ADVERTISEMENT

National

Jaswant says Jinnah was a nationalist demonised by Indians

Jaswant Singh
Jaswant Singh
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Jaswant Singh has described Pakistan's founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah as a "great man" and a "nationalist" who was misunderstood and demonised by Indians because of the partition of the country in 1947.

"I think we have misunderstood him because we needed to create a demon … we needed a demon because in the 20th century the most telling event in the sub-continent was the partition of the country," the former External Affairs Minister told journalist Karan Thapar in the Devil's Advocate programme on CNN-IBN.

The interview coincides with the release tomorrow of Mr Singh's biography of Jinnah. The first part of the interview will be telecast at 2030 hours and the second at 2330 hours today.

Asked if he subscribed to the popular demonisation of Jinnah in India, Mr Singh said, "Of course I don’t. To that I don’t subscribe. I was attracted by the personality which has resulted in a book. If I was not drawn to the personality I wouldn’t have written the book. It’s an intricate, complex personality, of great character, determination."

To a question about whether he viewed Jinnah as a great man, Mr Singh replied, "Oh yes, because he created something out of nothing and single-handedly he stood against the might of the Congress Party and against the British who didn’t really like him ... Gandhi himself called Jinnah a great Indian. Why don’t we recognize that? Why don’t we see why he called him that?"

Mr Singh, who also served as Finance Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, said that he thought Jinnah was a nationalist because he fought the British for an independent India but also fought resolutely and relentlessly for the interest of the Muslims of India. "...the acme of his nationalistic achievement was the 1916 Lucknow Pact of Hindu-Muslim Unity," he said.

Mr Singh said there was a lot in Jinnah's character that he admired. "I admire certain aspects of his personality. His determination and the will to rise. He was a self-made man. Mahatma Gandhi was the son of a Diwan. All these  – Nehru and others – were born to wealth and position. Jinnah created for himself a position. He carved in Bombay, a metropolitan city, a position for himself. He was so poor he had to walk to work … he told one of his biographers there was always room at the top but there’s no lift. And he never sought a lift."

He said the view, held by many in India, that Jinnah hated Hindus was totally wrong. "That certainly he was not … his principal disagreement was with the Congress Party ... he had no problems whatsoever with Hindus."

Speaking about the political events that led up to the partition of India, Mr Singh said Jawaharlal Nehru, who went on to become the country's first Prime Minister, believed in a highly centralised polity while Jinnah wanted a federal polity, which even Mahatma Gandhi had accepted. "Nehru didn’t. Consistently he stood in the way of a federal India until 1947 when it became a partitioned India," he said.

Mr Singh said the popular Indian view that Jinnah was the villain of the partition or the man principally responsible for it was wrong. "It is not borne out of the facts … we need to correct it."

About the political demands enunciated by Jinnah on behalf of Indian Muslims prior to 1947, Mr Singh said they were a search for some kind of autonomy of decision-making in their own social and economic destiny.

"Muslims saw that unless they had a voice in their own economic, political and social destiny they will be obliterated. That was the beginning (of their political demands) … for example, see the '46 election. Jinnah’s Muslim League wins all the Muslim seats and yet they don’t have sufficient numbers to be in office because the Congress Party has, without even a single Muslim, enough to form a government and they are outside of the government. So it was realized that simply contesting elections was not enough," he said.

Mr Singh said that, from his five-year-long research into the subject, he believed that Jinnah's call for Pakistan was a "negotiating tactic".

"From what I have written, I have found it was a negotiating tactic because he wanted certain provinces to be with the Muslim League, he wanted a certain percentage of (seats) in the central legislature. If he had that there would not have been partition," he said.

Asked about the Congress party's possible reaction to his views on Nehru, Mr Singh said, "I am not blaming anybody. I am not assigning blame. I am simply recalling what I have found as the development of issues and events of that period."

To a question about whether a united India would have been attained if the final decisions had been taken by Mahatma Gandhi, C Rajagopalachari or Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, rather than Nehru, he replied, "Yes, I believe so".

Mr Singh also spoke about the relationship between Jinnah and Mahatma Gandhi. "Jinnah was essentially a logician. He believed in the strength of logic. He was a parliamentarian. He believed in the efficacy of parliamentary politics. Gandhi, after testing the water, took to the trails of India and he took politics into the dusty villages of India."

According to him, Jinnah had two fears of Gandhi's style of mass politics. He thought that if mass movement was introduced into India, then the minorities in the country could be threatened and there could be Hindu-Muslim riots as a consequence. Jinnah also felt mass movement would result in bringing religion into Indian politics, which he did not want.

Asked if he looked upon both as failures, he said, "Yes, I am afraid I have to say that … I cannot treat this as a success either by Gandhi or Jinnah … the partition of India and the Hindu-Muslim divide cannot really be called Gandhiji’s great success … Jinnah got a moth-eaten Pakistan but the philosophy that Muslims are a separate nation was completely rejected within years of Pakistan coming into being."

The BJP leader said Indian Muslims had paid the price of partition and that India treated them as "aliens".

"Look into the eyes of the Muslims that live in India and if you truly see the pain with which they live, to which land do they belong? We treat them as aliens … without doubt Muslims have paid the price of partition. They could have been significantly stronger in a united India … of course, Pakistan and Bangladesh won’t like what I am saying."

"Every Muslim that lives in India is a loyal Indian and we must treat them as so," he added.

Describing his book as a "shake-up call," Mr Singh said, "We should learn from what we did wrong or didn’t do right so that we do not repeat the mistakes."

He said he had written what he had researched and believed in and had not written the book to please anyone.

"...how do I abandon my search, my yearning and what I have found? If I am wrong then somebody else should do the research and go and prove me wrong," he said.

He also made it clear that he had not written the book as a BJP parliamentarian. "I wrote this book as an Indian … this is not a party document. My party knows I have been working on this," he said, adding that he had mentioned it to Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani and others.

Asked if he was worried that they might be embarrassed and angry about his views and analysis, Mr Singh said, "No, they might disagree. That is a different matter. Why should there be anger?"

NNN

PM calls for urgent steps to reduce arrears of court cases

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday urged the judiciary and the executive to work together to make the Indian judiciary an arrear-free institution.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the inauguration of the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers of the States and Chief Justices of the High Courts.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the inauguration of the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers of the States and Chief Justices of the High Courts.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today urged the judiciary and the executive to work together to make the Indian judiciary an arrear-free institution.

"Like Gandhiji’s common man, the focus of the judicial system should to be to wipe every tear of every waiting litigant," he told the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices here this morning.

"I hope your deliberations will be centred on the single most important stakeholder in this system- the consumer of justice. Unless we meet his or her legitimate demands and expectations in letter and spirit, we cannot rest in peace," he said.

The Prime Minister said India was proud of the fact that its judiciary was dynamic and completely independent and the people of the country had reposed faith in the judicial organ in a very large measure.

He also pointed out that the legal system was manned by legal luminaries second to none in the world.

"Amazingly innovative legal doctrines and precepts have been the gift of the Indian legal system to the world. The "basic structure doctrine" and "public interest litigation" are but two examples. Judicial review has breached unprecedented frontiers," he observed.

But, he said, amidst such strengths, brilliance and dynamism, India had to suffer the scourge of the world's largest backlog of cases and timelines, which generate surprise globally and concern at home.

"The expeditious elimination of this scourge is the biggest challenge for such conferences and should constitute the highest priority for all of us," he stressed.

Dr Singh said the war against the mammoth number of pending cases needed a multi-pronged approach and made it clear that there was no space for piecemeal, patchy or sectoral responses.

At the same time, he emphasised that grand mega plans must be tempered and accompanied by common sense, nitty-gritty solutions, in which the big and the small are harmonised.

"In this war on arrears, the entire legal system and each rung of it has to function as a seamless web and an indivisible whole. Naturally, the apex court has to discharge a vital role. It has to be a catalyst, an organiser, a mentor, an umpire, a participant , and, above all, a role model, all at the same time," he said.

The Prime Minister assured the meeting that the government would not be found wanting at any level in this joint effort. "We promise to match each step of the judiciary with two of our own. We will not hesitate to walk the extra mile at every opportunity," he said.

He said diverse procedural, substantive and attitudinal reforms needed to be continuously and collectively applied to achieve results in this effort.

According to him, meritorious individuals should be appointed in a timely manner to judicial posts, which had been enhanced at the High Court level by 150 in the last few years.

He said the existing vacancies in High Courts were quite high in number and needed to be filled up urgently and urged the Chief Justices of High Courts to initiate proposals for quickly filling up these posts.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being welcomed by the Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily at the inauguration of the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers of the States and Chief Justices of the High Courts.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being welcomed by the Law and Justice Minister Veerappa Moily at the inauguration of the Joint Conference of Chief Ministers of the States and Chief Justices of the High Courts.

He said he had been told that vacancies at the subordinate level roughly accounted for 20 to 25 per cent of the subordinate judicial posts. He said he had been informed that almost 3000 posts of judges in the country were vacant because of delay in recruitment and stressed that they must be filled up without any further loss of time.

Dr Singh said the State Judicial Academies needed to be strengthened for building capacities of judicial officers.

"Comprehensive computerisation and ultimate linking of all courts in the country into one mega judicial information grid needs to be tailored and adapted to enable screening of all pending cases. Such screening would facilitate disposal of many old cases as moot or infructuous," he said.

The Prime Minister said that, despite the recent increases in judicial strength, there was scope for significant future increase in court strength to improve India’s low judge per million population ratio.

"This is subject, of course, to expeditious filling of existing vacancies. The mechanisms and processes for providing legal aid to the marginalised sections of the society need to be improved," he said.

According to him, Consensual Dispute Resolution – whether by way of arbitration or diverse forms of mediation – was an effective bypass to litigation, with significant preventive and curative virtues.

The Civil Procedure Code now offers an empowering menu of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) choices, he pointed out.

"I am happy to note that court annexed mediation centres are now being created at different levels. But they remain still a drop in the ocean. The plea bargaining provided for by the law since 2005 has not been fully utilised till now. There is a need to give it wider publicity to reduce the pendency of cases and the number of under-trials in the country," he said.

Dr Singh said the Ministry of Law and Justice was working on a road-map for judicial reforms and had already started consultations on the reform initiatives with various stakeholders.

He said a national consultation with jurists and stakeholders would be held in New Delhi soon and it was expected to throw up the broad contours and set the stage for reform.

"But a lot of work will still have to be done for crafting a detailed blueprint and ensuring its implementation thereafter," he remarked.

The Prime Minister urged the state governments to initiate immediate action to operationalise the Gram Nyayalayas Act in their states. He said that though the legislation had been enacted in January this year, it was yet to be enforced.

According to him, once the Act was fully implemented, there would be more than 5000 courts at the intermediate panchayat level, which would bring justice to the doorstep of the common people, who currently feel that getting justice in India is not only time-consuming and costly but sometimes also an intractable proposition.

He said the Centre had committed assistance to the states for setting up the Gram Nyayalays. "While there could be differing views on the adequacy of the assistance being provided, this should not hold us from speedily bringing the Act into force," he said.

