist, sustainable development requires that the needs of the present are given at least as much attention as the needs of the future," he pointed out.

He said that climate action that delayed or made more difficult the basic task of poverty eradication would be difficult to implement.

He said that was why India had, in its National Action Plan on Climate Change, given priority to those activities that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and also deliver substantial collateral benefits by reducing poverty or by improving local environmental quality and human health.

"We recognise that we have to adopt a different model of growth to that followed by the industrialized countries. But a lot of effort is needed to operationalise the meaning and precise content of sustainable development," he said.

Dr Singh said the Planning Commission had recently set up an Expert Group to prepare a strategy on a low carbon economy in India. The Group will have to work out a holistic approach that takes on board concerns of all stakeholders - industry, transportation, power, labour, micro and small industry and agriculture well in time before the country embarks on its 12th Five Year Plan from April, 2012.

He said India had already committed itself to a path of sustainable development based on a graduated shift to the extent possible from the use of fossil fuels to renewable and clean energy, including nuclear energy.

Within the ambit of its National Action Plan on Climate Change, India has already unveiled one of the world’s most ambitious plans for promoting solar energy, targeting an installed capacity of 20,000 MW by the year 2022, he said.

He said India would soon launch an ambitious National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency that will put in place an innovative policy and regulatory regime to unlock the market for energy efficiency, estimated at over US$ 15 billion. It is expected that the initiative will lead to avoidance of capacity addition of nearly 20,000 MW and reduced carbon dioxide emissions of almost 99 million tonnes.

He said India had around 22% of its land area under forests. He said this was significant, given India’s growing population and high population density and this sequestered around 10% of the country's annual greenhouse gas emissions.

"Our objective over the next decade will be to increase not just the quantity but the quality of our forest cover, since about 40% of it is degraded forest with little tree canopy and cover. This will enable us to at least maintain this level of carbon sequestration even as we maintain an 8-9% annual rate of real GDP growth," he said.

"It is becoming clear that the roots of the problem we face today are in the current patterns of global production and consumption, which are not sustainable. We are living on an overdraft on Nature’s resources and this is already threatening the ecological balance, which is the basis of our survival," he added.


Some improvement reported in Ganga water quality

The quality of water in the river Ganga has shown some improvement after the implementation of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), the Ministry of Environment & Forests said today.

An official press release said that this had been stated in a report prepared by the Planning Commission in May, 2009 on the utilisation of funds and assets created through GAP in various states.

The report said that the monitoring of water quality done by reputed institutions at 16 monitoring stations on the river during 1986-2008 showed a reduction in Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) in all the stations except two, indicating an improvement in water quality.

However, at 7 of these 16 locations, the BOD levels do not meet the standards for bathing water, it said.

In 1986, the BOD, which is an indicator of pollution of river water quality, ranged from 5.5 to 15.5 mg/1 in the critical stretch of the Ganga from Kannauj to Varanasi. This had come down to between 2.2 and 4.8 mg/1 in 2008.

The report said Dissolved Oxygen (DO) levels, which indicate the health of the river, had shown improvement at four locations. The DO levels, which were in the range of 6.6 to 5.9 mg/1 in 1986 in the Allahabad-Varanasi stretch, had improved to 7.3 to 8.4 mg/1 in 2008.

The criteria for bathing water quality is BOD equal to or less than 3.0 mg/1 and DO equal to or more than 5.0 mg/1.

In terms of total coliform count, the permissible limits for bathing water were exceeded at a number of monitoring stations, it said.

According to the release, the situation would have been worse without the sewage treatment infrastructure created under GAP. It said the coliform count had increased particularly at pilgrimage places due to bathing by pilgrims.

The report said the major factors affecting the water quality are wide gap between domestic sewage generation and sewage treatment capacity created, discharge of untreated industrial effluents in the industrial pockets along the rivers, and under-utilisation of sewage treatment plants (STPs) due to reasons like irregular power supply, absence of connections between domestic sewage drains and STPs and failure of States to provide for maintenance cost of the STPs.