Dr Singh informed the meeting that the Union Government, on the advice of the Chief Justice of India, had agreed to establish 71 additional CBI Courts in different states. "Fast Track Courts should conduct their business differently and faster than normal courts; only then we shall be able to tackle the pendency in cases," he said.

He also said that the large number of under-trials in Indian jails was a matter of concern. Many such under-trials had been in jail for periods longer than they would have served had they been sentenced, he pointed out.

"This is indeed very disturbing. There have been pronouncements of the High Courts and the Supreme Court on this issue but still the number of under-trials in jails continues to be very large. I sincerely hope this Conference will devote some time to this issue," he said.

The Prime Minister said the annual conference had become an extremely valuable institutional forum for fruitful interaction between two vital wheels of the chariot of good governance--the executive and the judiciary.

"The enormous and often non quantifiable benefits of such meaningful dialogue in such exchanges cannot be overemphasized. Institutional interactions like this create a deeper understanding of each others’ perspective, enhance trust and impart the necessary direction and momentum for processes of good governance," he added.

NNN

2 H1N1 deaths in Bangalore, 165 fresh cases in country

Two patients in Bangalore died of swine flu in Bangalore today, taking the total number of deaths caused by influenza A H1N1 in the country so far to 23.

Of the 23 deaths, as many as 16 have occurred in Maharashtra alone--13 in Pune, 2 in Mumbai and 1 in Nasik.

Bangalore in Karnataka accounts for three of the deaths, while Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat, Chennai in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala have reported one death each.

Meanwhile, as many as 165 new cases of H1N1 were reported from across the country today, 97 of them from Maharashtra alone. Of these 69 were from Pune, which is by far the city worst-hit by the pandemic in India, 6 from Solapur, 5 each from Nanded, Nasik and Latur, 2 from Ratnagiri, and 1 each from Osmanabad, Nagpur, Dhule, Kolhapur and Yavatmal, an official statement said.

As many as 15 new cases were reported from Delhi, 8 from Bangalore, 4 each from Mangalore, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Coimbatore and Shillong, 3 each from Kochi, Kozhikode and Pondicherry, 2 each from Thrissur, Gurgaon and Mizoram, and 1 each from Ahmedabad, Goa, Hyderabad, Patna, Noida, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Faridabad, Mallapuram and Chennai.

With these, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus reported in the country so far has gone up to 1555, the statement said.

Most of the fresh cases are indigenous in nature, with the patients having no history of recent travel abroad, it said.

Of the 1555 cases, as many as 689 have already been discharged, while the rest are undergoing treatment in hospitals, it added.

According to the latest update from WHO, as many as 1,77,457 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus have been reported from 168 countries around the world, with a total of 1462 deaths, as on August 6.

NNN

New guidelines for screening, testing, and isolation for H1N1

The Union Government today issued fresh guidelines for screening, testing and isolation for influenza A H1N1 to prevent and contain the outbreak of the virus, which was declared as a phase 6 pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in mid-June.

The flu has claimed at least 21 lives in India and affected 1390 people in different cities, as of yesterday.

The new guidelines were finalised at a meeting chaired by Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad here yesterday that lasted more than five hours and was attended by experts form public and private hospitals and organisations, along with senior officials of the Ministry.

The meeting discussed threadbare the various guidelines and protocols developed by the WHO, the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Atlanta, United States, and the National Health Service, United Kingdom.

According to the new guidelines, at first, all individuals seeking medical consultations for flu-like symptoms should be screened at healthcare facilities, Government and private, or examined by a doctor and these will be categorised as follows:

Category- A

Patients with mild fever plus cough/sore throat with or without body ache, headache, diarrhoea and vomiting will be categorised as Category-A. They do not require Oseltamivir and should be treated for the symptoms mentioned above. The patients should be monitored for their progress and re-assessed at 24 to 48 hours by the doctor.

No testing of the patient for H1N1 is required.

Patients should confine themselves at home and avoid mixing up with public and high-risk members in the family.

Category-B

(i) In addition to all the signs and symptoms mentioned under Category-A, if the patient has high-grade fever and severe sore throat, may require home isolation and Oseltamivir;

(ii) In addition to all the signs and symptoms mentioned under Category-A, individuals having one or more of the following high risk conditions shall be treated with Oseltamivir:
  • Children less than 5 years old;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Persons aged 65 years or older;
  • Patients with lung diseases, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, blood disorders, diabetes, neurological disorders, cancer and HIV/AIDS;
  • Patients on long term cortisone therapy.
  • No tests for H1N1 is required for Category-B (i) and (ii).
  • All patients of Category-B (i) and (ii) should confine themselves at home and avoid mixing with public and high risk members in the family.

Category-C

In addition to the above signs and symptoms of Category-A and B, if the patient has one or more of the following:
  • Breathlessness, chest pain, drowsiness, fall in blood pressure, sputum mixed with blood, bluish discolouration of nails;
  • Irritability among small children, refusal to accept feed;
  • Worsening of underlying chronic conditions.
All these patients mentioned above in Category-C require testing, immediate hospitalization and treatment.

An official press release said these guidelines would be reviewed and revised from time to time as per need and on the basis of the spread of the disease.

NNN

PM to open meeting of state environment ministers on Aug 18

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate a National Conference of the Ministers of Environment and Forests of all the States and Union Territories here on August 18.

The meeting has been convened by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests for a comprehensive stock-taking of the implementation of the policies and programmes related to protection of environment, forests and wildlife, an official press release said here today.

Apart from Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, the conference will also be attended by senior officials of the Union and State Governments, chairmen of the Central and State Pollution Control Boards, Principal Chief Conservators of Forests of the states, Chief Wildlife Wardens, Members of the Planning Commission and representatives of non-governmental organisations.

The release said the conference assumed significance in the context of the emerging and continuing challenges in respect of environment, forests and wildlife. It said the conference would seek to forge enhanced synergies between the efforts of the Central and State Governments for effective implementation of policies and programmes in this regard.

According to it, the existing hiatus between the environmental and forestry laws and their implementation in the country is a matter of concern. The increasing urbanization, along with rapid growth in industrial infrastructure and transportation sectors, has resulted in new pressures on ecosystems. Newer and emerging challenges like climate change, loss of biodiversity, electronics waste, noise pollution, man-animal conflict and illegal trafficking of wild animals are posing threat to environment.

The conference is a part of the Ministry’s exercise to have strategic interventions and creative solutions.

Among other things, the conference will discuss ways of monitoring compliance with environmental and forestry-related laws and regulations and a road-map for institution-building.

Other issues likely to figure at the meeting are cleaning of rivers, strategies for increasing forest cover, strengthening of state forest departments, and wildlife management, including Tiger Conservation.

NNN

President's award for classical language scholars

The President has decided to award the Certificate of Honour to 23 scholars of Sanskrit, Pali/Prakrit, Arabic and Persian on the occasion of Independence Day.

The distinctions are conferred every year on Independence Day in recognition of substantial contribution in these languages.

The awardees this year include Prof. Kompella Ramasuryanarayana; Prof. Vachaspati Sharma Tripathi; Dr. Ramakant Shukla; Prof. Vishwa Murti Shastri; Dr. N.S. Anatha Rangachar; Dr. N. Gopala Panicker; Dr. Sudyumna Acharya; Prof. Keshao Ramrao Joshi; Dr. Bhagaban Panda; Dr. Kamal Anand; Pt. Badari Prasad Shastri; Pt. Annadur Rajagopala Chariar; Prof. Ram Chandra Pandey; Prof. Ashok Kumar Kalia and Dr. Samiran Chandra Chakrabarti for Sanskrit.

The other awardees are Prof. Sheldon Pollock for Sanskrit (International), Dr. Dharma Chandra Jain for Pali/Prakrit, Prof. Shabbir Ahmad Nadvi; Prof. Shah Abdus Salam and Shri Abullais Ansari for Arabic, Prof. Rehana Khatoon; Dr. Mohd. Yaseen Quddusi and Prof. Syed Mohammad Tariq Hasan for Persian.

In addition, the President has also awarded the Maharshi Badrayan Vyas Samman to six scholars of Sanskrit and Persian. They are Dr. Chandra Bhushan Jha; Dr. Malhar Arvind Kulkarni; Dr. Sachchidanand Mishra; Dr. Narayan Dash and Dr. Sashibhusan Mishra for Sanskrit and Dr. Asad Ali Khurshid for Persian, an official press release added.

NNN

Shahrukh Khan detained at Newark airport for two hours

File photo of Shahrukh Khan
File photo of Shahrukh Khan

Bollywood megastar Shahrukh Khan was detained and questioned at the Newark International Airport in New Jersey, United States, for about two hours yesterday before the Indian mission in New York intervened and got him out, reports reaching here said.

In Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs took up the matter with the Embassy of the United States, which said it was trying to find out what had happened.

US Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer said in a statement to the media that the embassy was trying to ascertain the facts.

"We are trying to ascertain the facts of the case -- to understand what took place," he said.

"Shah Rukh Khan, the actor and global icon, is a very welcome guest in the United States. Many Americans love his films," he added.

According to the reports, the actor was taken aside to a separate room and questioned for a long time about the purpose of his visit to the US and other such details. The actor is in the US to attend an Independence Day event in Chicago as the guest of honour.

Khan told a television channel that he initially thought the US officials were just being nice to him when they asked him to accompany him to another room. It took him a while to understand that they were questioning him because his name had cropped up on the immigration official's computer, perhaps because it resembled the name of some other person who they are looking for.

When the process took much longer than he thought it should, Khan finally called up a friend in the US, who brought the matter to the attention of the Consulate General of India in New York, which then swung into action and got him out after vouching for him.

Khan said the authorities had a right to question people but he felt the process had taken far too long in his case. He said it had caused him some inconvenience and embarrassment.

Malayalam superstar Mammoty, who is Mohammed Kutty in real life, had to undergo a similar experience in New York recently.



In Delhi, Mr Vishnu Prakash, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said Shahrukh Khan had flown into Newark International Airport late last evening (India time), where he was taken aside for "secondary questioning".

"The Consulate General of India got in touch with him immediately upon learning about the incident. Mr. Khan said that he was all right. The Consulate offered him any assistance that he may require," Mr Prakash said.

He said the Ministry had separately taken up the matter with the US Embassy in New Delhi, which is ascertaining the details.

NNN

PM says govt. can cope with drought, has enough foodgrain stocks

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Saturday the government would be able to meet quite well the situation arising out deficient rainfall and said it had adequte stocks of foodgrains.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Nation on the 63rd Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Nation on the 63rd Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the deficient rainfall in many parts of the country would definitely have some adverse impact on crops but he was sure the government and the country as a whole would be able to meet the situation quite well.

"We will provide all possible assistance to our farmers to deal with the drought," Dr Singh said in his address to the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort in the capital on Independence Day.

He said that, in view of the deficiency in the monsoons, the government had postponed the date for repayment of bank loans of farmers. He said the government was also giving additional support to farmers for payment of interest on short-term crop loans.

"I have always believed that India's prosperity is not possible without the prosperity of our farmers. This is the reason why our Government had waived bank loans of lakhs of farmers. We have increased the support prices for agricultural products by far more than ever before," he said.

The Prime Minister also assured the nation that the government had adequate stocks of foodgrains and promised that all efforts would be made to control the rising prices of foodgrains, pulses and other goods of daily use. He appealed to all state governments to exercise their statutory powers to prevent hoarding and blackmarketing of essential commodities.

Dr Singh said restoring the country's economic growth rate to nine per cent was the greatest challenge the government faced.

"We will make every necessary effort to meet this challenge -- whether it is for increasing capital flows into the country, or for encouraging exports or for increasing public investment and expenditure. We expect that there will be an improvement in the situation by the end of this year, but till that time we will all have to bear with the fall out of the global economic slow down. I appeal to all businessmen and industrialists to join us in our effort to tackle this difficult situation and to fulfill their social obligations fully," he said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the economy had grown at a rate of about nine per cent from the year 2004-05 to 2007-08, which came down to 6.7 per cent in 2008-09 due to the global economic crisis. He said that it was only a result of the government's policies that the global crisis had affected India to a lesser extent than many other countries.

This was the sixth consecutive year that Dr Singh was addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort and he used the occasion today to speak about the fight against terrorism and Naxalism, the efforts being made by the government to tackle the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, climate change, the need to conserve water resources, and India's relations with its neighbours.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Nation on the 63rd Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the Nation on the 63rd Independence Day from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

He also dwelt at length on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's flagship programmes for employment generation, infrastructure-building and rural and urban development.

The Prime Minister said terrorism had emerged as a threat to peace and harmony in all parts of the world. He said the government had, after the horrific terror attacks in Mumbai last November, taken many steps against the evil and the security forces and intelligence agencies were being constantly upgraded.

"I am sure that with cooperation from all sections of our society, we will be successful in eliminating terrorism from our country," he said.

He said some parts of the country continued to be affected by the Naxalite menace and it was the Constitutional obligation of the government to protect the life and liberty of citizens.

"Those who think that they can seize power by recourse to the gun do not understand the strength of our democracy," he said.

Dr Singh said the Centre would redouble its efforts to deal with Naxalite activities and would extend all help to the state governments to make their police forces more effective.

"Central forces will be provided wherever they are needed. We will also do more to ensure better coordination among States," he said.

The Prime Minister also stated that the government would endeavour to remove those causes of social and economic dissatisfaction which gave rise to problems like Naxalism.

"We believe in a development process which will remove backwardness, unemployment and reduce disparities in income and wealth. We seek active partnership of our brothers and sisters of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in our development processes," he said.

On the H1N1 virus that has affected various parts of the country, he said the Centre and the state governments would together continue to make all necessary efforts to control the spread of the infection. He also assured the people that the situation did not warrant a disruption of daily lives because of fear and anxiety.

At the outset, Dr Singh recalled the sacrifices of lakhs of Indians which had helped the country win its freedom and bring it to its current stage of development.

"Our well being and progress have been built upon the foundation of the hard work and sacrifices of our freedom fighters, the brave jawans of our armed forces, our farmers, our workers and our scientists.  
 
"Today, we remember all those martyrs who laid down their lives for the freedom and security of our country. The best way of paying homage to those brave sons of our country will be to resolve today that we will always stay committed to strengthening the unity and integrity of our nation. Let us all together take a vow that we will spare no effort to take India to greater heights," he said.

The Prime Minister said the recent elections had strengthened the nation and its democracy. "In these elections, the people of India have favoured a politics that integrates our country and our society. You have chosen a political arrangement which is secular and which includes many varied strands of thought. You have voted for a democratic way of life which provides for resolution of differences through debate and discussion. I am of the view that we have received a mandate for starting a new era of cooperation and harmony in our national life. We accept with humility the great responsibility you have entrusted to us," he said.

He assured the people that his government would work with sincerity and dedication to fulfill the expectation of each and every citizen of India.

"It will be our effort to ensure that every citizen of India is prosperous and secure and is able to lead a life of dignity and self respect... It will be our endeavour to carry everyone with us and to lead the country ahead on the path of development by creating an environment of consensus and cooperation," he said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being received by the Defence Minister A K Antony on his arrival at the Red Fort. Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju is also seen.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being received by the Defence Minister A K Antony on his arrival at the Red Fort. Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju is also seen.

Dr Singh said the policies and schemes of the UPA government in its first five-year term had been based on the paradigm that India's progress could be real only when every citizen benefited from it and every Indian had a right over its national resources.

"It has been our endeavour to ensure that the benefit of development reaches all sections of the society and all regions and citizens of the country. Our efforts have succeeded to some extent. But our work is still incomplete. We will carry it forward with firm determination and sincerity," he said.

The Prime Minister spoke of the need to adopt modern means to be successful in agriculture and to make more efficient use of scarce land and water resources. He said scientists must devise new techniques to increase the productivity of small and marginal farmers.

"The country needs another Green Revolution and we will try our best to make it possible. Our goal is 4% annual growth in agriculture and I am confident that we will be able to achieve this target in the next 5 years," he said.

He said the government's ardent desire was to ensure that not even a single citizen of India went hungry. He said this was the reason the government had promised a food security law under which every family living below the poverty line would get a fixed amount of foodgrains every month at concessional rates.

"It is also our national resolve to root out malnutrition from our country. In this effort, special care will be taken of the needs of women and children. We will endeavour to extend the benefit of ICDS to every child below the age of six years in the country by March 2012," he said.

He said the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) implemented by the UPA government in its first term (2004-09) had fulfilled the expectations from it to a large extent and had benefited about four crore families in 2008-09. He said it had also contributed to improvement in rural infrastructure.

Dr Singh said that the government would improve the programme to bring more transparency and accountability into it and new types of works would be added to those that could be taken up under it.

Stressing that good education was essential for the empowerment of the people, he spoke about the recently-enacted Right to Education Act which provides each child in the country with the right to elementary education.

He said funds would not be a constraint as far education was concerned and promised special attention to the needs of disabled children.

The Prime Minister said that, as a result of the government's efforts in the last few years, almost every child in the country had access to primary education today and attention now needed to be paid to secondary education.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inspecting the Guard of Honour at the Red Fort.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inspecting the Guard of Honour at the Red Fort.

He said secondary education would be expanded through a programme that would ensure that every child in the country got its benefit. He said the government would endeavour to provide bank loans and scholarships to the maximum number of students to support their education.

He said a new scheme would be started to help students from economically weaker sections of society by way of reduced interest rate on their education loans. This will benefit about 5 lakh students in getting technical and professional education.

He spoke about the National Rural Health Mission aimed at strengthening the infrastructure for rural public health services and said the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana would be expanded so as to cover each family below the povrty line. He said special attention would be paid to the needs of differently-abled people and facilities available to them would be increased.

Dr Singh said the government's flagship programmes for the development of rural and urban areas, such as the Bharat Nirman scheme and the Jahwarlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), would be accelerated. He said more ambitious targets for schemes for house construction and telecommunications in rural areas would be set.

He said the government would accelerate its efforts to improve physical infrastructure in the country. He referred in this regard to the plan to construct 20 km of National Highways every day and the work started by the Railways on the Dedicated Freight Corridors between Delhi and Mumbai and Delhi and Kolkata.

He said the government was giving careful attention to the problems of Air India and would resolve them soon. The schemes of roads, railways and civil aviation being implemented in Jammu & Kashmir and the States of the North East would be especially monitored, he said.

Dr Singh said the government wished to make the country slum free as early as possible and said that, in the next five years, it would provide better housing facilities to slum dwellers through the new Rajiv Awas Yojana.

The Prime Minister said climate change had become an issue of global concern in recent years. "If we don't take the necessary steps in time, our glaciers will melt and our rivers will go dry. The problems of droughts and floods will grow in seriousness. We also need to prevent air pollution," he explained.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh receiving the Guard of Honour from the Saluting Dias at the Red Fort on the 63rd Independence Day.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh receiving the Guard of Honour from the Saluting Dias at the Red Fort on the 63rd Independence Day.

According to him, India wished to tackle the problem of climate change in partnership with other countries of the world.

"We have taken a decision to constitute 8 National Missions. We are committed to meet the challenge of climate change through these 8 Missions. To increase the use of solar energy and to make it affordable, we will launch the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission on November 14 this year," he said.

He urged the people to cooperate with the Government in its efforts to keep the rivers of the country, especially the Ganga, clean.

"Our natural resources are limited. We must use them more efficiently. We need a new culture of energy conservation. We also need to prevent the misuse of water. We will pay more attention to programmes for water collection and storage. 'Save Water' should be one of our national slogans," he said.

Dr Singh said the country could meet all challenges that confronted it if the people worked unitedly. He said citizens had the right to express dissent and anger and stressed that every government should be sensitive to people's complaints and dissatisfaction.

"But nothing is achieved by destroying public property and indulging in violence against one's fellow citizens. Our democracy has no place for those who resort to violence to express their disagreement, and the government will deal firmly with such people," he asserted.

The Prime Minister said he did not subscribe to the view that to take special care of the deprived sections of the society amounted to appeasement.

"In fact, we believe that it is our solemn duty to do so. Our government will give its full attention to the well-being of our brothers and sisters belonging to the minority communities. We have started many schemes for the welfare of the minorities. These programmes will be taken forward. The funds for the special schemes taken up for the development of minority concentration districts have been enhanced quite substantially this year," he said.

He said the government had allocated increased funds for scholarship schemes for minorities that the first UPA government had started. A Bill to prevent communal violence had been introduced in Parliament and efforts would be made to convert it into a law as soon as possible, he said.

The Prime Minister said it was regrettable that the practice of female foeticide persisted in the country and described it as a shame for the entire nation.

"We must eliminate it as early as possible. Our progress will be incomplete till women become equal partners in all areas of our life and in our nation's progress," he remarked.

He said the government was committed to the early passage of the Women's Reservation Bill, which would provide one-third reservation for women in Parliament and the State Assemblies.

He said the government was also working on a legislation to provide 50 per cent reservation for women in rural and urban local bodies. He said it had also decided to launch a National Female Literacy Mission, through which female illiteracy would be reduced by half in the next three years.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unfurling the Tricolour on the ramparts of the Red Fort.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unfurling the Tricolour on the ramparts of the Red Fort.

Saying that the nation was proud of its soldiers, Dr Singh said the government had accepted the  recommendations of the committee constituted to examine the issue of pension of ex-servicemen. This will lead to increased pension for about 12 lakh retired jawans and Junior Commissioned Officers, he said.

The Prime Minister said the special needs of the backward regions of the country needed to be taken care of and said the government would redouble its efforts to remove regional imbalances in the level of development. He said the government would constantly endeavour to make the states of the North-East equal partners in the country's progress.

"Imphal or Kohima may be physically far away from Delhi, but the welfare of our brothers and sisters of the North East is always close to our heart. We know that without their well-being the country cannot move forward," he said.

Dr Singh said the vigorous participation of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the state legislative assembly elections and the Lok Sabha polls during the past one year was proof that there was no place for separatist thought in the state.