The first phase of GAP was launched in June, 1985, as a 100 per cent Centrally-funded scheme and aimed at preventing the pollution of the Ganga and to improve its water quality.


11 states enact legislation on ground water on basis of Model Bill

Eleven states and Union Territories have so far enacted and implemented legislation for the regulation and control of ground water development on the basis of the Model Bill which the Union Ministry of Water Resources had circulated to them.

An official press release said that the Ministry has been pursuing the matter with the states regularly. The Model Bill, which was initially circulated in 1970, has been re-circulated in 1992, 1996 and 2005 to the states and Union Territories to enable them to enact suitable legislation on ground water on the lines of the Model Bill.

The states and Union Territories which have enacted and implemented the legislation in this regard are Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Lakshadweep, Kerala, Puducherry, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chandigarh and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

As many as 18 other states and Union Territories are in the process of enacting the legislation. They are: Maharashtra, Gujarat, Assam, Haryana, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Mizoram, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Daman & Diu, Delhi, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Andaman & Nicobar and Chhattisgarh.

According to the release, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Punjab were states which felt that it was not necessary to enact the legislation.


Environment Ministry announces steps to strengthen its scientific base

The Union Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) today announced five initiatives aimed at strengthening the scientific base underlying its activities, including the establishment of a Global Advisory Network Group on Environmental Sciences (GANGES).

The other initiatives are a National Environmental Sciences Fellows Programme, an Expert Committee to Enhance the Scientific Capacity of MoEF, an Action Plan to Enhance Forestry Science and an Indian Network for Climate Change Assessment (INCCA), which was announced in October, 2009.

"When this Ministry was conceived in the early 1980s by (then Prime Minister) Indira Gandhi, it was conceived as a scientific ministry. It was recognized that in order to conserve our environment and forests, we need rigorous science-based policy making and enforcement," Environment & Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh told journalists here.

"Over the years, this science-focus has got somewhat diluted. With these initiatives, we aim to ensure that science is brought back into the mainstream of our work and decision-making," he said.

GANGES is a new forum, comprising some of the world's leading environmental scientists of Indian origian. It has been set up to advise the Government on the country's environmental sciences agenda.

The forum will address questions such as the areas of focus, how the Government should engage on this agenda, institutional collaborations and private-public sector engagement, innovation and fast-tracking of development, among other things.

The following scientists are part of the group:

1. Subra Suresh, School of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

2. Jagadish Shukla, Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences, George Mason University, USA

3. Purnendu Dasgupta, Department of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry, University of Texas, Arlington, USA

4. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, University of California, San Diego, USA

5. Asit Biswas, Third World Centre for Water Management, Queens University, Canada

6. Ashok Gadgil, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA

7. Pratim Biswas, Washington University in St. Louis, USA

8. Kamal Bawa, University of Massachusetts, Boston

9. Tam Sridhar, Faculty of Engineering, Monash University, Australia

10. Shankar Sastry, Dean of Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, USA

11. Venkatachalam Ramaswamy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Colorado, Boulder Institute, USA

12. Venky Narayanamurti, Science, Technology and Public Policy Programme, Harvard Kennedy School, USA

The National Environmental Sciences Fellows Programme will provide promising young scientists who wish to work in the area of environmental sciences, engineering and technology the opportunity to do cutting-edge research on critical environmental issues in collaboration with leading institutes and scientists in India and the world.

It will provide 10 young scientists under the age of 35 ,where age limit is extendable to 40 in exceptional cases, with a generous fellowship and institutional support to undertake this research. Each fellow would be attached to an institution which will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Ministry. The selection of the fellows and thrust areas for research will be done by a Management Committee of eminent scientists.

An official press release explained that this programme would allow young Indian scientists to enhance their areas of expertise under the mentorship of the leading scientists in the world today, and will help create a cadre of top class Indian environmental scientists for the future. The knowledge emerging from the research work under this programme will help inform the country's environmental policy agenda, ensuring that it is based on rigorous science.