"Our Government will continue assisting the State Government in improving governance in all parts of Jammu & Kashmir. It will be our endeavour to ensure that human rights are respected in the state and all its citizens are able to lead a life of peace and dignity in an environment of safety and security. We respect the special assurances and concessions provided to Jammu & Kashmir in our Constitution. We will continue to honour these special provisions," he said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that today's world was becoming smaller in many respects and, whether it was the international economic crisis or climate change, what happened in one part of the world had an effect on other parts also.

"The international economic and political order is changing. Questions are being raised on the functioning and continued effectiveness of the multilateral institutions established in the 20th century," he said.

Turning to foreign policy, he said India had good relations with the United States, Russia, China, Japan and Europe. There was a tremendous amount of goodwill for India and its people in the countries of South East Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and the Gulf. India had also  strengthened its traditional ties with Africa and was looking for new opportunities in Latin America, he said.

He said India wanted to live with its neighbours in peace and harmony. He said the country would make every possible effort to create an environment conducive to the social and economic development of the whole of South Asia.

Dr Singh said the benefits of various programmes and schemes would not reach the public until the government machinery was free of corruption and was effective in its implementation.

"I would like our public administration to be more efficient so that programmes for public good can be implemented faster. We need to improve our delivery systems to provide basic services to our citizens," he said.
Tricolour balloons released in the sky after the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the Nation from Red Fort.
Tricolour balloons released in the sky after the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the Nation from Red Fort.

He said the government would act with speed on the recommendations of the Administrative Reforms Commission to strengthen governance.

Renewed efforts will be made to decentralize public administration through the Panchayati Raj Institutions and to ensure greater involvement of people in it. Initiative will be taken for a new partnership between the civil society and the government so that tax payers' money is better spent, he said.

He said the Right to Information Act, enacted to enhance accountability and transparency in public life, would be improved so that it became more effective.

He said special efforts would be made to strengthen the administrative machinery for the government's rural programmes. He said people in villages and semi-urban areas should get services similar to the residents of urban areas.

According to him, communications and information technology could go a long way in achieving this objective. He also referred to the setting up of the Unique Identification Authority of India.

"This is a historic step to link up the whole country through a high quality administrative arrangement. We expect the first set of identity numbers to be available in the next one to one and a half years," he said.

The Prime Minister said that, as he stood on the ramparts of the Red Fort, he could feel the energy of more than 100 crore Indians marching ahead on the path of progress.

"Some people question whether India will ever be able to attain its true potential. I have no doubt about this. We are rapidly moving forward. We have faith in ourselves. We have political stability. Our democracy is an example for the whole world. We are gaining in economic strength. And most importantly, we have full confidence in our youth. They are our future. I am sure that they will take our country to a new glory," he asserted.

Earlier, Dr Singh was received on his arrival at the Lahore Gate of the fort by Defence Minister A K Antony, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar.

The Defence Secretary introduce General Officer Commanding (GOC), Delhi Area, Lt General Kanwal Jit Singh Oberoi to the Prime Minister, who then conducted him to the saluting base where a combined inter-services and police guard presented a general salute to him. Thereafter, Dr Singh inspected the guard of honour.

The Guard of Honour contingent for the Prime Minister consisted of one officer and 24 men each from Army, Navy, Air Force and Delhi Police. The Guard of Honour was positioned directly in front of the National Flag across the moat below the rampart.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chanting 'Jai Hind' from the ramparts of the Red Fort.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chanting 'Jai Hind' from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

This year, the Navy was the coordinating agency and the Guard of Honour was commanded by Cdr Gurkeerat Singh Sekhon. The Army contingent was commanded by Captain Bhaskar Pandey, Naval Contingent by Lt Cdr KSN Kumar, Air Force Contingent by Sqn Ldr AS Sachdeva and Delhi Police contingent by Assistant Commissioner of Police Pushpender Kumar.

The Army contingent for the Prime Minister's Guard was from 6th Battalion of the Assam Regiment. The battalion was raised on April 1, 1964 at Assam Regimental Centre in Happy Valley, Shillong. During the 1971 operations, the unit had the singular honour and proud privilege of accepting the surrender of the entire Nator Garrison of the Pakistan Army. More than 5500 officers and other ranks of the garrison, along with a huge quantity of arms and ammunitions, laid down their arms to the battalion.

The battalion is presently the ceremonial battalion of the Indian Army, deployed in Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate and other important places in the capital.

After inspecting the Guard of Honour, the Prime Minister proceeded to the ramparts where he was greeted by Mr Antony, Mr Raju, Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik. The GOC Delhi area then conducted the Prime Minister to the dais to unfurl the National Flag.

The unfurling of the tri-colour synchronized with the 21-gun salute fired by the gunners of the elite 299 Field Regiment. The battery was commanded by Lt Col Manu Mohan and the Gun Position Officer was RHM Paramjeet Singh.

The National Flag Guard, comprising 32 men and one officer each from Army, Navy Air Force and Delhi Police, presented the Rashtriya Salute at the time of unfurling of the National Flag by the Prime Minister. Cdr Jasvinder Singh will command the Guards. The Naval Contingent for National Flag Guard was commanded by Lt Cdr Manish Chadha, the Army contingent by Captain Vinay Naik, the Air Force contingent by Sqn Ldr C Gulati and Delhi Police contingent by Additional DCP Vivek Kishor.

The Naval Band played the National Anthem when the National Guard presented "Rashtriya Salute" while the Prime Minister unfurled the tricolour. All Service personnel in uniform stood and saluted the flag. The Naval Band was commanded by Dalbir Lal, Master Chief Petty Officer Musician 2nd Class.

Two Naval Officers, Lt A P S Chouhan and Lt K G Das were positioned on either side of the saluting dais for the PM for AsDC duties. Lt Manish Mathew assisted the Prime Minister in the unfurling of the National Flag.
School children of Delhi, dressed in green and light brown colours, re-create the image of India Gate during the Independence Day ceremony at Red Fort in the Capital on Saturday.
School children of Delhi, dressed in green and light brown colours, re-create the image of India Gate during the Independence Day ceremony at Red Fort in the Capital on Saturday.

The Army contingent for National Flag Guard was from the 9th Battalion of Maratha Light Infantry which was raised on October 1, 1964 at the Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre, Belgaum. The Battalion has distinguished itself in almost all kinds of operations. During the Indo Pak War of 1971, the Battalion performed commendably at Shakargarh Sector (Basantar) as part of 54 Infantry Division.

After the Prime Minister's address, schoolchildren and cadets of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) sang the National Anthem.

About one thousand Junior Division Cadets of the NCC from Delhi Directorate, comprising Army, Navy, Air Force and Girls wings, participated in the flag-hoisting ceremony this year.

As many as 3550 girl students from 32 government and government-aided schools under the Directorate of Education, National Capital Territory of Delhi sang patriotic songs in different regional languages before the start of the ceremony. These children dressed up in green and light brown colour re-created the image of India Gate, one of Delhi's and the country's most famous landmarks.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, several Union Ministers, top officials of the government and the armed forces and members of the diplomatic corps were amongst those who attended the function.

NNN

Moderate quake hits Andaman Islands

A moderate earthquake, measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale, shook the Andaman Islands in the early hours of today, the Indian Meteorological Department said.

The tremor was felt at 0110 hours IST and its epicentre lay at 14.1 N latitude and 93.2 E longitude, it said.

Another moderate quake had hit the islands on Thursday while a high-intensity tremor, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, had been experienced in the islands and many other parts of India's east coast on Tuesday.

NNN

PIB to webcast PM's address to nation

The Press Information Bureau (PIB) has made arrangements for the webcast of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's address to the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort tomorrow morning on Independence Day.

The webcast will be available simultaneously with the telecast of the address on Doordarshan, an official press release said.

The webcast, being arranged in collaboration with the National Informatics Centre (NIC), will be available from 0700 hours, it said.

PIB has been telecasting important speeches from 2005 to disseminate them to a larger audience using modern technology.

President Pratiba Patil's address to the nation this evening on the eve of Independence Day was also webcast by PIB.

The webcast can also be seen on http://independenceday.nic.in/

NNN

Patil says country must be prepared to cope with less rains, handle H1N1

President Pratibha Patil said on Friday India must be prepared to face the situation arising out of the fact that the monsoon this year had been less than normal, impacting agriculture and availability of water, and handle the swine flu pandemic.
President Pratibha Patil addressing the Nation on the eve of the 63rd Independence Day.
President Pratibha Patil addressing the Nation on the eve of the 63rd Independence Day.
President Pratibha Patil today said the country must be prepared to face the situation arising out of the fact that the monsoon this year had been less than normal, impacting agriculture and availability of water.

"The Government is taking all possible steps to deal with it," she said in her address to the nation this evening on the eve of Independence Day, which was telecast live on Doordarshan and other television channels and broadcast on All India Radio.

Ms Patil also said that the Government was taking all necessary measures to handle the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, which had claimed 21 lives so far in the country.

She said citizens had to come forward to contribute to the Government's efforts in these areas and in other development initiatives through public-private partnerships, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), community groups or Self Help Groups.

"An enlightened citizenry conscious of its civic duties and social responsibilities, maintaining discipline, following good habits particularly about hygiene and cleanliness, respectful towards nature’s bounty and sensitive to environmental concerns is the greatest asset of a nation," she said.

The President also said that terrorism must be defeated in the interest of the collective goal of humankind to build peaceful societies and a peaceful world. "We need to work together towards this end as humankind shares a common destiny," she said.

"Terrorism, which targets innocent people, is the very anti-thesis of peaceful co-existence. It is condemnable because it is against the tenets of every religion and faith,,,," she said.

At the outset, the President extended her warmest greetings to Indians all over the world and conveyed a special word of gratitude to the personnel of the Armed Forces, para-military forces and Central and state-level police and internal security forces.

She dwelt at length on the long and arduous struggle to liberate India from the colonial yoke and paid homage to those who took part in the freedom movement to give Indians a sovereign nation.

According to her, the four essential pillars necessary to support the edifice of India have been and remain - democracy, inclusive economic development, social empowerment and a value system based on the country's civilizational heritage.

Ms Patil also spoke about the 15th General Elections and how an effort was made to reach out to every voter, even in the remotest parts of the country.

"If we can work to ensure that each citizen gets an opportunity to be heard while choosing representatives to Parliament and the Assemblies, it also becomes our bounden duty to ensure that they are heard even in the period between elections. Each elected Member of Parliament represents on an average the voice of over a 1.3 million electorate - larger than the population of some nations, and this imposes a huge responsibility to represent the aspirations of those who have elected them. They have a clear obligation to work for the welfare of the people and the progress of the nation," she emphasised.

The President pointed out that the expectations of the people were rising as they were becoming more aware of their rights and sought better opportunities.

"Facilities, amenities and services meant for them, whether they are living in rural or urban areas, can be delivered smoothly only is there is an effective governance system that is less cumbersome but more transparent and accountable. There is outrage when money meant for welfare schemes is pilfered out by corrupt practices.

"The flagship programmes of the Government are comprehensive ranging from health to education, employment to expanding social and economic infrastructure. Their implementation will have to be at optimal levels for an impact to be made on the lives of the people. Hence, the emphasis on reform of governance for effective delivery of public services is critical to change the lives of the people. The administrators must be responsive to the needs of the people. Their work is a public service – commitment, dedication and honesty should be the hallmarks of their work," she said.

Ms Patil said India's uninterrupted democratic credentials and its steady economic progress achieved due to the people's hard work had fortified India’s stature.

"Even in the face of a global slowdown, which demands that we manage the economy to counter its effects, we must work to continue our upward trajectory," she said.

According to her, India had a large domestic market and inherent strengths to drive the economy forward.

"We have a large domestic market and inherent strengths to drive the economy forward. As we focus on areas of proven strength, on building of infrastructure throughout the country and rural development, it should be our incessant endeavor to expand into new areas of growth," she said.

"We must prepare for the future world whose contours will be shaped by innovation, technology and a spirit of enterprise. India has been playing a leading role in the knowledge economy and in the IT and IT enabled sectors. We are well placed to face the future with confidence, but we must not be complacent," she said.

Ms Patil said transformational changes had taken place in India when technology had been used for development.

She said the building of modern India required a focus on strengthening the country's academic institutions and research facilities.

"Our efforts in this direction should be motivated by the desire to achieve excellence. India can set high standards of Research and Development so that these can become the international benchmarks in a knowledge society. The world expects India to be one of the largest economies of the world. We know we can achieve this position," she pointed out.

"After all, history tells us that since ancient times India was a wealthy nation well known for its riches and its global importance. However, India which is a civilization in continuum seeks in addition to material progress, enrichment of human life through cultural advancement, a constant search for knowledge and understanding, and above all, social justice," she said.

The President said India's narrative of growth should be a story of opportunity and a life of dignity for all.

"Social empowerment requires considerable amount of work and, hence, must occupy centre stage in our national consciousness. There are the weaker and the vulnerable sections of society who are not full partners in the growth and development process and remain on the sidelines. These sections of society need to be drawn into the national mainstream. They need to be given access to education, health and skill-building - the tools of empowerment. This will equip them with abilities and capabilities and generate confidence about their future prospects. This will give them a sense of control over their destinies. It is within the realm of possibility to achieve this," she stressed.

Ms Patil said signs of change were becoming visible. For instance, there are girls joining colleges, whose parents had never ever been to school.

"This is a development that has happened within a generation. People are today realizing the advantages of being educated and are ready to seize opportunities," she remarked.

The President said the passage of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill was a landmark legislation for achieving the goal of universal education.

Similarly, she felt the National Mission on Empowerment of Women would socially and economically empower women to play an active role in nation-building.

"Giving an equal chance to everybody to get ahead in life is an article of faith for the Republic of India, and building an inclusive society our objective," she said.

Ms Patil said that as India moved forward to become an exemplary democracy, an economic power and a progressive society, it must also be rooted in values.

"India should build its destiny on a culture of peace and harmony. There should be harmony between good traditions and progress.

"India has shown a remarkable capacity to assimilate change as well as the influences that have been brought to its land over centuries by the many groups who came here. This has made us a composite society consisting of many different strands but yet united. This unity has been brought about by the philosophy of harmony which demands a sense of responsibility towards fellow human beings. It seeks to resolve differences rather than widen them. It seeks to bring people together rather than divide them. It looks at change not as a threat but as a reality of the march of time. Peaceful co-existence is inherent in our culture," she said.

She called upon citizens of every religion to live together in harmony. "If we have to progress, communal harmony is important. It is like the thread which holds together a garland of beautiful flowers made of different colours and fragrance. Let us prove that we can be united as human beings and not divided. Let us fight against violence and extremism and be an important part of promoting peace and harmony. If we choose to be bound by the feelings of hatred, mistrust and apathy we will never move forward.

"Therefore, let us build a strong, united and progressive India for us and our future generations as also a peaceful world," she added.

NNN

107 new cases of influenza A (H1N1) in India, death toll put at 21

As many as 107 new cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported from India on Sunday, including 29 from Mumbai and 13 each from Delhi and Hyderabad.
File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
File photo of patients in Pune waiting at a local hospital to get tested for influenza A (H1N1).
As many as 107 new cases of influenza A (H1N1) were reported from India today, including 29 from Mumbai and 13 from Delhi.

Media reports said three more people had died of the virus last night, two in Pune and one in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, but an official statement issued here this evening said the toll remained at the overnight number of 21.

Pune, the city worst hit by the flu in India, accounted for 13 of the deaths, followed by Mumbai with two and Nashik, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore with one each.

With the latest new cases, the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in the country has risen to 1390, of whom 742 are at various stage of recovery,the statement said. The rest have been discharged from hospital.

A central team is stationed in Maharashtra to assist the State Government in instituting appropriate public health measures.

Apart from Mumbai and Delhi, 13 new cases were reported from Hyderabad today, 9 from Bangalore, 6 from Kolkata, 5 each from Ahmedabad, Surat and Gurgaon, 4 each from Pune and Osmanabad, 2 each from Nanded, Nagpur, Goa, Mangalore and Srinagar, and 1 each from Dhule, Nasik, Latur and Panchkula.

Most of the fresh cases were indigenous in nature, with the patients not having any history of recent travel abroad, the statement said.

NNN

PM to unfurl tri-colour on the ramparts of Red Fort on I-Day

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will unfurl the National Flag on the ramparts of the historic Red Fort tomorrow morning to celebrate the 63rd Independence Day and then address the nation.

According to the schedule, Dr Singh will be received on his arrival at the Lahore Gate of the fort by Defence Minister A K Antony, Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar.

The Defence Secretary will introduce General Officer Commanding (GOC), Delhi Area, Lt General Kanwal Jit Singh Oberoi to the Prime Minister. The GOC Delhi Area will then conduct Dr Singh to the Saluting Base where a combined inter-services and police guard will present general salute to him. Thereafter, Dr Singh will inspect the guard of honour.

The Guard of Honour contingent for the Prime Minister will consist of one officer and 24 men each from Army, Navy, Air Force and Delhi Police. The Guard of Honour will be positioned directly in front of the National Flag across the moat below the rampart.

This year, the Navy being the coordinating agency, the Guard of Honour will be commanded by Cdr Gurkeerat Singh Sekhon. The Army contingent will be commanded by Captain Bhaskar Pandey, Naval Contingent by Lt Cdr KSN Kumar, Air Force Contingent by Sqn Ldr AS Sachdeva and Delhi Police contingent by Assistant Commissioner of Police Pushpender Kumar.

The Army contingent for the Prime Minister's Guard is from 6th Battalion of the Assam Regiment. The battalion was raised on April 1, 1964 at Assam Regimental Centre in Happy Valley, Shillong. During the 1971 operations, the unit had the singular honour and proud privilege of accepting the surrender of the entire Nator Garrison of the Pakistan Army. More than 5500 officers and other ranks of the garrison, along with a huge quantity of arms and ammunitions, laid down their arms to the battalion.

The battalion is presently the ceremonial battalion of the Indian Army, deployed in Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate and other important places in the capital.

After inspecting the Guard of Honour, the Prime Minister will proceed to the ramparts where he will be greeted by Defence Minister, the Minister of State for Defence, Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik. The GOC Delhi area will conduct the Prime Minister to the dais to unfurl the National Flag.

The unfurling of the tri-colour will synchronize with the 21-gun salute fired by the gunners of the elite 299 Field Regiment. The battery will be commanded by Lt Col Manu Mohan and the Gun Position Officer will be RHM Paramjeet Singh.

The National Flag Guard comprising 32 men and one officer each from Army, Navy Air Force and Delhi Police will present Rashtriya Salute at the time of unfurling of the National Flag by the Prime Minister. Cdr Jasvinder Singh will command the Guards. The Naval Contingent for National Flag Guard will be commanded by Lt Cdr Manish Chadha, the Army contingent by Captain Vinay Naik, the Air Force contingent by Sqn Ldr C Gulati and Delhi Police contingent by Additional DCP Vivek Kishor.

The Naval Band will play the National Anthem when the National Guard presents "Rashtriya Salute" while the Prime Minister unfurls the National Flag. All Service personnel in uniform will stand and salute. The Naval Band will be commanded by Dalbir Lal, Master Chief Petty Officer Musician 2nd Class.

Two Naval Officers, Lt A P S Chouhan and Lt K G Das will be positioned on either side of the saluting dais for the PM for AsDC duties. Lt Manish Mathew will assist the Prime Minister in unfurling of the National Flag.

The Army contingent for National Flag Guard is from the 9th Battalion of Maratha Light Infantry which was raised on October 1, 1964 at the Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre, Belgaum. The Battalion has distinguished itself in almost all kinds of operations. During the Indo Pak War of 1971, the Battalion performed commendably at Shakargarh Sector (Basantar) as part of 54 Infantry Division.

After unfurling the National Flag, the Prime Minister will address the nation. After the Prime Minister’s address, schoolchildren and cadets of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) will sing the National Anthem.

About one thousand Junior Division Cadets of the NCC from Delhi Directorate, comprising Army, Navy, Air Force and Girls wings, are participating in the flag-hoisting ceremony this year. The cadets will also participate in the singing of patriotic songs along with school children. As many as 3550 girl students from 32 government and government-aided schools under the Directorate of Education, National Capital Territory of Delhi will sing the National Anthem. They will also sing patriotic songs in different regional languages before the start of the Independence Day ceremony. These children dressed up in green and light brown colour will re-create the image of India Gate, an official press release added.

NNN

Prime Minister’s Shram Awards for 2007 announced

The Union Government today named 52 workers for the Prime Minister's Shram Awards for the year 2007 for their outstanding contribution in the field of productivity and exhibition of exceptional courage and presence of mind.

This year, one Shram Ratna Award, four Shram Bhushan Awards, 12 Shram Vir/Shram Veerangana and 16 Shram Shree/Shram Devi Awards have been announced. Some of the awards are shared by more than one workers or by a team.

The awardees this year include seven women. They include 35 workers from the public sector and 17 from the private sector.

The awards are announced by the Ministry of Labour and Employment every year on the eve of Independence Day and are given to employees of the government's departmental undertakings, public sector units and private sector companies employing more than 500 workers.

The prestigious Shram Ratna for 2007 has been awarded to Sunil Maruti Naikawadi of Tata Motors Limited. This is the highest among the Shram Awards and carries a cash award of Rs 2,00,000 and a "sanad".

The Shram Bhushan has been won by Jothi Lakshmi of Bharat Electronics Ltd, Bangalore and Karan Singh of Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), Haridwar in the public sector category and Jayant Sureshprasad Tiwari of Tata Motors, Pune and Bhanwar Singh of Hindalco Industries Ltd, Sonebhadra in the private sector category. The Shram Bhushan carries a cash award of Rs 1,00,1000 and a "sanad".