The Expert Committee to Enhance the Scientific Capacity of MoEF will address the various issues and constraints that have arisen over the years with regard to the scientific resources and expertise of the Ministry.

Scientific personnel have historically made up a large portion of the human resources of the MoEF, as it was conceived as a science-based Ministry.

The Government is of the view that the constraints and issues that have arisen over the years needs to be urgently addressed.

The Ministry has proposed that the Committee will consist of the following members:

1. Dr. K Kasturirangan, Member Planning Commission, Chairman

2. Dr. Chandra Venkataraman, Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai,

3. Dr. Kalpana Balakrishnan, Professor, Environmental Health Engineering, Sri Ramachandra University Chennai,

4. Mr Vishwanathan Anand, Retired Secretary, MoEF,

5. Dr. Deepak Pental, Vice Chancellor, Delhi University,

6. Ms. Swati A Piramal, Director, Piramal Healthcare Limited,

7. Mr M.F. Farooqui, Additional Secretary, MoEF, Convenor

Mr Ramesh had held a special meeting with more than 100 Indian Forest Service officers with Ph.D. degres in forestry science, when a number of decisions relating to upgrading the scientific capabilities of the forestry establishment were taken.

These include a Forestry Fellowship Programme to recognise outstanding contributions to forestry sciences and a Naitonal Forestry Knowledge Forum as a platform where expert knowledge in various issues in forestry will be shared.

There will be a National Forestry Information Network that will use remote sensing, GIS and MIS and map and monitor all land-based forestry interventions on a time scale and put it in the public domain.

There will also be a programme to use satellite data for early transmission of fire signals to the mobile phones and PDAs of field officers. The University of Maryland in the US has agreed to share all active fire data obtained from TERRA and AQUA satellites of NASA every six hours for this. This will not only help in quick fire detection and reducing the response time, but also in identifying fire sensitive areas. This was originally conceived by the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department, for which it had won a national e-governance award.

The Ministry will also set up a National Bureau for Forest Germplasm, along the lines of the Plant Genetics Resources Bureau. The objective would be to identify, characterise, preserve the valuable germplasm of a wide number of forestry species in the country. This will protect valuable genetic resource against extinction and exploitation, the release said.

In the Union Budget for 2009-10, the government has already made a special grant of Rs. 100 crore to the Indian Council for Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) for modernisation of forestry research. This grant is being used to support some of these initiatives, among other things, it said.

The INCCA was established by the MoEF in October last year as a network-based programme to make science, particularly the "3 Ms" – Measuring, Modelling and Monitoring – the essence of policy-making in the climate change space. It brings together over 120 institutions and over 220 scientists from across the country.

The first Report of the INCCA – an updated emissions inventory of greenhouses gases of anthropogenic origin of India for 2007 – will be released on May 11. A comprehensive "4x4" assessment of key sectors in India – agriculture, water, natural ecosystems & biodiversity and health – and key geographic "hotspots" – the North-East, the Indian Himalayan Region, the Western Ghats, and the Coastal Areas – will be released in November 2010.

A group has also been constituted under INCCA comprising scientists from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and MoEF to run specific regional models for the Indian subcontinent for the monsoon in order to enable better assessment of impacts and reduction of uncertainties in monsoon projections over the South Asian region.

The "4x4" and the regional assessment will be provided to the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as part of the input to the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report (AR5). This will be the first time that India will be providing institutional inputs to the IPCC.

These initiatives will help fill an important scientific knowledge gap in the IPCC assessment, by providing robust information at the sub-regional level, the release added.


1543 under-trials released since January 26

As many as 1543 under-trials have been released from custody in seven states as part of the National Mission for Delivery of Justice and Legal Reforms started at the instance of Union Law & Justice Minister M Veerappa Moily.

An official press release said that a Mission Mode Programme had been launched under the National Mission on January 26 to reduce the number of cases of under-trials and to ease congestion in jails.