The Shram Vir/Shram Veerangana Awards have a cash component of Rs 60,000 and a "sanad". The awardees are: Rajbir Singh, Hariprasad Joshi (BHEL, Haridwar), K Karuppiah of Steel Authority of India (SAIL), Salem Steel Plant, Salem, a team comprising Debdas Karmakar, Ranjan Sarkar, Tapas Sarkar, Debasish Dutta, Malay Saha and Dharm Chandra Mishra from SAIL, Durgapur Steel Plant, Durgapur; a team comprising Abdul Jabbar Khan, G. Ramachander and R. Narsing Rao from Defence Research and Development Laboratory, Hyderabad and a team comprising Rashmi Ranjan Rout, Ratikanta Sahoo, Amar Nath Mohanty and Rashmita Jena from SAIL, Rourkela Steel Plant, Rourkela.

From the private sector, Shital Nemgonda Patil, Tata Motors Ltd., Pune; Yogendra Prasad, Tata Steel Ltd., Jamshedpur; Suresh Prasad, Tata Steel Ltd., Jamshedpur; Sanjay Gunvantlal Shah, Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilizers Co. Ltd., Bharuch; Mahendra Nath Gupta, Hindalco, Sonebhadra; and Uday Prakash Shaw, Tata Steel Ltd., Jamshedpur are the awardees.

The Shram Shree/Shram Devi Awards, which carry a cash prize of Rs 40,000 each, go to

Prakash Kumar Sahoo, SAIL, Rourkela, S. Amalraj, SAIL, Salem; Vinod Kumar Shekhar Menon, Naval Dockyard, Mumbai; Vidhyadhar Anantrao Vaze, Ammunition Factory, Pune; a team comprising Soumitra Banerjee, Ranjeet Sharma, Subhabrata Banerjee, Debashis Chakraborty and Debaprasad Mukherjee from SAIL, Durgapur, Bhushan Lal Ahuja, BHEL, Haridwar; a team comprising K. Muthusamy, R. Sithaiyan and I. Madheswaran from SAIL, Salem, and a team comprising Parvathamma, T. Parvathi, V. Shashikala and Chandrakala C. from BHEL, Bangalore in the public sector.

In the private sector, the awardees are D.S. Udyawar, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., Mumbai; Ravindra Kashinath Borude, Bajaj Auto Ltd., Aurangabad; William Marshal Pereira, Larson & Toubro Ltd., Mumbai; Chandrakant Sakharam Jadhav, Tata Motors Ltd., Pune; Keshao Shaligram Ingle, Godrej & Boyce Mfg. Company Ltd., Mumbai; S. Venkatesh, Ashok Leyland Ltd., Chennai; Vinod Sadanand Nandoskar, Reliance Energy Ltd., Thane and Chita Murmu, Tata Steel Ltd., Jamshedpur.

NNN

Ashoka Chakra for Maj Mohit Sharma and Maj D Sreeram Kumar

Ashoka Chakra Medal
Ashoka Chakra Medal
The President has awarded the Ashoka Chakra, the nation's highest peacetime gallantry award, to Major Mohit Sharma (posthumous) and Major D Sreeram Kumar on the eve of Independence Day today.

The Kirti Chakra has been awarded to Major Amit Oscar Fernandes, Major Deepak Tewari, Naik Rishikesh Gurjar and Paratrooper Shabir Ahmad Malik (posthumous), an official press release said.

Maj Sharma was commissioned into the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (Special Forces) on December 30, 1999. During his initial probation period, he got injured and was posted back to his parent unit on medical grounds, where he served for three years.

Thereafter, he was posted to 38 Rashtriya Rifles Battalion and, due to his exemplary services in combating terrorism during Operation Rakshak, he was awarded the Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card. After serving in the unit for 21 months, he again volunteered for probation with the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (Special Forces). Displaying unparalleled motivation, he successfully cleared probation. He was awarded with Sena Medal (gallantry) for his daring covert operation in 2005.

On 21 Mar 2009 while, tracking an infiltrating terrorist group, he and his men came under heavy fire. Unmindful of his safety he rescued two of his comrades to cover under overwhelming effective fire, killed two terrorists and in the process sustained multiple gunshot wounds. Grievously wounded but sensing grave danger to his commandos, he charged on the terrorists and killed two more at close range.

"The brave officer succumbed to his injuries and made the supreme sacrifice in the finest traditions of the paltan and the country," the release said.

Maj Sreeram Kumar, 28, was commissioned into 90 Medium Regiment (Artillery) on March 20, 2004 and was promoted to the rank of major on August 24, 2008. He is presently serving with 39 Assam Rifles since March, 2007 in Arunachal Pradesh (Operation Orchid) and from December 2007 in Manipur (Op Hifazat).

"With his consummate leadership and ingenuity, he has created an effective and vibrant intelligence network, delivering hard blows to the activities of the terrorists and making it extremely difficult for them to operate in the battalion area of responsibility.

"Due to his efforts there has been a palpable decrease in insurgency activities in the unit area of responsibility which has bought succour to the people and ensured their safety.

"The officer has personally participated in a number of operations, leading from the front, and has eliminated 12 terrorists, apprehended 23 terrorists and recovered 12 weapons since induction of the Battalion in Manipur in Dec 2007. Largely due to his efforts and earnestness the unit, in 2008, has achieved numerous operational successes in Manipur (Op Hifazat)," the release said.

Maj Fernandes was commissioned into the 7th Maratha Light Infantry on May 13, 2000. He is at present posted with the battalion which is deployed in counter insurgency operational area in Jammu and Kashmir since September 7, 2006.

According to the release, on November 16 last year, an input received at 1650 hours indicated the likely presence of terrorists in the general area of Beli Baihk in Baramulla distrct.

A well-planned search and destroy operation was directed towards the area at 1700 hours. The search party under Maj Fernandes spotted the terrorists moving towards Lachhipura at 2045 hours at extremely close range due to poor visibility and good cover.

In the intense fire fight that followed, two terrorists were killed. The third terrorist closed in and fired on Maj Fernandes. The officer caught the barrel of the terrorist's weapon and deflected the fire away from himself and his party. The terrorist bit his thumb to force him to release the weapon but Maj Fernandes overpowered the terrorist, snatched his weapon and shot him dead.

"Maj Fernandes by his raw courage, extreme determination and timely action saved the lives of his comrades while eliminating three hard core terrorists," the release said.

Maj Tewari was commissioned into the Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) on December 8, 2001. He was posted to 14 Rashtriya Rifles (Garhwal Rifle) on June 29, 2008 after completion of his engineering degree at MCEME, Secunderabad.

On November 27, 2008, he received specific information from the Brigade Headquarters regarding the presence of five terrorists in one of the houses of Shokbaba. He rapidly moved in under the cover of darkness, taking the terrorists by surprise. At 0015 hours, while closing in on the target, he heard the militants coming out of the house towards them.

On seeing the troops, the terrorists opened heavy fire. Maj Tewari, displaying nerves of steel and quick reflexes despite the fire, retaliated and chased four terrorists who jumped behind a rock, lobbed a grenade and resumed firing at him.

The officer moved forward with speed, leap-frogged behind the boulders, encircled the terrorists and, in a daring act of bravery, single-handedly eliminated three terrorists in a gun battle from an extremely close range of just three metres. He managed to critically injure the fourth terrorist. He then provided personal leadership to the team, which resulted in the elimination of five hardcore Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists, the release said.

Paratrooper Malik, who has been chosen for the Kirti Chakra posthumously, joined the army on March 15, 2007 in the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry. An alumnus of the prestigious Sainik School, Manasbal, he had volunteered for Special Forces. Out of 200-odd probationers, he got selected to become part of the elite First Para (SF) on March 15 last year.

"As a young paratrooper, he proved to be a very motivated and hardworking soul. Always ready to volunteer for any task not considering the risks involved. He volunteered as a scout to lead his troops in operations," the release said.

On March 21 this year, his troop was tracking an infiltrating column of terrorists when, leading as a scout, he observed suspicious movement and alerted his commando buddy. An overwhelming volume of fire from three directions by the terrorists resulted in the injury of his buddy. Undaunted, the young paratrooper crawled under overwhelming effective fire and rescued his comrade to cover and further, charging on the terrorists, killed two at close quarters in hand-to-hand combat.

During this act of bravery he sustained severe gunshot wounds but refusing to be evacuated he kept motivating and directing his troop mates.

"The brave paratrooper finally succumbed to his injuries but not before he had eliminated two hardcore terrorists and helped in successful evacuation of his buddy. This act of valour and selfless sacrifice has made him a youth icon in Kashmir valley," the release said.

Naik Rishikesh Gurjar, 31, of 10, Rashtriya Rifles, got enrolled into the Rajput Regiment on October 28, 1995 and, after successful completion of basic training from the Rajput Regimental Centre, Fatehgarh, he joined 3 Rajput in mid-1997. He has participated in Op Vijay at Kargil from June-September 1999, in Op Parakram/Rakshak at Bandipura from December 2002 to August 2005 and in Op Rakshak at Doda from October 2007 till date.

Presently, as a non-commissioned officer (NCO) in charge of the Ghatak Platoon of 10 Rashtriya Rifles, he has been part of various operations during which two overground workers with Rs 1,90,000 were arrested, one terrorist of LeT was apprehended with Chinese grenade and two terrorists of LeT surrendered.

NNN

President presents National Urban Water Awards 2009

President Pratibha Patil with winners of the 2009 National Urban Water Awards. Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Minister of State for Urban Development Saugata Ray and Urban Development Secretary Dr. M. Ramachandran are also seen.
President Pratibha Patil with winners of the 2009 National Urban Water Awards. Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Minister of State for Urban Development Saugata Ray and Urban Development Secretary Dr. M. Ramachandran are also seen.
President Pratibha Patil presented the National Urban Water Awards 2009 at a function here yesterday to municipal bodies and other organisations from different parts of the country for taking significant steps towards efficient delivery of water and sanitation services in their areas.

The awards have been instituted by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) with the purpose of recognising and promoting excellence in this sector.

The awards cover six categories: technical innovation, financial reforms, services to the poor, citizen services and governance, public-private partnership and urban sanitation.

The Administrative Staff College of India, Hyderabad (ASCI) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), an international cooperation enterprise for sustainable development with worldwide operations owned by the Federal Republic of Germany, are the MoUD’s partners in this endeavour.

In the "Technical Innovation" category, the winner was Town Municipal Council, Kundapura for its achievement in the area of "reduction in non- revenue water and improved service delivery" which the city has been able to achieve despite its small size and limited resources.

The runner-up was the Surat Municipal Corporation for its efforts in institutionalizing "energy efficiency in water management" through Energy Efficiency Cell and use of biogas from sewage treatment plants for power generation.

In the "Financial Reform" category, the winner was the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board for its achievement in "cost recovery through effective billing and collection" facilitated by citizen friendly interface such as spot billing, 24X7 payment facilities through Kaveri Kiosks, 100% metering and GIS applications.

The runner-up was the Karnataka Urban Water Supply & Drainage Board for its effort in "improving water services through financial reforms in Hubli-Dharwad" through effective metering, 100% spot billing, reduction of non-revenue water and barcoded Tap Cards.