Under the initiative, as per figures made available by the High Courts, a total of 164 prisoners had been released in Punjab, 136 in Haryana, 2 in Chandigarh, 444 in Jharkhand, 45 in Delhi, 466 in Maharashtra and 287 in West Bengal, the release added.


India offers Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan

India has offered to hold Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan in a move that could ultimately lead to the resumption of the full composite dialogue process between the two countries, sources said here today.

The sources said India was prepared to go into the talks with an open mind and discuss all relevant issues that could bring peace and stability to the sub-continent. They also indicated that terrorism emanating from Pakistan against India would be one of the major issues on the agenda of the proposed talks. They said India would go into the talks without prejudging the outcome.

In Islamabad, Pakistani media quoted Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi as saying that India had signalled that it was ready talks. He said Pakistan would welcome the talks if they led to the resumption of the full dialogue.

India had suspended the composite dialogue process after the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai, in which 166 people had lost their lives.

India blamed the attack on elements based in Pakistan and said it would have to first bring the culprits to book and dismantle the terrorist groups acting against India from Pakistani territory before the dialogue could be resumed.

Since then, India has been continuously saying that Pakistan was not doing enough in the matter despite the hard evidence presented to it. However, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna indicated yesterday that India would be satisfied if Pakistan took some steps in the investigation process. The softening of the stand was attributed to the steps taken by Pakistan in recent days in the cases relating to the 26/11 attacks.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry also confirmed that India had proposed foreign secretary-level talks but said it had sought clarifications on the agenda of the meeting.

The latest move by India comes just ahead of the proposed visit by Union Home Ministry P Chidambaram to Islamabad on February 26-27 for a meting of SAARC Interior Ministers.

The visit would be the first by an Indian minister to Pakistan since the 26/11 attacks. The visit is expected to give Mr Chidambaram an opportunity to meet his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik and get a first-hand update on the progress that Pakistani investigators have made in the 26/11 investigations.

The visit might give both sides the chance to make a new beginning as far as bilateral talks are concerned.


PM calls for early adoption of convention on international terrorism

Prime Minister of Greece, George A. Papandreou, calling on the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on February 04, 2010.
Prime Minister of Greece, George A. Papandreou, calling on the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on February 04, 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today stressed the need for the international community to work together for the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism presently under discussion in the United Nations.

At separate meetings with President Danilo Turk of Slovenia and Prime Ministers Matti Vanhanen of Finland, George Papandreou of Greece and Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, Dr Singh pointed out that terrorism posed a serious threat to countries across the world.

During the meetings, the Prime Minister also offered to enhance India's economic cooperation with all four countries.

The dignitaries are visiting India to attend the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit being organised by The Energy Research Institute (TERI) from February 5-7

An official press release said various bilateral, regional and international issues were discussed at the meetings.

The President of Slovenia, Dr. Danilo Turk calling on the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on February 04, 2010.
The President of Slovenia, Dr. Danilo Turk calling on the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on February 04, 2010.

It said Dr Singh offered to create a credible environment favourable to both domestic and foreign investors, particularly in the infrastructure and communication sectors.

At his meeting with Mr Turk, the Prime Minister offered to explore shipping links and strengthen Indian participation in the International Centre for Promotion of Enterprises (ICPE).

Dr Singh suggested to Mr Papandreou that bilateral trade between India and Greece could soon reach euro 1 billion and proposed further cooperation in areas such as shipping, renewable energy, information technology and tourism.

He highlighted the importance of reducing dependence on fossil fuels since such resources are limited and concentrated in certain parts of the world. He also called for early operationalization of existing memoranda of understanding (MOUs) on agriculture and science and technology.

Prime Minister of Finland, Matti Vanhanen calling on the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on February 04, 2010.
Prime Minister of Finland, Matti Vanhanen calling on the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on February 04, 2010.