In the "Services to the Poor" Category, the award was won by the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation for its efforts in "providing access to 24X7 water supply to the urban poor" through pro-poor measures such as reduced access cost, network extension in poor areas, simplified procedures and delinking of services to land tenure.

The runner-up was the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation for its efforts in "providing subsidies and incentives for water supply to the urban poor" through reduced water connection charges and monthly tariff as well as delinking of water services to land tenure.
President Pratibha Patil giving away the 2009 National Urban Water Award to Neerja, Additional Chief Secretary and Chairperson of Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation.
President Pratibha Patil giving away the 2009 National Urban Water Award to Neerja, Additional Chief Secretary and Chairperson of Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation.

The award in the "Citizen Services and Governance" category was shared by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Jamshedpur Utility and Services Company (JUSCO).

The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has implemented a state-of-the-art information and communication technology-enabled system for citizen-friendly payment and grievance redressal, including payments through mobile phones, internet, cybercafes and kiosks.

JUSCO introduced a customer-centred approach through "Sahyog Kendras" offering single-point interface for customers. It offers service level guarantees to its customers and has undertaken service level improvements based on customer feedback. Periodic compliance reports and third party assessments are also carried out.

In the "Public-Private Partnership" category, the winner was the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation for its efforts towards "Providing 24/7 water supply in Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum and Gulbarga" in partnership with the three municipal bodies. The project is implemented in public private partnership mode in pilot areas and has generated demand for 24X7 water supply at city level. Social mobilization and pro-poor approaches are integral part of the initiative. The initiative also establishes willingness of people to pay for improved services.

The runner-up was the Nagpur Municipal Corporation which has been able to demonstrate the benefits of 24X7 water supply in a pilot zone implemented under PPP framework.

In the "Urban Sanitation" category, the winner was the Kalyani Municipality for its efforts in "Community Led Total Sanitation" which has led to Kalyani being declared as "open defacation free" by the State Government. The merit of the initiative lies in promoting behavioral change and social mobilization initiated by committed leadership.
President Pratibha Patil giving away the 2009 National Urban Water Award to Shantanu Jha, Chairman of Kalyani Municipality.
President Pratibha Patil giving away the 2009 National Urban Water Award to Shantanu Jha, Chairman of Kalyani Municipality.

The Kulgaon-Badlapur Municipal Council has been identified for special mention by the Advisory Group for its initiative in implementing eco-sanitation technologies for institutional sanitation.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms Patil urged people to play their part in improving service delivery of basic infrastructure in an efficient and equitable manner. She said the provision of clean drinking water and sanitation were vital components for creating conducive living conditions for city populations.

The President said efforts were being made to improve the access, quality, quantity, efficiency and sustainability of urban water and sanitation services throughout the country. She said this was being done by redefining policies and institutional arrangements, using better technologies, improving management practices, providing targeted subsidies to the poor and forging new partnerships.

Union Minister for Urban Development S Jaipal Reddy said water and sanitation would be accorded due priority under the newly-approved scheme for development of satellite towns and counter magnets around seven mega-cities.

He said the water and sanitation sector, which covers water supply, sewerage, solid waste management and storm water drainage, accounted for about 73.43 per cent of the total number of projects sanctioned under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). He said four projects with an approved cost of Rs 116 crore had been sanctioned for preservation of water bodies.

Similarly, he said that under the Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns, out of a total of 969 projects, the water and sanitation sector accounted for 828. In terms of cost, the share worked out to Rs 18409.91 crore out of Rs 19833.11 crore, he added.

NNN

GoM to go into woes of aviation sector

Aircraft at IGI Airport.
Aircraft at IGI Airport.
The Union Government today decided to set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) to look into the difficulties being faced by the aviation sector in the country, especially the issue of sales tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF).

The decision was taken at a meeting here today of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel made a presentation on the present status of the aviation sector.

He spoke about the poor health of the sector and the wide-ranging issues that are presently affecting the sector so that the Government could take a view on the possible remedies.

The GoM will consider the issues of (i) Sales Tax on ATF, which is levied by the states and varies from state to state; and (ii) reduction of base price of the ATF by Oil Marketing Companies to bring it at par with international prices.

Mr Patel pointed out that the aviation sector had recorded a 20 per cent average annual growth between 2003-04 and 2008-09. While the total number of passengers had grown from 28.5 million in 2003-04 to 70.1 million in 2008-09, the number of aircraft has grown from 158 to 396 in the same period. In this period, the number of domestic departures per week grew from 5108 to 11048. The consumption of ATF in this period grew from 2484 thousand metric tonne to 4455 thousand metric tonne, he said.

Emphasizing on the contribution of the aviation sector in the economic development of the country, the minister said that the $14 billion+ aviation industry is almost similar to Indian Railways ($18 billion). It provides substantial benefits to allied industries like tourism, hospitality, banking, commerce and industry; improved connectivity results in higher GDP growth; Rs.100 spent on air transport produces benefits worth Rs.325 for the economy and creates approximately 2,00,000 direct and 12,00,000 employment potential.

The Minister informed the Cabinet about the huge potential in India to increase aircraft penetration even compared to Asian countries. While India has now become the 9th biggest aviation market, it still is one of the least penetrated markets. India has 0.02 trips per capita as compared to 0.1 of China and 2.2 of USA. With over a 300-million strong middle class, the demand is expected to increase by 8.5% per annum till 2015, he said.

Mr Patel said the year 2006 witnessed a high growth rate of 46.4% in the aviation sector followed by 32.5% in 2007. However, in 2008, there was a sudden decline and the growth was negative at –4.7%. The growth for the period from Jan-July 2009 was –4.9%.

He said the number of flights during January-July 2009 reduced by 12.5% year on year – a reduction of 9677 flights per week. This decline resulted in losses of connectivity and flight frequency, especially to smaller cities, loss of premium and budget travelers, loss of jobs and reduction in employment opportunities. The industry losses in 2006-07 is pegged at Rs.2,000 crores and in 2007-08 at Rs.4,000 crores. In 2008-09, the expected losses are pegged at approximately Rs.8,000 crores, he said.

The Minister pointed out that ATF is the single largest element contributing to airlines' cost. It accounts for 40-45% of the operating cost of Indian carriers compared to global average operating cost of 25-30%. A reduction of even Rs.1000/KL translates to a saving of Rs.300 crores. In one year, ATF prices have risen by 99.6% while HSD and petrol prices rose by 14.9% and 17.9% respectively.

The Sales Tax on ATF in different states varies from 4% to 30%. It is 0% in Andaman and Nicobar, 4% in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra (other than Pune and Mumbai) and Rajasthan, 20% in Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Jharkhand, Manipur, Mizoram, Orissa, Punjab, Tripura, Uttranchal, Daman & Diu, Arunachal Pradesh, 21% in Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh and J&K, 22% in Assam, 25% in HP, West Bengal and Maharashtra (Mumbai and Pune), 28% in Karnataka, 29% in MP, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Kerala and 30% in Gujarat.

The Minister also informed the Cabinet about the necessity to allow the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to float Tax Free Bonds for Rs.5,000 crore to meet its XIth Plan commitments. He also spelt out the need for Government support for national carrier Air India by way of equity infusion to strengthen its equity base from the present level of Rs.145 crores and to facilitate the conversion of high-cost debt into low-cost debt.

However, these two issues will be considered separately by the Government and will not be considered by this GoM, an official press release added.

While the government, as the owner of Air India, is working on a plan to extricate it from its present financial difficulties, the private airlines had some days ago threatened to go on a day's strike on August 18 to draw the attention of the government to their plight. The plan was later dropped after some of the private airlines broke ranks and decided to operate normal schedules on that day.

NNN

Enhanced rly. concessions for artistes, police medallists

File photo of Mamata Banerjee arriving at the Parliament to present the Railway Budget this year.
File photo of Mamata Banerjee arriving at the Parliament to present the Railway Budget this year.
Amateur artistes will be eligible for enhanced train fare concessions from August 15 as announced by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee while presenting the Railway Budget for 2009-10 in the Lok Sabha last month.

The artistes---members of theatrical, concert, musical, dancing and magician troupes as well as student-artistes of the National School of Drama---when travelling alone or in group are at present eligible for 50 per cent concession in First Class and 75 per cent concession in Second and Sleeper Classes basic Mail/Express fares.

They will now also be entitled to 50 per cent concession in Air-Conditioned (AC) Chair Car, AC 3-tier and AC 2-tier classes in Mail/Express Trains and 50 per cent concession in the all-inclusive fares of Rajdhani/Shatabdi/Jan Shatabdi trains in AC Chair, AC 3-tier and AC 2-tier classes.

This concession will be admissible on tickets purchased on or after August 15, an official press release said.

Similarly, as per another Railway Budget announcement, the concession for police personnel of 60 years and above who are recipients of the President's Police Medal for Distinguished Service has been enhanced from 30 per cent to 50 per cent for men and 60 per cent for women in the basic fares of Mail/Express trains of all classes and in the all-inclusive fares of Rajdhani/Shatabdi/Jan Shatabdi trains.

This concession will be admissible on tickets purchased on or after August 25, the release added.

NNN

President to address nation Friday on the eve of I-Day

President Pratibha Patil will address the nation tomorrow on the eve of the country's 63rd Independence Day, an official press release said here today.

The address will be telecast over all channels of Doordarshan in Hindi followed by English from 1900 hours onwards.

The address will also be broadcast over all channels of All India Radio (AIR) in Hindi followed by English from 1900 hours onwards.

In addition AIR will broadcast the regional language versions of the address over its regional channels from 2130 hours onwards, an official press release added.

NNN

CCEA approves Traffic & Communication Network for Delhi

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the implementation of the scheme for developing a Traffic and Communication Network in the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi and a Model Traffic System for the Delhi Police in the XIth Five-Year Plan with an allocation of Rs 200 crore.

The main objective of the scheme is to develop state-of-the-art Traffic and Communication Network in the NCR in view of the Commonwealth Games 2010, that Delhi will host in October next year, and the tremendous increase in traffic to and from satellite towns around Delhi and within the city.

The scheme envisages procurement and installation of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) for guidance of road users as well as to ensure safe and smooth movement of traffic, an official press release said.

With the implementation of the scheme, motorists/travellers will benefit from increased safety, better information, greater comfort and reduced travel time, it said.

The scheme will help network and fleet operators offer a better and more efficient service. The scheme can assist city authorities in implementing the policies and measures necessary to ensure a sustainable transport system, it said.

The project has been taken up as a part of the ongoing modernization programme of Delhi Police.

The integrated data communication network is proposed to be used for convergent services. Apart from the ITS Scheme, the network will be shared by other key applications of Delhi Police.

In the first phase of the scheme, 87 roads covering approximately 210 km of road length and about 220 signalized intersections, will be covered. More roads and signalized intersections, as well as intersections which are not at present signalized, would be taken up in the next phase.

The scheme would, in the future, also factor in the infrastructural projects as well as operational plans of various stakeholders.

The present scheme will be designed on an open platform basis to facilitate future compatibility between the other related systems. Scope for integration within the National Capital Territory of Delhi in the second phase and within the NCR in the third phase would be ensured, the release added.

NNN

Central scheme for AYUSH hospitals to continue

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) today approved the continuation of the Centrally-Sponsored Scheme for AYUSH hospitals and dispensaries, introduced during the Xth Five Year Plan, with certain modifications.

The project is aimed at supporting the mainstreaming of AYUSH under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) at a total expenditure of Rs 650 crore.

The Department of Indian Systems of Medicine and Homoeopathy (ISM&H) in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was created in March,1995 and renamed as the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) in November, 2003 to provide focused attention to development of Education & Research in Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy systems.

The basic objectives of the Centrally-Sponsored Scheme are to encourage the opening of general and specialized AYUSH treatment centres in allopathic hospitals to integrate AYUSH health services with mainstream health services in the country, and to provide assistance to state governments for the procurement and supply of essential drugs to AYUSH hospitals and dispensaries.

The scheme envisages provisions of preventive, promotive and curative healthcare covering Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy all over the country.

Under the scheme, grants-in-aid will be provided to governments of states and Union Territories for the following activities:

(i) Establishment of System Specific Outdoor Treatment Centres in Primary Health Centres (PHCs).

(ii) Establishment of AYUSH Specialized Therapy Centre with Hospitalization Facilities in the Community Health Centres (CHCs) with in-patient facilities.

(iii) Setting up of AYUSH wings in Districts Hospitals (DHs)

(iv) Supply of essential drugs to hospitals and dispensaries.

(v) Upgradation of AYUSH hospitals/dispensaries other than PHCs/CHC/DHs at the district/sub-district level.

(vi) Setting up of specialized AYUSH facilities in government tertiary care AYUSH hospitals with public private partnership (PPP).

(vii) Providing managerial assistance at the Central/State levels and other facilities to support the mainstreaming of AYUSH under NRHM.

The release said the decision would facilitate the mainstreaming of AYUSH under the NRHM by ensuring AYUSH services and quality drugs to the people in the rural areas. It will also facilitate the revitalization of traditional systems of medicines at all levels.

The modified scheme will be implemented during the remaining three years of XIth Plan -- 2009-10 to 2011-12. The scheme will facilitate the revitalization of the AYUSH sector, widen choice of people in availing quality health care and medicines. It will strengthen AYUSH infrastructure and employment for medical practitioners.

The scheme will provide AYUSH healthcare facilities to the people at large and will be implemented in all the states and Union Territories of the country, the release added.

NNN

President, PM greet people on Janmashtami

President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today greeted the people on the occasion of Janmashtami, which will be celebrated tomorrow.

"On the auspicious occasion of Janmashtami, I extend my greetings and best wishes to all my fellow citizens. Let us on this auspicious day remind ourselves of Lord Krishna’s message in the Gita, of duty without thought of reward, so that the citizens dedicate themselves to render selfless service to the nation and the welfare of its people," the President said in her message.

Dr Singh said the festival of Janmashtami celebrated the life and teachings of Lord Krishna, which had an eternal message for all of humanity.

"May the festival inspire us towards right conduct in the achievement of our goals, he added," he added.

NNN

Rajat Sharma to launch new 24-hour news channel

Rajat Sharma
Rajat Sharma
Journalist Rajat Sharma's Independent News Service (INS) has said that it will soon launch India TV Wiz, a 24-hour news channel in Hindi and English.

A press release from INS said that government approval for the project had been received on Tuesday.

"INS will position Wiz as a formidable twin to market-leader India TV. Wiz will have powerful synergy with Mr Sharma’s vision to connect with new-age audiences through his fast-emerging digital media business, India TV Interactive," the release said.

Mr Sharma said Wiz would be up in six months, and perhaps earlier in a beta version. "You will see a truly unique bouquet of content that will make it a nation-wide phenomena. Thanks to its ideator, Wiz will break the mould," he said.

According to him, the channel would give premium advertisers a bouquet of screens that support marketing innovation, reaching their message to top-of-the-line-audiences across TAM cities and the next wave of conditional access markets.

"Wiz will be plugged on to new media and mobile platforms from Day One. Finally, Wiz will power a world-class partner for international news," Mr Sharma, who is Group Editor-in-Chief, said.

He said "one of the most live-wire and innovative editors in the business would run Wiz on a hands-on basis, but did not identify the journalist.

NNN

President presents National Communal Harmony Awards

President Pratibha Patil today presented the National Communal Harmony Awards for 2007 to former Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai, professor Ram Puniyani and Setu Charitable Trust, Mumbai and for 2008 to Dr Dominic Emmanuel and Anjuman Sair-e-Gul Faroshan.

She also presented the Kabir Puruskar for the two years. The Puruskar (Grade III) for 2008 was conferred on Mr Abdul Gani Abdullabhai Qureshi of Vadodara in Gujarat and Mr Ghulan Ahmed Bhat of Budgam, Jammu and Kashmir.

For the year 2007, the Puruskar (Grade III) was presented to Mr Khalifa Gufran of Sahranpur in Uttar Pradesh.

Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Minister of State for Home Ajay Maken were amongst those present on the occasion.

The Kabir Puraskar is a National Award instituted by the Government of India for recognizing acts of physical/moral courage displayed by a member of one caste, community or ethnic group in saving the lives and properties of member(s) of another caste, community or ethnic group during caste, community or ethnic violence.

The Award is given annually in three grades -- Grade-I, Grade-II and Grade-III, carrying cash amount of Rs. 2,00,000; Rs.1,00,000 and Rs. 50,000 respectively.

The National Communal Harmony Award carries a citation and a cash prize of Rs. 2 lakh in the individual category and a citation and cash prize of Rs. 5 lakh in the organization category. The awards are given for promotion of communal harmony, fraternity and national integration.

In their speeches on the occasion, Ms Patil, Mr Ansari, Dr Singh and Mr Chidambaram stressed the importance of promoting communal harmony and amity among all sections of the society.

They expressed the hope that the deeds of the awardees would inspire citizens to come forward for the cause of communal harmony and amity. They felt that even small gestures in communal harmony go a long way in strengthening the social fabric of the nation.

Cautioning about the threats that forces of communalism and religious extremism pose to society, the leaders stressed the need for maintaining communal harmony to strengthen national integration.

Dr Puniyani was chosen for the Communal Harmony Award for spreading the message of peace and amity through lectures, publications, workshops and meetings and by travelling extensively to different parts of the country disseminating messages of secularism, pluralism and communal harmony.

The Setu Charitable Trust, Mumbai was established in 1994 and is engaged in the rehabilitation of riot victims and their families and more specially, children orphaned by communal, caste and terrorist violence in Mumbai and in other parts of the country. Its work in the field of community development, mobilization and awareness building among the deprived sections of the society, such as poor women and underprivileged children living in urban slums and rural areas, and rehabilitation of sexually exploited women in Parbhani is well-known.

Dr. Emmanuel has been working for communal harmony for the past two decades, especially in the area of inter-religious dialogue. He has been actively involved in resolving conflicts/differences between different communities. His literary works include 14 books on subjects covering value education for school children and communal harmony. He has worked as a radio journalist on the themes of communal harmony.

The Anjuman Sair-e-Gul Faroshan, Delhi was established in the year 1964 and has been working for communal harmony since then. It has been organizing a weeklong unique historical festival every year, the "Phool Walon ki Sair", in Delhi for more than 40 years. The festival is a symbol of solidarity amongst Hindus and Muslims. Floral "chadars" are offered at the "mazar" of Sufi Saint Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki in Mehrauli and floral "pankhas" are offered by both Muslims and Hindus at the temple "Yog Mayaji", also in Mehrauli. Considered as an emblem of communal harmony, the pankhas of Phool Walon Ki Sair, are presented to the President and Vice-President of India besides other dignitaries. The Anjuman involves troupes projecting diverse cultural representations from various states and with different religious background, conveying the message of communal harmony.

The Awards were instituted in 1996 by the National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH), an autonomous organisation set up by Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, for promoting communal harmony and national integration.

NNN

ISRO's geoportal "Bhuvan" launched

India today launched Bhuvan,  a geoportal which enables users to access information on basic natural resources in the geospatial domain, particularly Indian images and thematic information in multiple spatial resolutions.

The beta version of Bhuvan was unveiled by Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Prithviraj Chavan at a function organised by the Astronautical Society of India.

It showcases Indian images by the superimposition of imageries from Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellites on a 3-D globe.

Several leading scientists including Planning Commission Member K Kasturirangan, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman G Madhavan Nair, Science and Technology Secretary T Ramasami, Earth Sciences Secretary Shailesh Nayak, former ISRO Chairman U R Rao and Indian Meteorological Department Director General Ajit Tyagi were present on the occasion.

The portal displays satellite images of varying resolution of India's surface, allowing users to see cities and other important places of interest looking perpendicularly down or at an oblique angle, with different perspectives. They can also navigate through a 3D viewing environmnet.

The degree of resolution is based on the points of interest and popularity, but most of the Indian terrain is covered upto at least 6 metres of resolution with the least spatial resolution being 55 metres from A Wifs Sensor. It also provides tools for measuring, drawing, saving, printing and visualizing thematic information, an official press release said.

Among other things, users can:

--Access, explore and visualise 2D and 3D image data along with rich thematic information on soil, wasteland, water resources, and so on.

--Visualise multi-resolution, multi-sensor, multi-temporal image data

--Superpose administrative boundaries of choice on images as required

--Visualise AWS ( Automatic Weather Stations) data/information in a graphic view and use tabular weather data of user choice

--Fly to selected locations directly from present location

--Use Heads-Up Display ( HUD) naviation controls ( Tilt slider, north indicator, opacity, compass ring, zoom slider)

--Navigate using the 3D view Pop-up menu (Fly-in, Fly out, jump in, jump around, view point)

--3D Fly through (3D view to fly to locations, objects in the terrain, and navigate freely using the mouse or keyboard)

--Draw 2D objects (Text labels, polylines, polygons, rectangles, 2D arrows, circles, ellipse)

--Draw 3D Objects (placing of expressive 3D models, 3D polygons, boxes)

--Create snapshots (copies the 3D view to a floating window and allows to save to a external file)

--Measure horizontal distance, aerial distance, vertical distance, area

--Do Shadow Analysis (it sets the sun position based on the given time creating shadows and effects the lighting on the terrain).

The release said many more functions and facilities would be added to the package from time to time.

It said ISRO and the Department of Space wanted to provide such functionalities to the common man so that he/she adopts participatory approach with scientists to solve simple problems easily and interactively.

According to the release, some of the advanced functionalities that would be provided in the future versions of the portal include:

--Urban Design Tools (to build roads, junctions and traffic lights in an urban setting)

--Contour map ( Displays a colorized terrain map and contour lines)

--Terrain profile ( Displays the terrain elevation profile along a path)

--Draw tools (Creates simples markers, free hand lines, urban designs)

--Navigation map (to jump to and view locations in the 3D India)

NNN

Syndicate content
© Copyright 2012 NetIndian. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of NetIndian content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of NetIndian Media Corporation. Write to info[AT]netindian[DOT]in for permission to use content. Read detailed Terms of Use.