Both leaders agreed to share experiences in upgrading the quality of public administration through e-governance, administrative reforms, greater transparency and streamlining public delivery, the release said.

During his meeting with Mr Vanhanen, Dr Singh welcomed the fact that companies from Finland such as Nokia had created job opportunities for young people in India, helping to empower them through appropriate training.

At the meeting with Mr Stoltenberg, he welcomed investments from Norway in the telecom sector as well as significant flows from Norway’s Pension Fund, noting potential for cooperation in renewable energy and hydro power.

While discussing the issue of climate change, he referred to the developmental challenges confronting India and the efforts being undertaken by India to contribute to global action on climate change.

Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg calling on the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on February 04, 2010.
Prime Minister of Norway, Jens Stoltenberg calling on the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on February 04, 2010.

India has already committed to keep its per capita emissions lower than the average per capita emissions of the developed world and has launched an ambitious National Action Plan on Climate Change. He also highlighted that the recent announcement by India to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 20-25% by 2020, in comparison to the 2005 levels, is a manifestation of the seriousness with which India wants to contribute to the global action on climate change.

Dr Singh offered to work with like-minded countries for a positive outcome at the next meeting on climate change in Mexico, the release added.


Pecuniary appellate jurisdiction of Daman, Diu civil courts to be increased

The Union Cabinet today approved promulgation of the Daman and Diu Civil Courts (Amendment) Regulation, 2009, under Article 240 of the Constitution, that will increase the pecuniary appellate jurisdiction of the District Court in the Union Territory from the existing Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

The regulation will help to obviate the difficulties faced by the litigants who have to travel to Mumbai for filing appeals due to existing limited pecuniary jurisdiction.

According to an official press release, the regulation will also revise the designation of "Junior Civil Judge" and "Senior Civil Judge" as Civil Judge (Junior Division) and Civil Judge (Senior Division), respectively.

The regulation will also revise the maximum limit of pecuniary jurisdiction of a Court of Small Causes of Senior Civil Judge {now to be designated as Civil Judge (Senior Division)} as Rs 3000 and in the case of Junior Civil Judge, {now to be designated as Civil Judge (Junior Division)} as Rs 1500.

The regulation will amend the Principal Act with a view to update the same by replacing the words "Goa, Daman and Diu" with "Daman and Diu".

The Civil Courts in the Union Territory of Daman and Diu come under the jurisdiction of Bombay High Court as per the High Court at Bombay (Extension of Jurisdiction to Goa, Daman and Diu) Act, 1981. The Goa, Daman and Diu Civil Courts Act, 1965, (16 of 1965) as in force in the Union Territory of Daman and Diu governs the Constitution and organisation of a District Court and subordinate Civil Courts in the Union Territory of Daman and Diu.

At present, there is a court of one Civil Judge (Junior Division) at Diu and one Civil Judge (Senior Division) at Daman and a District Court at Daman in the Union Territory of Daman and Diu.

The Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, during his visit to Diu in June 2009, had directed, inter alia, to increase the pecuniary appellate jurisdiction for regular and special suits of District Court to obviate the misery and difficulties being faced by the litigants in travelling to Mumbai for filing appeals.

It was also informed that the pecuniary appellate jurisdiction in the States of Goa and Maharashtra had been increased recently.


Cabinet nod for amendment to NCTE Act

The Union Cabinet today approved a proposal by the Ministry of Human Resource Development to amend the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) Act, 1993 to clarify its applicability to matters relating to norms for minimum qualification for appointment of school teachers and to schools and school teachers.

The Act had come into force on July 1, 1995 and was aimed at achieving planned and coordinated development of the teacher education system in the country and ensuring proper maintenance of norms and standards in the system.

The Act mandates the NCTE to lay down guidelines on minimum qualifications for a school teacher with a view to ensure uniform quality of teaching in the schools. The NCTE has framed regulations to discharge this function which are binding on all States in the matter of appointment of teachers.

However, the Supreme Court had held recently in the case of Basic Education Board, Uttar Pradesh vs. Upender Rai and others that the Act did not deal with educational institutions like primary schools, and thus in the matter of laying minimum qualification for appointment as teachers, the NCTE Regulations will not be applicable, and the State Legislation/Rule on the subject will prevail.

An official press release said that, in this judgement, a Central law was interpreted by the Supreme Court, but neither the NCTE nor the Union of India was impleaded in the case. A review petition filed by the NCTE in the Supreme Court was also not admitted.

The Government, therefore, took a decision to amend the NCTE Act in order to clarify that the Act applies to schools and teachers and that the NCTE is empowered to lay down the minimum qualifications for a person to be eligible as a teacher in schools.

The National Council for Teacher Education (Amendment) Bill 2009 will be moved in Parliament for consideration, it added.


16 more swine flu deaths in India take toll to 1259

As many as 16 more people have died of influenza A (H1N1) in India, taking the toll due to the swine flu pandemic in the country so far to 1259, an official statement said here today.

Five of these deaths - three in Gujarat and one each in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra - were reported during the day today, it said.

Besides, reports about eleven deaths that occurred earlier - four each in Rajasthan and Gujarat and one each in Delhi, Haryana and Maharashtra - were received by the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare today.

Of the total swine flu deaths in the country so far, Maharashtra now accounts for 322, while 252 lives have been lost in Gujarat, 180 in Rajasthan, 141 in Karnataka, 95 in Delhi, 52 in Andhra Pradesh, 38 in Punjab, 37 each in Kerala and Haryana, 22 in Madhya Pradesh, 18 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 in Uttarakhand, 8 each in Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh, 7 each in Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh, 6 in Puducherry, 5 in Goa, 4 in Jammu & Kashmir, 3 in Orissa, 2 in Assam and 1 each in Mizoram and Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

The statement said 46 new cases of swine flu were reported from different parts of India today, including 21 in Maharashtra, 15 in Rajasthan, 3 in Karnataka, 2 in Gujarat and 1 each in Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 28,993, the statement added.


Govt. focused on eliminating child labour: Kharge

Union Minister of Labour & Employment Mallikarjun Kharge today said the Government was making every possible effort to eliminate child labour in the country and that his Ministry was very focused on this issue.

Presiding over the 90th anniversary celebrations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) here, Mr Kharge said the National Child Labour Projects were converging their efforts with various social sector schemes run by other Central Ministries.

He said the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 was a significant measure taken by the Union Government to provide free and compulsory education to all children between the age of six and 14 years.

Mr Kharge lauded the achievements of the ILO in the last nine decades and noted that it had geared itself to meet new challenges and work towards bringing stability in the global economy.

He recalled that India was one of the founder-members of the ILO and pointed out that its philosophy and the fundamental features of the Indian Constitution had much in common, given that both strive for the progress of society based on equity and justice.

He said various legislative enactments in India had drawn a lot from the concepts from the concepts of the ILO and the thoughts expressed by Indian delegates at the International Labour Conference over the years had contributed a lot in giving a direction to the programmes of the ILO.

Mr Kharge said work under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) was progressing well and more than 10 million smart cards had been issued so far.

Minister of State for Labour and Employment Harish Rawat and Labour and Employment Secretary P C Chaturvedi were among the others who spoke on the occasion.


Chidambaram says one 26/11 handler could be an Indian

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Thursday said that there was a handler in the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai who could be an Indian or someone who had lived in the country for a long time.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said that there was a handler in the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai who could be an Indian or someone who had lived in the country for a long time.

"There was a handler in 26/11 whom we have known for long, or suspected for a long time, could be an Indian," Mr Chidambaram told journalist Vir Sanghvi in an interview on television channel CNBC-TV 18.

He said that voice samples of the suspect from Pakistan were essential to conclusively estbalish the identity of the handler, who goes by the name of Abu Jindal.

"Goes by the name Abu Jindal. That's something we have known for many, many months now, he goes by the name Abu Jindal, but he is not Abu Jindal, that is not his real name," the Home Minister said.

"Now we can't get a finger on who he is, unless we get a voice sample," he said, adding that Pakistan would not give India the voice samples.

"Now there could be speculation that Abu Jindal could be A, Abu Jundal could be B. Now you may be right in your speculation, but how as Home Minister can you speculate? I can't speculate. Now secondly when we say he could be an Indian, he could be somebody who has acquired Indian characteristics," he said.

The Home Minister explained that the person could have infiltrated into India and lived in the country long enough to acquire an Indian accent and familiarity with the local language and words.

"Or he could be somebody who exfiltrated from India to Pakistan, and was adopted by the militants there," he said.

The Hindu had on February 1 reported that Mumbai police investigators might have succeeded in identifying an Indian Lashkar-e-Taiba operative who played a key role in guiding the operations of the team that carried out the 26/11 attack, which left 164 people killed.

The report said the police beleived the Indian national in the Lashkar's control room could be Syed Zabiuddin Syed Zakuddin Ansari, a Laskhar-linked Maharashtra resident who has been a fugitive since 2005.

Mr Chidambaram was asked about the report at his monthly press conference on that day, but he had said that he could neither confirm nor deny it.


India's e-waste likely to increase to 8,00,000 tonnes by 2012

India generated 1,46,800 tonnes of e-waste in 2005, which is expected to increase to 8,00,000 tonnes by 2012, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has said.

An official press release said a survey carried out by the CPCB showed that the top ten cities in the matter of generation of e-waste were Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Surat and Nagpur.

The release said the Ministry of Environment and Forests had notified the Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Trans-boundary Movement) Rules, 2008 for proper management and handling of hazardous wastes which include e-waste.

Under these rules, all units handling e-waste need to register with CPCB and the hazardous wastes generated shall be sent or sold to a registered or authorized recycler or re-processor or re-user.

The Guidelines for Environmentally Sound Management of E-waste published by CPCB provide the approach and methodology for environmentally sound management of e-waste, which include details such as e-waste composition and recycling potential of items of economic value, identification of possible hazardous contents in e-waste, the recycle, re-use and recovery options, treatment and disposal options and environmentally sound e-waste treatment technologies. The Guidelines emphasize the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility, the release added.


Govt. extends SoO pact with UPDS for six months

The Government today said it had been decided and mutually agreed to extend the Suspension of Operations (SoO) Agreement with the United People's Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) in Assam for a further period of six months upto July 31, 2010.

Tripartite talks on the demands of the UPDS are continuing, an official press release added.


Shashi Tharoor to visit Oman from February 5-7

Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor will pay a three-day visit to Oman from February 5-7 for strategic dialogue and consultations with the leadership of the Gulf state.

An official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said Dr Tharoor would be accompanied by an 11-member business delegation from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Apart from substantive discussions on areas of mutual, bilateral and regional interest with Mr Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood al Busaidi, Secretary General in the Omani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Tharoor will also meet Minister of Foreign Affairs Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister Responsible for Defence Affairs Sayyyid Badr bin Saud al Busaidi and other dignitaries.

Dr Tharoor will also give an address at the Diplomatic Institute at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on "Indian Foreign Policy Imperatives in the 21st Century".

According to the statement, India and Oman enjoy warm and cordial relations, which can be ascribed to historical contacts as well as contributions made by the Indian expatriate workforce numbering over 556,000 for the development of the Sultanate.

Following Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Oman in November, 2008, the relationship between the two countries has moved to a strategic partnership.

Trade between the two countries is on the upswing despite the global economic slowdown. India ranked as the fifth largest source of imports into Oman in 2009. Omani investments in India have exceeded $ 200 million primarily in refineries, tourism, pharmaceutial industry and home furniture. In 2008, major Indian companies, independently or in collaboration, bagged contracts worth $ 836 million.

"The visit of the Minister of State is expected to further strengthen and deepen the strategic relationship to our mutual advantage," the statement added.


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